The independent countries of the Caribbean today appear to be characterized by a level of dependency, which at this juncture in its history seem irreversible. Both governments and people of the region have developed a kind of dependency syndrome that tends to seek both resources and solutions outside the Caribbean. This region has not invested in the education and training of its people at a level that would help reduce the dependency on Foreign Governments and Multinational Corporations. Lennox Honychurch, writing in the Dominica Chronicle of November 2, 2001 states, "…for all our trappings of independence, our colorful flags, our happy hymn like national anthem" the Multinational Corporations still "call the shots." His analysis is poignant and relevant; and although the MNC's will always have an impact on Caribbean development, education can help stem the tide of capitalist domination.
The reason for this historical culture of dependency stems from the failure of the region to develop a strong, viable, higher education system, capable of preparing its people for nation building. The economic social and political health of any nation depends on its ability and capacity to educate its people at the highest level. In the global high tech economy of today countries no longer need to have an abundance of raw material in order to have a strong economy. They need to have thinkers, educated entrepreneurs and risk takers. The solution therefore, to the perpetual economic problems of the region including Dominica is to invest more in the education of its people. An educated people, will have the skills necessary to find the answers to national economic and social issues and will be able to help their country compete in an economic global environment.
The University of the West Indies, established with the help of the British in 1958, was supposed to assist the region in providing a nation building workforce, but have failed to provide the programs and curriculum capable of creating the kind of Educated Caribbean work force that could lead and support the economic development of the region. Patterned on the British elite universities, it is neither elite nor functional, and as a result has become a relative dinosaur in the Caribbean. Caribbean governments can no longer depend on U.W.I. to educate its people. In fact 80% of students successful in the cxc exams from Dominica choose to study at U.S. colleges instead of the U.W.I.
The Dominica State College: More than an idea
Currently, Dominica's post secondary education system consists of the Clifton Dupigny College, the School of Nursing and the Dominica Teachers Training College. None of the above institutions offer degree programs. Certificate programs are offered and students at the Teachers Training College are eligible to participate in a U.W.I. sponsored associate degree program in Education. The combined student population at the three institutions is approximately 757: Clifton Dupigny - 600, Teachers College 100, School of Nursing 57. These three institutions provide Dominica with a valuable Education and training program but needs to be further enhanced and developed. Each institution now operates independently and are all funded by the Ministry of Education.
Structure & Capacity
Our recommendation for a new institution would seek to: first integrate all of the existing schools into one Dominica State College . The new institution would then be structured as follows:
In terms of resources, a proposal has been submitted to the Government of Dominica in which the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and other North American institutions, would offer a Masters Training program for Dominican teachers, who are currently teaching at the three institutions with a bachelors degree and who would now require a Masters degree. In addition we would create a pool of U.S. based professors who would be available to teach for one year or one semester as part of their sabbatical.
The OECS is currently funding the development phase of the initiative, but does not have the kind of funding necessary to develop the infrastructure nor provide required training for Dominican Faculty and Staff. It is therefore imperative that the Ministry of Education work in partnership with selected universities to provide the initial manpower necessary to jump-start the college. The object of a university/government partnership is to work cooperatively towards the creation of a Dominican faculty and staff pool that would be competent, credentialed and trained to teach at the college level.
A report has been submitted to the OECS and the Government of Dominica, outlining the concept of the Dominica State College as described above. A transition team has been appointed by the Government to prepare for a transition to the new state college. However with only limited funding the Government is now forced to rely on OECS funded consultants with little or no higher education administrative experience or background to help this transition process. In order to minimize conflict with OECS consultants and still maintain the project initiatives, we have continued to develop a training program for Dominica's staff and faculty here at SUNY, and remain prepared to work with local faculty and groups to develop curriculum for associate degree programs.
Obstacles to Overcome
Accreditation - The College will need to be accredited through an act of parliament, but that will not be enough to get Dominica's course credits accepted by other institutions. To be part of the international higher Education community we need to ensure that the people who are teaching and managing the institutions have the appropriate credentials to do so, e.g. if a professor is being hired to teach English at the college, they must possess a minimum of a Master's degree in the subject, "English", in order to teach that subject. A Master's degree in Education won't do. On the other hand, the person with a Masters in Education will be very qualified to teach Education. To prepare current and future Dominican faculty to teach at the college level is not very difficult, but the Government needs to begin the development of partnerships with international universities soon. At the time of writing the Minister of Education was planning to meet with the Dean of Education and Professional Studies at Plattsburgh N.Y. to discuss appropriate training for Dominican faculty.
Leadership - In order for the College to gain immediate credibility a College President with impeccable credentials and Higher Education experience should be appointed. Partisan politics and parochial mediocrity could easily derail this appointment. Therefore, Government and people need to set aside their own biases and select a president that the international community of Higher Education would recognize and respect and with whom they would be willing to develop articulation agreements. During my consultancy with the Former Minister of Education, I was very concerned about the caliber of people being considered for that position. My own recommendation for a President of the College is a prominent Dominican, with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, a former research scientist with Dupont Corporation, and a man with tremendous national and international credentials and recognition. I can only hope that in making the appointment, wisdom and objectivity will prevail.
Student Population - A valid concern of Government and people is whether Dominican students would choose to study at the Dominica State College. My answer is simple, if Dominica State College can offer programs which are identical to those offered in the U.S., and the cost is reasonable, then not only will Dominican students attend the college, but with good marketing good programs and vision, other Caribbean countries will send students to the Dominica State College. The state college should set three basic goals.
The above summarizes the developing concept of the proposed state college for Dominica. It is intended merely to give the reading public a birds eye view of what is being proposed to provide Dominica with its own Higher Education resource. Readers interested in more information can write to me at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.