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#BTEditorial – National scholars still not keen on US education

Barbados’ top flight students were rewarded earlier this week with national scholarships and exhibitions, as well as the inaugural Errol Walton Barrow Scholarship which goes to a former student of a newer secondary school.

The five scholarship winners were oriented towards the STEM/CS (science, technology, engineering, and math, including computer science) disciplines. Most indicated they would pursue higher education in mathematics, engineering and various fields in chemistry.

Out of the 25 Exhibition winners, 13 were from Harrison College, six were from Queen’s College, two from The St Michael School, two from Christ Church Foundation and two from the Barbados Community College (BCC).

The young scholars, quite a few of whom are males, represent some of the best Barbadian scholastic achievements in 2023.

They are expected to join the long list of young people who carry the Barbados flag with pride when they enter the halls of some of the world’s top flight universities including our own University of the West Indies.

Jasmine Humphrey of Harrison College, for example, will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Bristol in England, where she will focus on cosmetic chemistry.

Her former schoolmate, Riya Yeddula, plans to study medicine at the UWI, Cave Hill Campus. Queen’s College graduate Terricka Bradshaw is headed to the University of Toronto in Canada to study materials engineering. The Errol Walton Barrow Scholarship winner Javani Alleyne will be attending The Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, to pursue a Bachelor of Technology in ocean mapping.

These are all important areas of study that will assist the country in its development. The choice of university for these top performing students is more than interesting as it demonstrates a continued aversion to pursuing higher education at American universities.

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins are all American universities with which the world of academia is familiar and regarded highly.

We are also reminded of remarks by Minister of Education Kay McConney who is a graduate of the American university system. 

“A review of the students who access Barbados scholarships and exhibitions sponsored by the Government of Barbados reveals that the majority choose to attend Canadian and UK universities, rather than US universities and colleges,” she said last July as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) were in the island on a recruiting session.

We understand the very strong links between the Barbados and British education system. It is important to note also that many Barbadians are afforded higher education at universities across the United States through athletic and sports scholarships.

However, it seems when Barbadian students have a choice about where they will study when the bill is being fully funded, they either choose the UWI, British or Canadian universities.

In her bid to promote the American offerings, the Education Minister reminded us that these institutions offer great flexibility in course selection, a large market of opportunities for practical experience in jobs, and a tremendous scope for networking and career advancement.

While this is traditionally the case, one really must wonder how much of a factor are the longstanding racial tensions as well as the political and social turmoil in the United States impact students and their parents’ decision-making process.

There are Barbadians who say openly that they have switched their holiday travel plans from popular US haunts such as New York and Miami and are choosing Toronto, London, Panama City and European cities instead.

The recent travel warning issued by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) against Florida due to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programmes” in the state’s schools, has not endeared the state either.

Barbadians are paying close attention to what is happening in the US and the world’s leading economy is seeming less and less attractive to work, study and live.

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