A critical strategy for sustainable prosperity in the Cayman Islands
It is common wisdom that knowledge is power. So for centuries access to higher education has been limited to the very few who could afford it and those few others who were chosen from among the brightest youngsters. It was a privilege to go to college and only the most privileged members of society got that opportunity. The rest of the children were given a modest veneer of general education and sent off into the workplace right after high school. Their lives and incomes were always limited by what they did not know simply because they were never given a chance to learn it. In a world dominated by knowledge and information, where only the well educated can prosper, the children of middleclass and working class families are falling further behind each year.
Personal liberty, economic independence and even the functioning of democratic societies can only exist when every individual member of a community is optimally empowered, through knowledge, to control his/her own destiny; at least in so far as any human being can control fate. The job of education is to empower people to pursue individual happiness and enable people to confront the challenges of everyday life successfully. In a world where technology advances at lightning speed universities exist to offer people opportunities to gain essential knowledge, acquire competitive skills, and develop their talents so that they can pursue their dreams.
Universities are also engines for social, cultural and economic development. Universities should work to facilitate a greater sense of a social consciousness so that graduates not only pursue individual career success but also contribute to the over-all development of the community. Teachers within universities should become talent scouts who seek out hidden abilities and awaken capabilities within every student and not just teach to the brightest and the best. Universities should help students acquire clarity of purpose that allows them to recognize their real signature talents and to pursue their true career interests.
University education therefore should be open to all who need it and want it. Tertiary education should accommodate the needs of people throughout their lifetime and over the entire course of their career, not just during their adolescence. Universities must be thought of as talent factories which refine the raw potential within every citizen and turn it into the competitive competencies Cayman needs to prosper within the global economy. College faculty members must leave their ivory towers and work shoulder to shoulder with other members of Cayman society and with every institution within the community in order to build a better future for all.
Tertiary education must also be broader than the classical curriculum of science, arts and letters. The universities should value the practical trades and the fine arts as much as they exalt sciences, literature, and philosophy. Universities should be as determined to teach practical trades & applied skills as they are dedicated to explore theoretical hypotheses, logical thinking and philosophical constructs. Universities must be learner centred rather than teacher focused in order to create a space where everyone who enters can learn. Universities must be dedicated to the success of every willing learner and they must avoid erecting barriers which prevent people from realising their potential.
Here in the Cayman Islands we have a unique opportunity to develop an entire population of well educated citizens and highly skilled workers. The Cayman Islands with its small population could educate its entire citizenry, which could in turn guarantee sustainable prosperity for these islands for decades. So while the people of the Cayman Islands rightfully protect the coral reefs; develop beach front properties and defend their legal advantages as an offshore financial centre, let’s not neglect developing our vital human capital. Every Cayman high school graduate should be encouraged and enabled to pursue at least two years of post secondary education. Every adult citizen should be helped to continually up grade his/her career skills and should be given the opportunity to complete a university degree.