Policy Issues in Selecting Students for Higher Education in The Bahamas, 1975-1989

Eleanor Thompson, Joyce Thompson


A shared experience of developing countries is the compelling need to "catch up". Perhaps in no other area is this need so keenly felt as in education for the underdeveloped systems of education, a legacy of the colonial era, have proven to be incapable of making the necessary contribution to national and economic development. In an attempt to compensate for the past deprivations and inequities, policy makers seek to formulate and implement in their respective countries, educational policies which have as their goal the democratization of all levels of the education system.

In these countries, in most instances, the democratization of higher education has created a demand so great that it has outstripped available supply. Further, it has given rise to the need to reconcile equality of access with the maintenance of standards of excellence. As a result, many countries have attempted this reconciliation through their selection procedures for admitting students to institutions of higher education (UNESCO Report, 1989).

In developing countries national institutions of higher education face complex issues in the selection of students seeking admission. These issues are related directly to national education policies or emerge from the need of the institutions to be responsive both to societal demands and national priorities, within a context of resource constraints.

This paper presents a discussion of some policy issues in the selection of students at the College of The Bahamas during the early period of its existence (The College is the sole state-funded institution for tertiary-level education in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas). Major issues examined were concerned with the reconciliation of: 1) equality of access with the maintenance of standards of excellence; 2) freedom of choice in programme selection (implicit in democratization) with the national imperatives of manpower needs.

It will be the position of this paper that in developing countries, such as the Bahamas, issues in the selection of students for higher education emerge primarily from the national education policy which has as its goal the provision of equal higher education opportunities for all citizens. Selection issues come to the fore when the attempt is made by educational administrators to translate the broad principles of such a policy into practice. Often, the experience is that, when implemented, the policy has the opposite effect of that intended and, therefore, corrective action is considered necessary to redirect the goals of the policy or to redefine the policy itself.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v8i0.25

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