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The current assignment is about reflecting on Economy as a sociological concept relating to education within the Mauritian context. First, it is important to look at the definitions of Education and Economy to identify the relationship between them. Education is about the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning, especially at a school or similar institution (Encarta, 2010). In its broadest general sense, education is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people sustain from one generation to the next (Wikipedia, 2012b). Economy is about the economic systems of a country or other area and comprises of labour, capital, land resources, manufacturing, production, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of the country (Wikipedia, 2012a). In general, economy is about the production and distribution of goods in a particular area.
Why is economy such an important sociological concept to education? The following excerpt from The Economic Modeling Specialist Intl blog (2010) answers the question fully: In May, the Department of Labor put out this graph, showing the educational and wage characteristics of unemployed workers in 2009. The basic story is one we are all familiar with - those who achieve higher levels of education earn more money and are less likely to be unemployed. . This is because education is essential for a country to achieve high levels of economic growth. Education is at the base economic growth as it imparts in individuals the necessary skill, knowledge and attitude to sustain economic production. The same blog quotes the following words of the present President of the United States: The single most important thing we can do is to make sure we've got a world-class education system for everybody. That is a prerequisite for prosperity. â€¦..Education is the economic issue of our time. The relationship between education and economy is two-way, a heavy budget is allocated to education to produce skilled individuals and a highly skilled population leads to a more flourishing economy. In Mauritius too, the economy contributes massively in the education sector by catering for students, teachers and other participants.
2 The education sector in Mauritius
The present education system in Mauritius is patterned after the British model. Primary education was always free and the secondary level is free since 1976 and a full-time graduate course at the post-secondary level since 1988 (Information Technology Associates, 1994). The pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational sectors are managed by the Ministry of Education & Human Resources (MOEHR), which controls the development and administration of state schools funded by government, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect of private schools. The tertiary level falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology.
The Mauritian economy provides for various initiatives at each level to educate citizens as its main wealth is its human capital since the country is deprived of economically exploitable natural reserves like petrol or gold. To produce productive citizens, education is compulsory to the age of sixteen; subsequently, the minimum age for employment has been raised from fifteen to sixteen years. So, basically by the age of sixteen (given the learner has not repeated any class), the student must have an international O Level Cambridge Certificate. Manual workers like labourers and attendants recruited by the Public Service Commission are nowadays holders of O Level Cambridge Certificate as a fairly advanced literacy is needed in the highly technological workplace even by minor grade employees.
Following the rapid change in world economies, the Government of Mauritius is prompt to invest in education to continuously strengthen its human capital even if this action is undertaken outside the normal period of annual budget provision. For instance, in 2009, the Additional Stimulus Package for Shoring Up Economic Performance (PMO, 2009) was adopted whereby about 300 million MUR were committed for the following projects:
Scholarships to needy students;
Student Loan Guarantee Scheme;
Infrastructure Development, including a new Campus for
Tertiary Education; and
a Second Chance Programme for youth who are not in full-time
education or employment to upgrade their skills.
Through better education, Mauritians have better jobs and receive higher wages. The country has attained significant economic and social achievements. It has successfully reached the level of upper middle income countries according to the World Bank (MOF, 2012). The next stage now is about becoming a high-income nation. This objective is to be achieved in various ways, one of them is by raising the skills and capacities of the people (through education of course). In this connection, the Mauritian Government as well as other partners in the economy have constructed the following Vision for the sector:
"A Quality Education for all and a Human Resource Development base to transform Mauritius into an intelligent nation state in the vanguard of global progress and innovation." (MOEHR, 2012b). To achieve this, the Mauritian economy ensures the distribution of capital, facilities like scholarships as well as other resources.
Resources provided to students in education
The cost of education consists of the teachers' salary and transport fee, maintenance of school infrastructure, cost of chemicals for science teaching and many others. Thus, acquiring education is costly for most people in the world, this is why governments provide free education to their citizens. In Mauritius, the student is aided in various ways to enable him to study without worrying too much about finance.
3.1 The Pre-Primary level of education
The pre- primary level accommodates children of three to five years old, whereby the two years of pre- primary education is compulsory. Private fee-paying pre-primary schools are pervasive across the island. Due to the importance of such basic education in the life of the individual, the Government of Mauritius has set up pre-primary sections within primary schools across the island. To alleviate parents who have to send their children to a private school, the final year of schooling in registered private pre- primary school fees are also highly subsidised by the government.
3.2 Primary education
Upon completing the pre- primary level, pupils join the primary stream. Students here are educated for six years. At the end, the students are awarded the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) which is a national certificate.
The Mauritian economy caters for free primary schooling as well as free quality textbooks and Atlas maps to all primary students of public schools. The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) also distributes free English-French dictionaries to Standard Four children under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. It is also worth noting that public primary schools are distributed across a wide geographical location, so each Mauritian child has access to a primary school in his house's vicinity.
It is a culture in Mauritius to give private tuition to students of upper primary so that they perform well for the CPE examinations. Mauritians consider private tuition as "un mal necessaire", a French expression which means "We know that it is not a good idea to burden young children that much, but unfortunately we do not have the choice". Students take tuition after school-hours and during week-ends. Recognising the injustice done on such tender minds, the Ministry of Education came up with the legislation of banning private tuition at the Standard Four level. The Ministry further implemented the "Enhancement Programme" after school hours for Standards Three and Four (GIS, 2010). The Ministry deploys professionals in the field to attend to children after school hours to introduce them to Arts through a collective learning process. Here, the economy also provides for new perspectives of education when and where needed.
