UWI Principal: Invest in education
By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, September 20 2012
PRINCIPAL of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Clement Sankat, says if Trinidad and Tobago is to become a leader in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, similar to South Korea, then parents must invest, and be invested, in their children’s education, with or without Government support.
“The infusion of knowledge can transform a society...In the early 1960s South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Today the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has ranked it the world’s 14th largest economy, with a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of US $1.27 trillion. ICT exports account for a significant percentage of South Korea’s GDP,” Sankat stated.
He was speaking at the inaugural Korea-Caribbean ICT/e-Government Forum, held on Monday at Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain.
Sankat said TT and Jamaica both had the same 50-year period to develop their economies but are nowhere near to South Korea’s level of expertise and ICT exports, even though the two CARICOM countries have natural mineral resources which the Asian nation does not.
“While we have made gains in 50 years, it is important to see the real possibilities, as Korea would have demonstrated. It has become a major powerhouse in ICT, exporting semi-conductors, consumer electronics, mobile telecommunication equipment and yes, for all of us, South Korea is truly branded by Samsung and LG — industry giants in their fields,” Sankat noted.
The UWI St Augustine Campus Principal said during a recent “whirlwind” trip to South Korea, he did his best to determine how South Korea had achieved such “spectacular success.” The overwhelming answer? Education of its citizens, its human resource, “was always put at the fore.”
Sankat said primary education was compulsory, secondary education was universal and tuition — free while, according to data from 2009, 90.5 percent of all secondary school students went on to attain a post-secondary education. There are some similarities to TT, where education is heavily subsidised and where many parents pay for their children to attend extra lessons. However Sankat said South Korea’s success stemmed from the commitment of its parents, government and private sector to provide a proper and suitable education to the younger generation.
“It is a cultural tradition in South Korea to educate your child, with or without the state...Parents investing heavily in their children’s education, sometimes to the extent that they may even become impoverished. (While) private sector leaders like Samsung and LG are centrally involved in the training of people as human resources for their industries.”
Sankat also noted that education goals in the Asian nation have been tailored to the economy’s current and future needs. Hence its evolution into a knowledge-based society and economy.
“Korea’s education system is technologically advanced — I’ve been told it was the first country to bring high-speed, fibre-optic broadband internet access to every primary and secondary school...These are important lessons for us in TT — we need to set some higher benchmarks for ourselves if we are going to get there (ICT goals) and get there quickly,” Sankat advised.