Statement to the House of Assembly on the Status of Education in Dominica

By the Honourable Petter Saint-Jean, Minister for Education and Human Resource Development

At the dawn of the new millennium, the Dominica Labour Party proposed to the Dominican public a range of policy, regulatory, institutional and investment efforts that would, over time, result in a framework of modern, diversified, and resilient economic structures to respond to the new reality of a highly competitive global trading environment. That is because Dominica could no longer rely on unregulated access to guaranteed export markets but needed to venture into the provision of high quality services that required the strategic use of information. At the same time, our society was, thanks to the flow of new ideas and new migrants, becoming increasingly mixed. Such an open, diverse, and dynamic economy and society called for the value of equal opportunity to be integrated into all our institutions. Thankfully, the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica collectively decided in 2000 to turn away from superficial boasts about the new millennium and instead to stride boldly into the 21st century.

The Ministry of Education was called upon to play its traditional role in the formation of this new economy and society by providing equal educational opportunity to all Dominican citizens and residents regardless of nationality or ethnic origin, gender, language, or ability status in both traditional and non-traditional educational settings.

More than ten years later, there is clear statistical evidence that the Dominican people have embraced the education and higher learning opportunities afforded under this new dispensation and it is clear that these efforts have borne fruit. This is shown in the significant increase in educational achievement among the population. At all levels, Dominican citizens are persisting longer in one level of schooling or the other, and attaining higher and higher levels of education. As a result of this partnership among Government, Church, private enterprise, and individuals and families, today, more than one decade later, the educational and human resource development landscape of Dominica is transformed.

Whereas in 2001, national statistics show the persons attaining G.C.E. or C.X.C. certificates numbered 4,958, in 2011 the total number is 6,370. This is a 28.5 per cent improvement. It is a significant improvement. It vindicates the tremendous efforts of Government and other stakeholders in increasing access to secondary education. These efforts have come in the form of various policies and programmes that are as innovative as they are far-reaching. Among these efforts the following must be highlighted: Universal Access to Secondary Education, School Transfer Grants, Uniform Grants as well as the continuous investment in the improvement in the quality and distribution of the physical plants of Dominica’s educational facilities and the quality of the personnel and teachers who serve within these structures. Overall, and through a variety of official efforts, Dominica, over the past decade has become an increasingly supportive environment in which pupils and students have found a nurturing atmosphere in which to develop their God-given talents for their own betterment and that of their families, communities, and nation.

In the same period, 2001 to 2011, the number of students attaining Associate Degrees rose exponentially, that is by 972.5% moving from 207 in 2001 to 2,220 in 2011. First and foremost, lest we forget, the rise in attainment of Associate Degrees speaks clearly to the unmet demand for tertiary education that had existed prior to the Dominica Labour Party coming to office. This dramatic increase is the clear and unmistakable result of the establishment of the Dominica State College in 2002. As such, this remarkable statistic speaks eloquently to the close connection between the Dominican public and the former Minister for Education under whose watch this institution was nurtured into existence, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit. It speaks to his foresight and that of the late Prime Ministers Roosevelt Douglas and Pierre Charles who during our most economically challenging years persisted in the right vision for tertiary education, education in general, and our young nation. Moreover, the dramatic rise in persons attaining Associate Degrees speaks to the success of the Dominica State College in its mission of providing tertiary education services that are responsive to the needs of this country. The Dominica State College continues to stand as a concrete symbol of this Government’s unshakable confidence in the youth of this country and of the resourcefulness of our people as a whole.

Females accounted for a higher percentage of those persons attaining Associate’s Degrees. This is in line with the prevailing trends the world over. This, however, calls for a closer study of the peculiarities of males in tertiary education so as to yield recommendations for improving the gender balance at the Associate Degree level.

Bachelor’s degree attainment registered a 130.6 percent increase. The absolute values changed from 842 in 2001 to 1,942 in 2011. Once again, this is a positive and significant improvement at this level. It is, without doubt, a reflection of the overwhelming educational improvement at the Associate Degree level which feeds into the Bachelor’s Degree level. Improvement at the Bachelor’s Degree level also reflects a greater effort by this Government under its commitment to attaining a graduate in every household. This commitment, it must be understood, is but a summative educational goal which builds on many Government policy and programmatic initiatives, including the historic break in Dominica’s approach to sourcing university scholarships from friendly Governments and organizations. Specifically, this Government spares no effort at cooperating with friendly entities abroad in order to radically upgrade the education and training of Dominicans. It is therefore fitting that the following entities be recognized for their contribution to the educational development of Dominica: the People’s Republic of China, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of Cuba, the European Union, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, UNICEF and the OAS among others.

Finally, improvement in attainment at the highest levels, that is, at the higher degree level, did not taper off but rather persisted in the period 2001 to 2011. Higher degree attainment increased by 61.7% or from 418 to 676. Once again, this is a significant and positioned change that will continue to transform the lives of the Dominican people.

The transformation of education from 2001 to 2011, however, reflects positive efforts that are farther afield than education. Specifically, the transformation of educational attainment from 2001 to 2011 reflects positive developments in the quality of life of Dominicans.

Improvements in health, economic activity and living arrangements are contributors to the improved educational attainment of Dominicans. Worthy of note are indications that in the same period, 2001 to 2011, Dominican households have experienced improved access to water facility or supply, toilet facility, electricity, and information technology, including internet access and computers.

In conclusion, the story of education in Dominica in the new millennium is one success that all Dominicans can be proud. The transformation of education improves individuals’ level of confidence, their outlook, their ability to care for themselves and others; this bodes well for the future of our young nation.

I want to thank the Hon. Prime Minister and Minister for Finance for his continued visionary support of education. I want to acknowledge the contribution of my Cabinet colleagues for their ministerial contributions to the improvement of education. I thank educators, educational institutions, the Church and other education stakeholders. Most of all, I want to thank parents, every pupil’s first teacher, and learners themselves.

Dominica today is a truly learning society thanks to your valiant efforts.

Thank you all.

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