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Friday, April 07, 2006 

University Degree possible in 18 months

Web Posted - Fri Apr 07 2006
By Allison Ramsay

AN Undergraduate degree at the University of the West Indies (UWI) could be completed in 18 months and if implemented, could increase the interest of males in tertiary level education.
At a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Barbados at Hilton Barbados yesterday, guest speaker, Principal of the UWI Cave Hill Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Hilary Beckles spoke to this issue.

While making reference to a survey he was involved in, which was conducted amongst students age 14 to 16 across several Caribbean countries, he also said boys generally were rejecting education unless it was fast-tracked.

Professor Beckles said boys could not really be blamed for this since we live in fast paced world, adding that for the boys, three years for a university degree was too long a process.

The principal said 80 per cent of the boys indicated that they did not want to go to university whilst 80 per cent of the girls said they wanted to.

Professor Beckles further explained, ''The boys are very keen to go into degree programmes that have a potential for high earning and high status in a short time, so there isn't a male rejection of education. The boys are attracted at the moment to science, engineering, law, medicine, accounting ... There is a strong male interest in those professional degree programmes.''

In order to solve this problem, the principal declared, ''I say restructure what a degree programme should look like. There is no reason why a degree programme should take three years... unless it is in a professional area like medicine.''

He noted that the three-year system was based on a 500-year model and that with this traditional model, in the Humanities and Social Sciences, there is only 50 per cent contact time.
He said the average age of the students at Cave Hill is 26, with the typical student being a 26-year-old female with one child and in such cases, there could be two models, with the teenagers continuing to operate on the traditional model to give them time to socialise  as was intention of the design of the 500 model and have a faster track for older people through having Easter, Summer and Christmas classes.

Another challenge that Beckles noted was that the only faculty at Cave Hill that cannot make its annual intake of students is Science and Technology department.

''We have a Science and Technology problem in our primary and secondary schools and the failure rates of our young people in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, it's terrible ... So the University now has to work the system and develop a whole cadre of science teachers ... to go into the schools to help to fix ... the problem.''

According to Prof. Beckles, the University has not done well in Science and Technology and the region must have an aggressive and sustainable injection of Technology and Science, adding that the current strategic plan of UWI says that by the end of next year, at least 50 per cent of our students must be enrolled in Science and Technology related disciplines.

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