Transferring knowledge to thrive
Published: Sep 17, 2013
Undeniably, the current immigration system and its policies are broken and Bahamians rightly should be concerned about the proliferation of foreign workers conducting business with or without a permit in The Bahamas. However, the government cannot be so naive as to ignore the floundering state our public education system and its impact on employers and employment opportunities.
We fail to understand why education has not been brought into the conversation about immigration reform. The Bahamas must reverse the dismal performance of its public schools and strengthen its tertiary institution, The College of The Bahamas. Otherwise, The Bahamas will only continue to have a deficit of educated and able workers.
To uphold its agenda, the government should work to ensure that every Bahamian high school graduate holds a diploma or certificate and can read and write at the high school level. However, by its own disclosure the Ministry of Education acknowledges that nearly 50 percent of students do not graduate with a diploma.
It is the Bahamian student who suffers the ill effects of a poor education system compounded by a regressive immigration policy. Every student deserves the opportunity for a good education – one that instills the basic principles of mathematics, history, literature and science. Good teachers are also critical.
We cannot hope to progress if the private sector alone is expected to implement training programs to rectify all the failures of the public school system. Company training programs focus on the expansion of specific knowledge within a business. It is unreasonable to expect companies to teach basic literacy, numeracy and common sense. Investing in schools with stringent graduating requirements will ensure that young Bahamians have at least the basic skills for entry level jobs.
Vocational training must also be emphasized and apprenticeships and mentors should be readily available. Such programs require community support, private partnerships and administrative oversight.
The future economic potential of The Bahamas rests on members of the upcoming generation who must be able to compete on a global scale. Are the future leaders of The Bahamas being adequately prepared at present?
Preparation includes the basic scholastic fundamentals as mentioned above, but it also includes an appreciation of culture that develops through travel and exposure to diversity. Working abroad or even in The Bahamas with people of varying backgrounds requires acceptance of differences to be effective in the business setting.
Most importantly, small island developing states such as The Bahamas incur difficulty in keeping pace with technology. Technology transfer to small nations lags considerably compared to larger developed nations and can significantly impair our global competitiveness.
The government’s perceived agenda to associate foreign workers as negative to the Bahamian people will undoubtedly impact the transfer of knowledge we so desperately need. It projects a discriminatory principle retracting the flow of ideas and placing identity, instead of skill, as the sole justification for employment.
It does not matter whether or not the Department of Immigration actually curtails or eliminates work permits for housekeepers and laborers; it is the perception of an uncertain future that may move foreign direct investment elsewhere.