Among the 305 primary schools, about 28 of them are classified as "Zones d'Education Prioritaires" (ZEP). ZEP schools are those that have had a CPE pass rate of less than 40% over the last 5 years (MOEHR, 2012a). ZEP schools are mainly situated in undeveloped regions of the island. Considerable finance is channeled in the upgrading of the overall infrastructure of ZEP schools to create favourable conditions for learning to take place. ZEP students also receive a loaf of bread and milk for the midday meal as many of these children are too poor to bring their own lunch.
3.3 The Pre- Vocational schools
After the primary phase, students go to the secondary schools. Unfortunately, many fail and are channeled to pre-vocational streams if they fail after repeating Standard Six. Students attend the pre-vocational stream for three years to acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills. Other fields of study include Communicative skills, ICT, Life Skills, Science and Livelihood and Trade skills (MOEHR, 2012d). The students here are provided with almost all the basic materials.
After the three year schooling, candidates may then join the Industrial and Vocational Training Board (IVTB) training centres. Specialised subjects at the IVTB include Technical Drawing, Information Technology, Auto mechanics and basic Electricity amongst others. Such knowledge and skills acquired channel the students to various vocations.
The Secondary Education
Students at public secondary schools benefit from free schooling. But textbooks and other materials are not free of charge. Nevertheless, the government caters for books on loan to needy students for the school year.
National examinations for the Form Three level is free but School Certificate and Higher School Certificate examinations set by the Cambridge are payable. These fees too are subsidized for those families in financial difficulties.
The economy caters for internationally recognized SC and HSC certificates at the end of the secondary cycle. Such certification makes it possible for Mauritian students to access to international universities and firms. Considerable resources are allocated to co- curricular and extra- curricular activities to promote an overall development of growing adolescents, examples are the Model United Nations (MUN) Conference and Commonwealth Youth Conference (CYC).
The tertiary sector consists of two public universities, several publicly funded tertiary education institutions (TEI s) and around 50 private institutions. The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has several responsibilities from fund allocation to advisory services of the MOEHR on scholarship matters.
The tertiary sector in Mauritius provides for all fields needed by the economy like nursing, teaching, management and scientific orientation. Fields like aeronautics of course are not provided as they are not needed in the Mauritian economy. The economy allocated resources to produce human capital in those fields needed locally and experienced individuals in turn contribute in making a stronger economy.
Other incentives to make education a feasible endeavour
In order to make education accessible to local citizens, free public transport is provided to pre-primary, primary, secondary and undergraduate tertiary students of both public and private educational institutions.
Privately-owned primary and secondary schools as well as Special Needs Education institutions also benefit from public funds in terms of teacher salaries and financial allowances to maintain infrastructure.
Resources allocated to the teaching and learning process
Schools are equipped with appropriate general and subject- specific infrastructure like Home Economics room, Art room and Science laboratories to ensure efficient teaching and learning of subject matter. Nowadays, schools are also equipped with Mediatech rooms with projectors and interactive whiteboards to achieve learning in this digital world.
The school buildings, furniture and other infrastructures are regularly maintained to render the physical environment a conducive one for learning to take place. During an interview with a journalist of the British Council in June 2012 (MOEHR, 2012c), the present Minister of Education informed that decrepit classroom blocks above 40 years old are being demolished and replaced by new ones. Due to increasing demands, additional classroom library, Mediatech rooms, staff rooms and science rooms are being constructed in more than 30 primary schools.
During the same interview mentioned above, the Minister states that there is scope to review career guidance of students. Counselors and nurses, are also present to deal with day- to day problems of students.
Trained teachers are recruited at the pre- primary and primary levels to ensure efficient teaching. Presently, secondary school teachers are also expected to follow staff development programmes like the Teacher's Licence and Past-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in order to be recruited.
In educational institutions, formal education mostly takes place. But informal education is also provided not only to learners but also to the population in general to increase their general knowledge thus making the world around them more comprehensible. Informal education takes place through sensitisation programmes on television and radio like how to control mosquitoes, influenza and other epidemics.
The Mauritius College of the Air (MCA) broadcasts programmes on the national television for educational purposes at the primary and secondary levels as well as lifelong learning. Such programmes are also available to the public at very low prices.
Professional Development of professionals who are on duty
Professionals who are on duty regularly follow training sessions and conferences locally or abroad. An example is the training of agricultural scientists on the cultivation of wheat and rice under the food Security Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture. Training sessions and short courses enables staff of a particular firm to further enrich themselves to be able to cope in a competitive world
Economy is one of the key sociological concepts that is critical to the educational sector. The allocation of resources to education determines its success or failure. For education to take place, the physical infrastructure must be present, the learning materials must be available, the students must be physically and financially equipped and the teachers involved must be professionals. All these are delivered by the economy. Economy ensures that education takes place and in return professionally equipped individuals strengthen the economy through increased efficacy and productivity. Better education results in a stronger and a more stable society.