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Tertiary education crucial to nat’l productivity, says MoBay mayor


Christopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


NEWLY MINTED Montego Bay Mayor Richard Vernon is urging Jamaicans to see the pursuit of education as a social responsibility while touting tertiary education as the means by which the nation’s level of productivity and growth will improve.

Vernon issued the challenge in his keynote address during Wednesday’s press launch of the newly renamed Jill Stewart MoBay City Run, formerly simply named the MoBay City Run, at the Holiday Inn Resort in St James.

“Education is indeed the key to success, but it is more than a personal venture. It is a social responsibility to be educated. There are gaps between ascertaining education and the application of education. There are many persons who acquire it, but they do not apply it, and it creates gaps,” said Vernon.

“What you have to do is apply your education to make positive returns. Applied education is the key to securing a sustainable future.”

Referencing the perennial problem of ‘brain drain’, which Jamaica has suffered over several years due to educated professionals leaving Jamaica for employment opportunities overseas, Vernon stressed that this phenomenon has negatively affected the country’s potential for development.

“In a trip down memory lane, recall that Jamaica lost a significant proportion of her tertiary-education students since 1970 to brain drain, which significantly reduced our institutional capacity and depleted the pool of skilled human resources available to the private and public sector. Approximately 30 per cent of our population has acquired tertiary education over the last 50 years, and over 85 per cent of that population migrated in the same period,” said Vernon.

“This has been a massive blow to our development agenda as we lack the skill set to conceptualise, implement, and manage in this rapidly globalised world. For instance, limited institutional capacity negatively impacts crime management. It impacts healthcare delivery, it impacts the programmes that we need to implement for economic enhancement, and it impacts an efficient education system,” Vernon added.

“These shortcomings intensify ‘push’ factors in our already vulnerable social environment, hence the reason for Jamaica’s high rank on the migration charts.”

Jamaica has been ranked second out of 177 countries on the 2023 edition of the human flight and brain drain index based on data compiled from 2007 to 2023 by the business and economics website TheGlobalEcomomy.com.

The ranking assesses the economic impact of human displacement, whether for economic or political reasons, and the consequences this may have on a country’s development.

Jamaica currently has a human flight and brain drain index score of 9.5 compared to 9.1 in 2022.


Vernon also lamented that the issue could potentially result in underqualified persons filling employment positions that need to be filled by persons who have been adequately trained at the tertiary-education level.

“The situation leaves further gaps that are usually filled by inexperienced and inadequately qualified individuals operating in high-level positions, which reduces efficiency and effectiveness and results in a large pool of the unskilled labour force, which further reduces competitiveness and the productivity of our country,” said Vernon.

“If we are to diversify our economy, we have to have educated persons to fill all areas so that we can be productive as a country. It is not just the key to individual success. It is about collective success. So that is why I say it is a social responsibility to be educated as your education helps us to drive forward.”

Data from the World Bank on the percentage of tertiary education school enrolment across different countries up to 2022 indicated that Jamaica’s most recent statistic in this regard was 26 per cent in 2015, less than the 27 per cent recorded in 2012.