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Fragmentation In The Face Of Globalisation by Dr Didacus Jules

 "Fragmentation In The Face Of Globalisation”

by

Dr Didacus Jules

Dr Didacus Jules

Introduction

It is a very difficult challenge to speak anywhere today about any matter pertaining to regional integration and not lose friends and distress people so I would like to take sole responsibility for what I am about to say and exonerate the organizers from any adverse consequences.  I have chosen as the topic of my reflection this evening “Fragmentation in the Face of Globalization”.

 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;

Omitted all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures

Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3,218-224

 

The Caribbean is now full sea on the flood of globalization and how we navigate its perilous currents will determine whether we shape our fortunes or lose our ventures.  The challenges that we face are deep and serious enough that mere platitudes and rhetorical postures will achieve nothing.  Only resolute action arising from deep critical thinking that takes account of the empirical realities will determine our survival.  We have had a long journey towards the elusive vision of regional unity and there have been many voices along the way speaking with simple eloquence about the compelling necessity of this undertaking.

 

The Visionary Origins of the Impulse to Caribbean Integration

It is important that we start with a recognition of the highly visionary nature of the post colonial integration project in the Caribbean.  The men and women who articulated the dream of a single archipelago did not construct that vision from a purely functional or utilitarian notion of integration…..their dream painted a picture of a better civilization, a new world constructed by the victims of Columbus and one predicated on the remarkable confluence of races and places. It is the vision expressed in Black Stalin’s “Caribbean Unity” – “if we don’t know from where we coming den we kyan plan where we going”.  The founding leaders saw the extraordinary potential of the people of the region expressed by Professor Errol Miller when he asserted that

“We West Indians are a remarkable people: we are Africans without tribe, Indians without caste, Europeans without class, and Chinese without dynasty”.

And it is highly instructive to compare the discourse and lexicon of integration yesterday with that of today.  Yesterday, they spoke unequivocally of diversity as wealth, of geography as archipelagic possibility, geography as insular isolation and our common history of pain as the gift of resilience.  Today, we speak in “functional cooperation terms” spelt as the things that we have no choice but to work together on.  Yesterday, they spoke of integration as the inevitable task of reuniting a divided family; today, we speak of integration as the repair of a broken house.  And I would hope that we understand the difference between building a house and creating a home.  Yesterday, our vision of the future was rooted in our historical consciousness; today, our vision of the future is impelled by the consciousness of crisis – a reactive rather than a proactive impulse.

Everywhere the historical record speaks to the expansive foresight of our leaders of yesterday.  With a regional food import bill now exceeding US$3 billion and with predictions of a world food crisis resulting from natural disasters in essential food producing areas and price rises, one can truly appreciate the prescience of Dr. Eric Williams and Sir William Demas in advocating a regional food security strategy over 30 years ago.

Nearer to home for me, one can also appreciate the analytical depth that characterized the initiatives of our leaders of yesterday in the establishment of a regional organization like the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).  Sir William Demas, speaking at the Inaugural Meeting of the Caribbean Examinations Council in Barbados on 11th January 1973 insisted that:

“The establishment of Council should not be seen as just a change of examining bodies, but as part of a conscious effort on the part of regional governments to restructure, redirect and re-model the schools systems of the Caribbean with a view to relating them to the environment, the problems and needs of our societies”

The Rt. Hon, Errol Barrow of Barbados also expressed similar perspectives at this inaugural.

The Tendency to Dis-integration in the Face of Today’s Challenges

Today, the dream of regional unity is fast receding on the horizon and rather than face the dawn of new possibilities, we are left staring at the sunset of hope.  The more the international situation deteriorates, the greater the imperative for the convergence of vision and unity of action and purpose. We have become so enamoured of notions whose meanings have fundamentally been redefined by the rapidly changing world order that we run the danger of becoming victims of our own hubris.  The nationalism that should represent pride in the particular has become little more than insular prejudice.  Our notion of sovereignty is no longer our assertion of our right to chart our common destiny but an expression of our individual conceits.  We fight harder against each other than against the international forces that conspire to keep us subjugated. As noted by the Rt. Hon. PJ Patterson – an indefatigable fighter for Caribbean sovereignty recently in Jamaica:

“None of us should believe that Autonomy and Independence constitute irreversible and unassailable gains for relatively small and powerless nations.  The shadow of globalization is as long as its grip is strong and it carries within it the potential-if not the intention-by the powerful, to make client-states of the weak and vulnerable, opening them up as markets; assuming once again control factors of production; and reducing them to a state of dependency that compromises their autonomy”

But I am reminded also of the admonitions of two third world prophets who, while recognizing the forces of negation, also pointed us to our own internal enemies.  Bob Marley reminded us that in the struggle from mental emancipation “none but ourselves can free our minds” and Amilcar Cabral warned that “the fundamental battle that we must wage is the struggle against our own weaknesses and contradictions”.

