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Maintaining a Bouyant and Relevant Education System

This is the text of a presentation I made at the Mico University College in 2013

Maintaining a Buoyant and Relevant Education System by Nurturing and Releasing the Talent and Enterprising Spirit of our People

Glen Owen Lecture

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mico University College

Kingston, Jamaica




Before I got this invitation to speak here at this prestigious lecture, some weeks ago I started a discussion in Social Media about the kind of attachment a good portion of our society has with their respective high schools. While I am extremely proud of Ferncourt High where I attended, I think the Mico cemented my thoughts and ideas and helped shaped me into the kind of person I am now and what I am still about to be. With that in mind I started a college day discussion, where I wanted people to start making an attachment to their colleges. So I created an events page on Facebook and guess which day it was…today March 21. Well who would have thought that I would be here?

 When I attended here as a student, the lecturers for this session were elite, so I stand proud today to be able to deliver this presentation. My three years here were spread widely as I lived a real college life. I sang, danced, played the drums, played netball, volleyball, ran, threw the shot put all for Lushington and of course Mico….and years later played volleyball for MOSA.

My point here today though is to really discuss with you how can this noble institution continue to lead the way in which Education can nurture and release the talent and enterprising spirit of our people.

It has become impossible to overestimate the importance of our people. They have become the voice of our culture and are living examples of the values by which we are judged by others and how we judge ourselves. So as a learning and educational institution we should and must conduct the research necessary to be able to

  • Deliver programmes to facilitate how they learn
  • Develop programmes to prepare them for the new work order
  • Make the institution relevant to others across the world, whether we benchmark or set our standards.

The impact of globalisation has impacted on the world in a tremendous and no longer is competition defined by geographical borders, but instead, the world is one big melting pot and Jamaica has to secure what its competitive advantage is and create its own opportunities by being relevant, focused and definitive on programmes to guide the system.

 Now that was a mouthful, but let me be a little more animated

 What are the professions of choice these days?

Which markets are we targeting?

Who should we be training?

What skills sets should these people have?

We must have those answers….and once we do we prepare

–          We design the curriculum

–          We recruit the personnel to deliver those courses to facilitate

–          We attend courses and workshops to improve our capacity to deliver

–          We host events to facilitate knowledge transfer

–          We public journals, books, papers to highlight the work we have done

–          We tell our own stories

–          We step out of our comfort zone

We are always keen to maintain tradition, but while maintaining tradition we MUST keep up with the trends of the new world order. This new world order may seem foreign to us, but it is a simple solution – so here is the formula

  • Maintain the tradition
  • Use the traditional information as a base on where to start
  • Bring the programmes up to date
  • Record that information

As a country we are known by the collective action of our people, like an institution we are known by the collective action of our faculty, students and staff and there MICO and the education system are known by its relevance and collective responsibility of our people. I pause here to ask, how do you think we are judged at this point?

We ought to consider ourselves a part of a community, one in which we define from a broad perspective showing value by turning out graduates that are capable of delivering what the world requires; capable of ensuring continuity on the tradition which some of our older colleagues started; and most importantly one which guarantees great customer service to a more sophisticated set of consumers.

I had a look at the Global Education Initiative which was published in the World Economic Forum of 2009, that conference in Switzerland focused on Educating the next set of entrepreneurs – unlocking capabilities to meet global challenges. Now a lot of what that report has is what we already know, however I would like to share some of the views expressed…


  • They redefined entrepreneurship – it made reference to start-ups, spin-outs, entrepreneurship in large organisations (private/public) or social ventures
  • They charted a path from youth to higher education, but paid keen attention to informal education system to include those who were socially excluded
    • We have a habit in this country to ignore what we think the ‘informal society/sector’ is and instead of engaging them to find out what we would not know in a formal system, we push them aside…
    • Our education system must stop making judgements based on stereotypes – we must develop a systematic approach to collecting the data and develop what the World Economic Forum report, calls a “wider understanding of the key issues in developing the programmes to meet the global needs.”
  • We must understand the rest of the world, developed, developing and under developed are moving towards a consensus on education, and one which clearly is to meet global demands. It is a process that we cannot be left out of.

Funding for these programmes

The initiative I made reference to earlier under the World Economic Forum and its partners, mobilised more than US$100 million to support and impact more than 1.8 million teachers and students in Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Rwanda and a state in India…the programme was successful

This programme leads me to another matter we need to realise – there is money out there to help EDUCATION and we must devise ways of accessing same. We cannot afford to be lazy not to do the requisite business plans to draw down on the funds…

The Structure of the Process

 Education has to take a different approach to be successful.

