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Universities failing graduates

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 1.21.10 PMBy PENDA HONEYGHAN From Jamaica Observer

PS says focus on enrolment obscuring quality of education

USING what he described as constructive criticism, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr Maurice Smith has chided tertiary institutions for what he said was an apparent lack of values, professionalism, and character among many of the graduates they produce.

Smith, who was speaking Thursday at the University Council of Jamaica’s (UCJ’s) accreditation awards ceremony at Mona Visitors’ Lodge at the University of the West Indies, argued that this results from the institutions’ overemphasis on increasing enrolment figures, rather than ensuring quality of the finished product, and urged them to strike a healthy balance.

“Whilst we have admitted more of our people to tertiary institutions, and whilst we have been able to train, certify and educate more and more people, there is something that is of great concern: the character of graduates,” he said.

“I call it character, distinguishable presence, that virtue that says that you have arrived on the scene without one having to be loud and raucous. We have got to teach our people to affirm themselves in who they are; that the way they speak, the way they carry and conduct themselves really says a lot about them,” Smith continued.

The PS earned a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy from Howard University on a Fulbright Scholarship in 2010. He is also a graduate of Nova Southeastern University, where he pursued a masters in teaching and learning; Northern Caribbean University, where he earned a bachelor’s in behavioural sciences; and Mico University College, from which he received a diploma in teaching.

Prior to being appointed PS, Dr Smith was principal/director of the National College for Educational Leadership.

“We must remain focused on the acquisition of knowledge, but we must also ensure that we do not swap content for character. We are not only to be concerned about the way our students think and what they know; we must be concerned about what our students care about and how they behave — who they are when no one else is around,” Dr Smith told the institution heads Thursday.

The awards ceremony saw 13 universities and colleges, including The Mico College, Montego Bay Community College, Northern Caribbean University, St Mary’s University of Minnesota, and the University of Technology, Jamaica receiving certificates of accreditation and/or re-accreditation for areas including science, education, arts and religion. Three colleges — Hydel, International University of the Caribbean and Sigma College of Nursing and Applied Sciences — received certificates of registration, while Walden University was presented with a certificate of recognition.

The awards ceremony was the fourth activity in UCJ’s 11th annual Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education week of observance. The events, which started on March 7, were hosted under the theme: ‘Assuring quality in programme outcomes: imperative for graduate effectiveness’.

The UCJ is a statutory body under the portfolio of the Ministry of Education. It was established in 1987 by an Act of Parliament charged with the task of ensuring national quality assurance for tertiary education through the adoption and improvement of educational standards.

Executive director of the UCJ, Dr Yvonnette Marshall, said that the council remains committed to the task.

“We are always committed to improving our selves, to ensuring that our processes and requirements for accreditation are on par with international standards. We also pride ourselves in knowing that the quality instruction that we provide has enabled so many of our graduates to perform well even on the international stage,” Dr Marshall said.

IMAGE: SMITH…we have got to teach our people to affirm themselves in who they are

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