So it is tragically ironic that our Ministers of Tourism are mounting a concerted lobby with the UK Government over the travel taxes imposed on transatlantic travel while at home these very governments are responsible for the exorbitant cost on intra-regional travel.  Taxes (Barbados-St Lucia return and Barbados-Grenada return) constitute an average of anywhere between 40%-60% of total ticket costs as compared with 23% on a Toronto-Barbados ticket.  Examined differently, the air travel levied by Governments for Barbados to St Lucia is US$0.73 per mile; for Barbados to Grenada is US$0.65 per mile as compared with a tax of US$0.50per mile on a Toronto to Barbados ticket.

I am not an economist but reasoned intuition tells me given the impact of the recession in our traditional tourism markets, that the reduction-if not elimination- of taxes on intraregional travel is likely to result in a major boost in home grown travel and provide more sustainable support for the hotel industry.  Moreover the figures show that taxation per travel miles is a major inhibitor to intra – regional travel. The novelty of staycations in your own country can only last for so long; staycations across the Caribbean will not only boost the travel and tourism industry but will also have the desirable effect of more Caribbean people getting to know more of their region…..The fundamental battle is the struggle against our own contradictions and weaknesses! 

 

The Challenge of Tertiary Education in The Caribbean

I would like to turn from this sorry characterization of the big picture to look at the challenges of tertiary education in the region today and the clear and coming danger of the conceit that so many of us in the OECS appear bent on implementing- the conversion of what we were evolving to be first class Community Colleges into what will undoubtedly be third rate Universities.

The two contradictory tendencies of globalization-convergence and divergence-are evident in education in the Caribbean today.  The world is becoming an increasingly converged place with the big players-whether in education, finance, or manufacturing-establishing the standards that become universal currency.  So the universities of the more developed countries have aggressively been expanding their outreach and tertiary education has become a multibillion dollar business.  The British Council revealed that in 2004 higher education in the UK had surpassed the finance sector as a major earner of foreign exchange. The total value of education and training exports to the British economy was twenty eight billion pounds sterling.  In a converged world these transnational monoliths would have us all drink coke, eat Kentucky Fried, wear Prada and have US or British Degrees.

Arrayed against this homogenizing tendency is the impulse to differentiation.  As sameness becomes universal, difference gains value and can either become the mark of distinction or label of the dinosaur. Divergence is therefore a tendency that requires careful foresighting.  We cannot afford to succumb to the seduction of the big players who seek to assure us that our long term strategic interests are better served by convergence with their agenda.

As You Wake Cry Unity!  The Need For A New Vision Of Tertiary Education.

It is understandable that a driving impulse for the expansion of tertiary education is the large unsatisfied demand for higher education access in our region.  And what is also understandable is the frustration over the belated reaction of the UWI to this need in the non-campus territories but we must be careful that our response to such situations be shaped by clarity of vision rather than urgency of crisis.

The OECS and the non-campus territories of the UWI need to envision and reinvent tertiary education taking full account of current day realities, building on the positive elements of the inheritance , facing squarely the deficiencies of the past and mapping a clear direction. 

In this process there are some fundamental principles that clearly need to be observed if we are to shape a sustainable solution and they include:

·         Cost effectiveness

·         Building on comparative strengths

·         Sharing of best minds and resources/convergence of effort.

In a seminal publication “Constructing Knowledge Societies”, the World Bank succinctly outlined the rationale for a well articulated tertiary education sector as follows:

“In today’s lifelong learning framework, tertiary education provides not only the high level skills necessary for every labour market but also the training essential for teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, engineers, humanists, entrepreneurs, scientists, social scientists and myriad personnel ….tertiary institutions…….support the production of the higher–order capacity necessary for development.”

In the context of small vulnerable states, tertiary education must be articulated ,rationalized and aligned to the development options available to us.  Tertiary education is an expensive undertaking (costing in somes cases five times the provision expense of secondary education) so the economic rationality is inescapable. Tertiary education is a developmental imperative so the necessity for convergence at the institutional, programmatic and resource utilization levels is unavoidable.

An Alternative Pathway To Provision

What then should be the solution to the dilemma of provision for us non-campus territories?  The answer that I propose to this question draws on previously expressed intent among the OECS countries but seeks to establish a new synergy between existing institutional forms within a more converged framework for greater cost effectiveness.  Emanating from the vision of tertiary education is the framework or architecture of tertiary education in the sub-region which must bring together three main entities in a new relationship of seamless coordination:

   

The University of the West Indies Open Campus– bringing to the table the UWI legacy, its physical network of distance learning facilities in every territory, its virtual learning spaces and infrastructure.  The Open Campus’ potential for strategic partnerships with world class providers such as the MIT Open Source Initiative will make it possible for Caribbean citizens to access programs of the highest quality under the umbrella of our regional/national institutions. 

ACTI– re‐energized as a vibrant network that shares resources and expertise with each national institution contributing, while also drawing down on the collective capacity. In this articulation, the National Colleges function on an equal footing as the consortium partners in a university system.

