The Government is looking to create an Integrated Higher Education System for Jamaica (IHES-J) aimed at better aligning training to industry demands.
Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, made the disclosure while addressing the opening of the Ministry’s inaugural Higher Education Summit on May 10 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
“This integration is expected to be supported with policies and systems to support greater autonomy, greater alignment to industry and a flexible approach to funding to support the needs of the institutions, while ensuring that students are being trained in areas that are required by industry and will ultimately impact the economy,” he said.
He said that despite deliberations over the years, limited progress has been made in addressing the need for greater integration of education and training.
“Our hope is that coming out of these discussions (at the summit) we will be able to agree on the needed and significant steps forward together,” he said.
The two-day summit, under the theme: ‘Education 4.0: Disrupting Tradition…Transforming Jamaica,’ provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss and provide feedback on a number of issues critical to the development of the higher education sector.
From the consultations, the Ministry will seek to establish a declaration, which will encapsulate the core principles around which the Government will be able to define and pass legislation with regards to matters of governance, quality assurance and regulation of higher education.
In his address, Senator Reid highlighted the importance of higher education to the development of the country.
He said that among the national imperatives are: to increase the percentage of eligible cohort holding the minimum of a bachelor’s degree from 15 per cent to 80 per cent; remove barriers to access; and ensure that institutions are responsive to the changing dynamics and requirements of the labour market.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dean-Roy Bernard, in his contribution, stressed that a key objective of the deliberations is to ensure that higher education is supporting the economic growth agenda.
“We hear many times of the 67 per cent of our workforce that are untrained and uncertified. This summit is to ensure that we are reducing those numbers rapidly,” he said.
Over the two days, experts in education and industry made presentations on a range of topics including: ‘Higher Education, Governance and the Oversight Framework’; ‘Autonomy within the Higher Education Sector’; ‘Funding the Higher Education Sector’; and ‘Relevance, Innovation and Leadership.’
Among those in attendance were members of external quality assurance body, University Council of Jamaica (UCJ); regulatory body, Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC); the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) and their member institutions; and student representatives.