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Keeping ‘Investing in Human Capital at the forefront of Sustainable Development

Posted in: Regional News by volderine | 08 July 2019 | 1933

    Myrna Bernard
    Myrna Bernard

    GOFAD is pleased to post this special blog by Ms.  Myrna Bernard, one of its Advisors. The piece was  submitted as a comment on the June 6 blog, "CARICOM HRD Strategy as Investing in Human Capital".  The Strategy was endorsed at the 38th Conference of Heads of Government Meeting in Grenada in July 2017.  A CARICOM Commission on HRD was established in March 2018 to shape the Regional Educational and Human Resource Development Strategy. This blog will hopefully keep the issues of Human Capital Development alive.  Its targets are aligned with the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 "Quality Education" and are compatible with those of the World Bank Human Capital Project (See GOFAD Blog: "Placing Human Capital at the Center of the Sustainable Development Goals" May 9, 2019).   Ms. Bernard was until recently Director in  Directorate of Human  and Social Development  at CARICOM Secretariat and one of the architects of CARICOM HRD Strategy.  The Strategy may be viewed via this link  2  HRD Strategy (2.96 MB)

    The GOFAD blog of June 6, 2019 provided a useful overview of the main purpose and elements of the CARICOM HRD 2030 Strategy, and also highlighted antecedent efforts by the Caribbean Community to work together on streamlining efforts for cooperation in Human Capital/ Human Resource Development.  This contribution highlights some areas which are already the specific focus of preliminary implementation efforts and which provide useful tools for co-ordination and successful implementation at both regional and national levels.

    The Vision of the HRD 2030 Strategy, ‘Unlocking Human Potential’ recognizes the need for deliberate action in several spheres and at several levels, to ensure that Caribbean citizens, especially children and youth, but also inclusive of older adults, are provided opportunities for development of the skills and attitudes needed for success in their personal as well as professional lives. This is of specific importance in the current environment,  given the rapid changes in skill sets needed to take advantage of opportunities in a world now driven by technological change and resultant changes in requirements for success. These changes have resulted, for example, in a reordering of the importance of crucial skills for success in both personal and working life. The World Economic Forum (WEF) hierarchy of 10 most important skills and competencies needed in employment by 2020, and cited in the HRD Strategy, lists complex problem solving as #1 followed by critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; and cognitive flexibility. If the Caribbean is to become globally competitive, its systems for HRD must take cognizance of trends such as these. 

    For each of the Strategic Priorities outlined in the HRD 2030 Strategy, viz. Access and Participation, Equity, Quality and Relevance, important strategies have been targeted for each level of education. Member States, through the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) have agreed on specific strategies for priority attention at the regional level. A close look at projections such as those of the WEF will certainly call into question, whether the current systems for policy development and management of the education systems in the Region are suitably oriented and equipped in this regard. It is for this reason, that the Strategy pays close attention, not only to outlining actions directly linked to the Strategic Priorities, but also pays focused specific attention to what is referred to in the Strategy as ‘Enablers’. The focus on enablers highlights the importance of concomitant effort at streamlining HRD Sector planning, management and delivery. This no doubt aims to avoid the negative consequences of the proverbial ‘pouring of new wine into old wineskins’.

    As the Strategy is implemented across the Region, it is important to recognize and address the seeming ‘disruptions’ which will result at all levels.  Systems which have hitherto been merely tinkered with to accommodate previous reform efforts will need to be fundamentally reoriented to shape the citizens and workers of the future. These changes will require specific attention, orientation and capacity building at several levels/tiers, including in particular, central policy making and management systems; education institutions at all levels, and in particular those charged with the preparation of educators; students and parents; local communities and the society as a whole. 

    At the level of the schools and other institutions of learning, the major requirement is for a switch from traditional practices, several of which still focus in large part, for example, on traditional media, acquisition of knowledge, individual achievement, competence in large part limited to the mental, to addressing development of competencies required for successful participation in the socio-digital world.  Important shifts in emphasis include the expert use of digital media; multi-tasking; knowledge creation, including through collaborative effort; emotional intelligence and critical thinking. These issues have important implications for the assigning of value to specific competencies and for assessing and rewarding our students at all levels. This calls to mind pertinent words of caution I read some while ago, with regard to not valuing what we can easily measure, but ensuring that we measure what we truly value. 

    The Implementation Plan for the HRD2030 Strategy, developed in collaboration with Member States, institutions and other partners to address the HRD 2030 Strategy recognizes the importance of reorientation at several levels of the system in order to enable and drive the change required.  Work has already begun in important areas to facilitate regional and national action. In this regard, Technical Working Groups (TWGs) established by the CARICOM Secretariat worked alongside the Strategy Development process to focus on design and development of specific educational policies, systems and models to accompany the implementation of the Strategy.  The Groups focused on Early Childhood Development, External Quality Assurance, Open and Distance Learning, Teaching Innovations and Educational Leadership and Tertiary Education. The TWGs have produced Reports in the following areas for the consideration of COHSOD.