 

Other strategic partnerswould include regional institutions such as the Caribbean Knowledge Learning Network Agency (providing internet2 connectivity and virtualization); CXC bringing its psychometric expertise and offering a strengthened CAPE program as the building blocks of Associate Degrees that articulate into the more robust degree offerings by the National Colleges.

This type of consortium would effectively cost the region little more than is already being expended in the current unarticulated and chaotically competitive environment. It should in fact deliver significant benefits – if not in efficiency savings – then in synergies and far greater value for money. But its most daunting challenge would be the culture change necessary – the paradigm shift away from institutional, insular and egotistic competitiveness to trusting collaboration.

The creation of this new regional umbrella and framework only provides the enabling architecture within which the national colleges can re‐shape themselves. Historically almost every one of the national colleges were formed by the amalgamation of several stand alone post secondary institutions (such as the Teachers College, the A level institutions, Technical Colleges etc). This amalgamation process stopped short of true institutional integration because it simply imposed a central administration and a physical central relocation. In many cases it did not proceed to articulate programs so that enrollment as a student would provide seamless access to all offerings across the board. In this regard this historical project failed to realize the full potential of the single tertiary institution and it is still an unfulfilled necessity.  The second major component of the change therefore has to be a fundamental reconceptualization of the National Colleges.

 

                       

This definition of this new paradigm must be realistic, affordable and attainable and shoulddepart from four points of vision of each College as: A Center of Teaching excellence, a Center of Professional Development; A Center of Applied Research and a Center of Innovation.

                                           

            

                 

Six principles which also correspond to major trends and challenges should guide this transformation of mission. These imply specific operational and organizational imperatives.  They include: Institutional flexibility, Staff multi/trans-disciplinarity, Divisional integration, Financial entrepreneurship, Infrastructural enhancement and Mutually beneficial/smart partnerships.

Institutional flexibilityincludes the capacity to respond quickly to national or sectoral training needs; the ability to customize training to precise needs and the capacity to maintain alliances with diverse parties but within a common framework.

Staff multi/trans-disciplinarityplaces emphasis (for new hiring) on multiskilled persons; establishing a trans-disciplinary focus across the college and utilizes trans-disciplinary teams for teaching, project work, research and consultancy.

Divisional integrationensures that Colleges operate as seamless institutions with courses being offered across faculty; refocuses competence in core subject areas to guarantee excellence in these areas and adopts a modular approach to degree construction-including building new degrees on industry certification.

Financial entrepreneurship involves a College’s ability to spot and take advantage of market opportunities in its sphere of competence; offering innovative programming  especially to professional groups (e.g. professional development symposia series for engineers, doctors); embarking on joint venture opportunities with private sector around knowledge – related industries.

Infrastructural enhancementincludes refurbishing brick and mortar structures to work with virtual structures; having a master plan and a creative approach to its realization; addressing the numbers dilemma-for instance whether buildings are the only answer to numbers and what is the most cost effective and sustainable approach? The CKLN/UWI Open Campus option: a virtual campus?

Smart Partnerships includes partnering that will be mutually beneficial; building strategic and sustainable capacity through linkages internationally and regionally; a center of excellence for Distance Learning and a socially responsible role for private investment in tertiary education

To conclude, the project of regional unity is made greater and more necessary by the current global situation. Small vulnerable states are no longer able to take shelter in geo‐political alignments and the world is just what it is… it is a new age of harshly competitive survival; it is the era not of military might but of intellectual foresight.  As PJ Patterson admonished recently:

 

“We need a stronger CARICOM, not a weaker one, if we are to preserve the gains of cultural identity, political autonomy and strong local participation in our economies that we have struggled to achieve.This is no time for a retreat into myopia, or the blind alley of isolation.

 

And to reconstruct that stronger CARICOM will require a special love, commitment and passion to salvage this archipelago and reassemble the scattered fragments of dream and geography.  Derek Walcott reminds us that “break a vase and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole” and Black Stalin exhorts us that “we can make it if we try… just a little bit harder”.

Dr Didacus Julesis a St. Lucianradical educator.[1]He was influenced by the work of Paulo Freire and his early work included pioneering literacy work in the Prisons in St. Lucia (Eastern Caribbean). He was a principal actor in the National Literacy Campaign in Grenadaduring the revolution of 1979. He later served simultaneously as Chief Education Officer and Permanent Secretary for Education, Youth, Culture, Women & Social Affairs in Grenada. He serves on the International Journal of African and African American Studies Editorial Group.[2]

Following the demise of the revolution, he served as an education consultant helping to establish mass literacy programs in St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent and other parts of the Caribbean. He worked internationally with multilateral agencies such as CIDA, the World Bank, SIDA and assisted the African National Congress in developing adult education programs for its cadres.

Dr. Jules served as Permanent Secretary for Education & Human Resource Development in the Ministry of Education, HRD, Youth & Sports in St. Lucia from 1997-2004. He holds a BA (hons) in English from the University of the West Indies in Barbados, an MSc in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an MBA from the University of the West Indies in Barbados and a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction and Education Policy from UW–Madison.

He has written extensively on critical education, education policy, and public sector reform. He is currently the Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council.