Causes and consequences of low rates of specialisation in science and technology in CDCC member countries
NU. CEPAL. Sede Subregional para el Caribe
The importance of science and technology (S&T) in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is clearly articulated in Chapter XI, paragraphs 57, 58, 61 and 62 of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (MSI). At the regional level, the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) noted the challenge that CARICOM member States face in competing in this new international economic environment in which the impact of scientific and technological change has created a knowledge-based global economy. Given the importance of S&T to development of Caribbean SIDS, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean embarked on a study to determine the causes and consequences of low rates of specialisation in S&T with a view to making recommendations for development of strategies for addressing these challenges. Data on postgraduate (Master of Science, Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy) enrolment and graduation in agriculture, engineering and the sciences from the three campuses of the University of the West Indies (UWI) as well as from the University of Technology in Jamaica and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) were examined and analysed. Face-to-face interviews were also held with key personnel from these institutions and a questionnaire was also served to individuals in key institutions. Results of the study revealed that although the number of students enrolled in higher degree programmes has increased in absolute terms, they are decreasing in relative terms. However, enrolment in agriculture has indeed declined while enrolment rates in engineering, although increasing, were not significantly high. Market forces have proved to be a main reason for this trend while facilities for the conduct and supervision of cutting-edge research, the disconnect between science and industry and societal labelling of scientists as “misfits” are also contributing to the situation. This has resulted in a reduced desire by students at all levels of the school system and faculty to be involved in S&T; lack of innovation; a better staffed private, as compared with public, sector; and poor remuneration in science-based employment. There also appears to be a gender bias in enrolment with more males than females being enrolled in engineering while the opposite is apparent in agriculture and the sciences. Recommendations for remedying this situation range from increasing investment in S&T, creating linkages between science and industry as well as with the international community, raising awareness of the value of S&T at all levels of the education system to informing policy to stimulate the science – innovation interface so as to promote intellectual property rights.