Today, there is growing need for trained individuals in economics, business and finance, information technology, the sciences, education and human resource development. All must be able to manipulate, use and make decisions on unlimited information. To deal with these developments we need to provide more opportunities for training and retraining for managers, for personnel already in the labour force and for new entrants. Computer literacy has become an indispensable tool, as important, as literacy and numeracy, to an individual’s prospects in his chosen career or line of work. Training must become mandatory for supervisory and management level personnel so that they can become effective trainers.

The Bahamas has begun some steps to address its present and future human resource requirements. Mindful of the need to prepare our young people to function in a technology-driven economy, we have initiated a $10 million computerisation programme, for the Government-operated school system, designed to link all schools to each other and to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in New Providence. The pilot programme, now operational in seven primary schools in New Providence, is the precursor to the computerization of our entire education system over the next three years. Effective distance education is coming closer to reality. When completed, all 166 government-operated schools will be connected to this satellite-based computer network.

Teachers will then be able to provide lessons in Maths, English and Science using a curriculum programme designed especially for educating students using information technology. Each lesson will be interactive, multi-media (sound, video and text) and supported by Internet access right from the classroom.

Today, our classrooms are not only constructed to be accessible to students, but are equipped with science, computer, language and reading laboratories to facilitate interactive learning.

Clearly, the call to greater flexibility and creativity in education and training is critically important if we are to produce and maintain a labour force able to perform and remain competitive.

In addition to Government scholarship and tuition support programmes, my Government, last year, inaugurated a student loan programme which has been accessed by some 800 students in its first year. On their behalf more than $ 9 million has been paid out to colleges and universities in The Bahamas and internationally: in North America, the Caribbean and Western Europe.

Building on a strong core education base, governments throughout the region have begun to make the quantitative and qualitative changes in education and human resource development programmes, to position our countries to succeed in the 21st century. Virtually all CARICOM Governments have now commenced computer and Information Technology education in the Government-operated school system; have strengthened foreign language instruction; and have put in place programmes for the training and re-training of displaced workers.

(Extract – Opening Remarks by the Bahamas Prime Minister at the 6th Conference of The Caribbean Management Development Association, June 5, Nassau)