Education & Training

Updated: September 2019 | By: SHELDON WAITHE

Always a hotbed of opinion, conjecture and deep concern, Trinidad and Tobago’s education and training models are constantly seeking improvement and investment to keep the nation competitive and adaptable to global changes. Trinidad and Tobago’s education/training infrastructure is amongst the best in the Caribbean, but does that equate to it being satisfactory for the country’s future and can it currently provide the opportunities to lay the foundation for the required diversification of the economy?

The Government has continued the trend of awarding the largest portion of the annual budget to the education and training sector. For the 2018-2019 period, education will receive TT$7.392 billion from a total budget sum of TT$51.776 billion.

Understanding that investing in education can yield significant development, including reduced poverty, higher economic growth and lower crime levels, Minister of Finance the Honourable Colm Imbert was resolute on the substantial allocation, stating:

“Our human resource capability is an essential requirement for undertaking and implementing successfully, key actions and initiatives for achievement of our long-term development goals.”


Education

The framework of education in Trinidad and Tobago retains the factors of the past decade:

  • Free and compulsory for ages 5 to 16
  • Seven years at primary school level
  • Secondary Entrance Assessment to determine the child’s secondary school
  • Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) taken after five years
  • Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) for 6th Formers
  • Private and religious schooling available for a fee
  • Tertiary education free for all Trinidad and Tobago citizens (up to the undergraduate level – conditions apply)
  • Both Government and the private sector provide academic scholarships (369 Government scholarships were awarded in 2018)
  • Free part-time programme of Continuing Education and Training for adults

The Ministry of Education has stated the following projects as priorities in the coming year:

  • Completion of the project to complete or repair 27 schools across both islands
  • Address shortcomings in technical and vocational teacher training
  • Increase the number of scholarship opportunities available to Trinidad and Tobago citizens
  • Empowering differently abled students and ensuring inclusiveness and equality
  • Zero tolerance for indiscipline in schools
  • Continuation of workshops to increase the pedagogical, technological and management skills of primary school teachers
  • Police involvement to pre-empt incidents of violence in schools

A significant advance has been the development of the Draft Education Policy Paper titled “A Look into the Future”. The welcome initiative comprised a number of consultations held across the country with all stakeholders, for views on ways to improve the education system. Minister of Education, the Honourable Anthony Garcia indicated that the purpose was to get a wide cross-section of contributions, to get education to a level that would improve life for the students and by extension, the country.

He explained, “It was decided by the Cabinet to engage in further discussions so that we can establish policy directions for the Ministry of Education and by extension, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. It is our hope that these consultations would evolve into a White Paper that would be taken to the Parliament, which would be the official Government’s policy where education is concerned for the next five years.”

Primary Education in 2018:

  • 95.2% enrolment rate
  • 19,139 students sat SEA Exam
  • 65.5% of students scored above 50%

Secondary Education in 2018:

  • 16,042 students sat CSEC exams
  • 60% of CSEC students earned a full certificate
  • 95.10% pass rate for CAPE students
  • 1,486 CSEC students failed to attain any subject passes

Training

Falling under the education umbrella, responsibility for ensuring that secondary and tertiary education training is up to standard falls to the regulatory entity, the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT). A key player, ACTT’s standards are ensured by its affiliation with similar bodies globally, e.g. Commonwealth of Learning and American Society for Quality.

Most relevant bodies, from local and regional universities to private business schools and tourism institutes, adhere to ACTT’s rating.

There are 11 accredited and 58 registered institutions in Trinidad and Tobago, with various sectors including:

  • Law
  • Science, Technology and Applied Arts
  • Theology
  • Nursing
  • Health and Environmental Sciences
  • Journalism and Communication
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Liberal Arts and Human Services

A range of extensive training courses are also provided by the Government through bodies such as the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP). First created to serve students between the ages of 15 to 25, the programme has expanded both its age parameters and the skills training that it offers. Barbering, plumbing, data operations, child care, welding and graphic design are just some of the diverse courses on offer to help YTEPP attain its goal of making more people employable. Like other Ministry of Education initiatives, it is free and in some cases, offers a stipend.

OUTLOOK

There is every opportunity offered for free education at every level in Trinidad and Tobago (bar postgraduate), a status of which few countries can boast. It highlights the country’s emphasis on investment in the sector. Legitimate concerns exist at the primary and secondary level though the recently held consultations are the first step to meaningfully addressing them and provide equal infrastructure enjoyed by training and tertiary education.

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