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Prepared for online publication at www.storiesfordevelopment/research

By Claudette Russell

January 1, 2017


Executive Summary

Improving education is the cornerstone for improving lifelong opportunities for individuals, and an important policy instrument used to increase innovation and competitiveness. In modern economies, governments and industry need an education and training system that produces graduates with the skills needed to grow the local economy and to compete around the world. This paper discusses whether the education and training systems in CARICOM is meeting the social and economic needs of the region. It looks in detail at three themes:  the structure and content of modern education and training systems, and the relationship between education and training with employment in the 21st century.

While CARICOM has made good progress in ensuring that the objectives and characteristics of its education and training system align with 21st century practices, considerable work is needed to improve the structural elements of the systems as they relate to creative financing, modern governance and accountability, quality instructors/ teachers, modern learning/training facilities, and functional labour markets. In fact, the region urgently needs to make improvements to its labour laws and regulations, and labour market policies and practices to facilitate the creation of sufficient and decent jobs that pay competitive wages.

Related to the content of the system, most Member States, with the exception of Dominica, Monserrat, and Suriname, have education- or training-specific policies and strategies that articulate a reasonably well thought out policy direction for their education sectors. Despite these policies, however, there has been slow progress in improving outcomes consistently across the region. Recognising that it can take decades to see concrete changes, the challenges faced by the region seem to lie with disciplined implementation steps and action plans rather than the existence of policies and strategies themselves. 

Modern education and training systems need mechanisms and interventions that align education with employment. The region has been actively working to put in place the mechanisms and programmes to help graduates access viable employment opportunities. However, the effectiveness of these mechanisms varies considerably across the region. With the exception of the availability of internships and apprenticeship opportunities, further reforms are needed to curriculum design, labour market information, career and guidance counselling, and entrepreneurship to improve their effectiveness and help education and training be more aligned with 21st century practices.


The challenges associated with education and training reform are not stand-alone issues. The complexity of the issues is reflected in the interaction of this sector with the social development, employment, and economic development sectors. Changes or stagnation in one sector will inevitably have an impact on the others. The CARICOM’s Human Resources Development Strategy for 2030 is an opportunity for Member States to work across the broader ecosystem and with partners to effect real and sustainable change that will carve out a competitive advantage for the region and serve it well into the 21st century.  Download the full document. 

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