Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 23rd 2015 Contents BG6 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 23 • 2015
T he Government Assistance
for Tuition Expenses
(GATE) programme has
assisted thousands of cit-
izens to gain access to ter-
tiary education. But since
the policies and framework for the programme
were established and ironed out between 2006
and 2008, no assessment has been done on
whether T&T has been getting an effective
return on its investment (ROI) despite the
While some students were able to enter the
local job market immediately after completion
of a bachelor, master's degree or any other
tertiary education qualification they received
through GATE, others were not so fortunate
and opted to seek employment internationally
without contributing to the country's devel-
Last Wednesday, Minister of Tertiary Edu-
cation and Skills Training Fazal Karim said an
assessment of GATE would assist T&T in deal-
ing with an oversupply of labour, if it occurs.
Further, there were some graduates who were
not getting jobs despite having the required
qualifications and others who were getting
Whether it is the perspective of an econ-
omist, or the Employers Consultative Asso-
ciation (ECA), what is clear is that GATE is
needed, but should carefully be monitored to
ensure that T&T is getting a good return on
its investment in tertiary education.
Economist Roger Hosein:
Economist and senior lecturer at the Uni-
versity of the West Indies, Dr Roger Hosein,
agrees that there is need to assess GATE. He
added that the assessment should look at
whether GATE should be approved for certain
tertiary education programmes.
In emailed responses to the Business
Guardian, Hosein said: "As the economy moves
into the next 15 years, does it make sense to
finance history and literature in the same way
as say industrial engineering?
"Is the education strategy aligned to the
developmental needs of the economy as it
moves to the next 15 years of its economic
Hosein praised initiatives such as on-the-
job training, which he said "has been a bless-
ing" for many students in order to prepare
them for the world of work.
"Since 1991, the energy sector has boomed,
the services sector has increased but the man-
ufacturing and agriculture sector has not done
"The Government has identified various
areas to push its diversification objectives and
it may make reasonable sense in order to
finance the objectives of the State, for the
economy, for its tertiary-level education finan-
cial support to be cast in the same direction."
Asked if further control measures were to
be included in the GATE programme, what
kind of strategy should be adopted, Hosein
said: "The State may want, in an economy
with a distinctly lower growth trajectory, to
consider halting tertiary-level education sup-
port. It may also want to effect a monitoring
mechanism to robustly pursue whether ben-
eficiaries are leaving the economy even though
a contract was signed with the State to work
for a few years."
The ECA's chief executive Joycelyn Francois
Opadeyi said while GATE has been an effective
tool in making tertiary education available to
all citizens, there is still need to ensure that
tertiary education is industry relevant.
As though in high praise of the GATE pro-
gramme, Opadeyi said prior to the introduction
of GATE, the education system would have
resulted in minimal chances of a child pursuing
higher education if that child was unsuccessful
at the SEA examination.
"Ultimately, an increased exposure to tertiary
education should result in better alignment
and more qualified workers entering the job
"The caveat is that many employers are still
attracted to practical experience as opposed
to just theoretical knowledge. The value of
workers on the job is really created from the
individual's ability to use the academic infor-
mation and transfer it into the real world of
She added that a lot of money is "wasted"
on applicants who do not take advantage of
the opportunities of free education.
"Certainly a simple analysis of dropout rates
against income classification would substantiate
this thesis. Yes, an assessment and substantive
reform of GATE should be considered, not
just to assess the ROI for the government, but
to assess the programme's effectiveness in
terms of impact on the level of productivity
of the beneficiaries of the programme and
ultimately the workplace and society."
The ECA is calling on the government to
rationalise its expenditure on GATE especially
as there are "less than favourable energy prices
and a largely uncompetitive non-energy sector.
All such programmes should have as an integral
part of their mandate, a robust management
and monitoring system."
To ensure that "giving back" takes place
and graduates do not migrate after they are
successful in their examinations, the ECA sug-
gested that there should be a loyalty clause
included in the GATE agreement where the
"giving back" would be for a specified period
Adjust the GATE programme to fit the needs
of the economy when there is need to, retired
Republic Bank chief economist Ronald
Ramkissoon said. Though some may suggest
that GATE approval be denied for literature
and history, Ramkissoon does not believe that
this should be done.
"I believe that these two areas are also impor-
tant in the overall development of any country.
I believe that GATE can be so adjusted from
time to time to give greater emphasis to par-
ticular areas of study depending on overall con-
ditions at any point in time."
He supported the suggestion an assessment
should be done on GATE, saying that the objec-
tives the programme intends to achieve must
be clearly defined and the "returns" must con-
sider short and long-run benefits and financial
and other forms of "returns."
Overall, GATE is an effective tool for providing
tertiary education to all and for maintaining a
high-quality worker entering the job market.
He said it is the right time for an assessment
to be done on GATE because, "a new admin-
istration is to come into office soon and will
want to seek to bring about improvements in
education and indeed all other areas."
The onus is on T&T to make this country's
labour market an attractive one for the graduates
of tertiary education to stay and contribute,
"We must seek to make good use of graduates
and encourage them to stay. In any case, they
may well return to these shores with the knowl-
edge that they might have gained overseas.
Some period of work here is mandated any-
Ramkissoon also suggested that there should
be continuous monitoring of GATE and T&T
should look at the best practices used by coun-
tries internationally with similar programmes.
"GATE must be considered in an overall con-
text of government's social and economic strat-
egy, the state of government finances and ability
of students to pay. Out of these considerations
will guide what is, and what is not, possible."
Monitor, but don't close,
the GATE, economists say
The onus is on T&T to make this country's labour market an attractive
one for the graduates of tertiary education to stay and contribute
JOYCELYN FRANCOIS OPADEYI
MINISTER FAZAL KARIM
DR ROGER HOSEIN
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