 There is still the traditional – which seeks primarily to fulfill the primary jobs to include medicine, law, divinity and even education. However we may want to look at how we ‘educate’ creative people – that is education which focuses on growth and opportunity….


There is also the type of education which steers you towards – social inclusion. That which juxtaposes the element of mastery with formal – e.g. a musician/performer of 40 years of more who is still successful, must be a master of his/her craft. Whether that person chose to do what we know as formal education – we ought to create a situation where the education system recognises their value and creates a formal value to them. The other side of that equation is this same education system MUST prepare the support for someone of that quality – so whether it is the manager, the publicist, the agent who is part of the business team, our education system must prepare those people. How do we prepare them? We become aware of the business environment. We send people out in the field. We have exchanges with colleges that complement and supplement the work we do here. We create the programmes relevant to build the capacity of that industry.

Are we capable of doing that? When our students leave this system, are they able to go straight to work? That should be our focus….not just to compare theories of psychologists, historians, but they must be prepared to take on the challenge of the work world. They also should be able to interact with their peers in other territories and be alongside or ahead of them in concept, deliverable and execution of skills. In the Jamaican context, a coach of 20 years or more is also another person we can formalise their contribution and value and create curricula that can complete their course of study.

Yes, I see the knitted brows….but until we change the culture and make the process of education more palatable, so we are able to have a wider base.

It is widely accepted that the educational system of universities has to provide an academic environment that is conducive to develop new generations of business founders.

Feedback from other territories

Entrepreneurship education has been intensified in universities during the past four decades. In the sixties, less than ten universities in the USA were teaching in this field, 1990 there were already 400 universities in America active in entrepreneurship education and estimates today exceed 700 universities (Vesper and McMullan 1988; Hills and Morris 1998; Fiet 2001). Many of these academic institutions have established majors on the graduate level or other kinds of concentrations. Entrepreneurship centres have been founded to coordinate the broad array of activities, programmes and resources within universities. Very seldom, schools pushed back out of entrepreneurship once they had entered.

This growth in interest and funding is accompanied by an increasing demand for legitimization of entrepreneurship education at the university level. Consequently, the impact of education on the creation of future entrepreneurs and the link between university training and the success of the new ventures has been subject of much discussion in the academic community. A review of the entrepreneurship literature reveals contradictory findings (see for a literature-review Gorman, Hanlon and King 1997). The results suggest differentiating between general business and specific entrepreneurship education when exploring the role of university programmes.


Most of the surveys show that entrepreneurship education encourages graduates to start their own business.


The same study asked some relevant questions

  1. After graduation do you plan to become self employed – 50 per cent of the US students surveyed said no….while 70 per cent of the German students said yes
  2. What line of businesses were pursued – IT/Software programming; Management Consulting, other technical services


Some interesting findings showed that for start ups, it took a US graduate an average of 5.1 years and for the German 4.3 years; the US graduate had an average of 2.7 partners, while the Germans had 2.3; After three years, the US graduates reported that they employed up to 97.4 employees, while the Germans 30….Very interesting…I wonder our graduate research would show. Here we have an opportunity to measure the impact of inclusion of entrepreneurship in our education curriculum.


Appraisal of entrepreneurial education and support

We MUST do a survey of our college graduates to get answers to the following questions

  1. Does the creative atmosphere in my university inspire is to develop ideas for new businesses?
  2. Do the courses foster the social and leadership skills required by entrepreneurs?
  3. Do the courses provide students with the knowledge required to start a new company?
  4. Does my university provide networking opportunities?
  5. Does my university support building multidisciplinary student teams?

I know the College/University system is preparing itself for this reengagement of its stakeholders. I know from the leadership that the system is ready to take on this new challenge. I observe from the current leadership that we are in capable hands, but there is always more.

I could have spent so much more time here, but I won’t (smile)

Here are some recommendations I will make in closing

  • Focus on research and development
  • Go back to the days colleges & universities have exchange programmes (at home and abroad)
  • Participate in RELEVANT training and development programmes
  • PUBLISH the results
  • PUBLISH our own stories
  • Become a more active role in the lives of our people by including those outside the traditional sphere
  • Be a social motivator by attracting those who are capable but aren’t motivated because of the perceived restrictions
  • Recruit for your students – go into all corners of this country – one thing is for sure, you will know what is happening on the streets and that information can inform you on your next phase of development
  • STAY RELEVANT and at the TOP of the GAME

It was an absolute privilege for me to be here and I thank the entire Mico family. I hope I was able to stir your imaginations and to motivate and inspire you to channel a more progressive path forward.


One Love!




A sport aficionado who writes, researches and presents on everything sport. A second book is out to prove her work's reach. She reads in her spare time.

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