Cashing in on the Brain Drain

December 6, 2016

Nadia Binns

Sub-question: Why is the Jamaican government failing in to cash in on its investments?

The Jamaican government has been losing in droves each year nurses and teachers predominantly and other skilled professionals to countries that come and actively recruit from Jamaica. It is so bad that in 2014, over 200 nurses were lost from the profession and migrated to other countries or they simply resigned from the public sector according to Janet Coore- Farr who is the president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica. It is by no mean feat for a country with a population of 2.7 million people (World Bank, 2016) and with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$14.1 billion to be producing nurses and teachers which are then prised away by first world countries such as USA, Canada and England while these countries pay no compensation to Jamaica and therefore something needs to be done. It is for this reason that ‘Tufton wants to barter with countries recruiting Jamaica’s nurses’.  Therefore there is a need to according to the Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton for Jamaica to be at minimum compensated by those developed countries which are luring health care professionals to work in their countries without having contributed to their training, education and or development.

Ways for the government to recoup its investment

The government of Jamaica cannot compete on a salary basis with countries such as the USA and Canada where registered nurse salaries in places such as Florida are being offered salaries at an average of US$60,000 per year.  Jamaica has not built a hospital since the last 25 years notwithstanding the fact that there have been refurbishments, expansions and building clinics and this has left the nation’s health infrastructure in dire need of overhaul. According to Barnes (2015) seeing that Jamaica is ripe pickings for these countries such as USA and Canada and smaller islands such as Bahamas, U.S and British Virgin Islands and Cayman it is only sensible for Jamaica to seek ways to reclaim some of the J$641.56 billion which was the budgeted amount for the fiscal year of 2015/2016 for the education budget.

The government can recoup its investment by having nurses who are working in the system for less than ten years to have all the costs that the government had paid for their tertiary level education to be repaid by others who are recruiting them or the nurses that wants to leave. According to CaPRI there are benefits that can be derived from having a good education system yet Caribbean countries suffering from acute brain drain with Jamaica having the highest rate of migration of its tertiary educated graduates and being near the top of the table with over 4/5th of its university graduates leaving for countries such as USA, Canada and to a lesser extent the UK. The government through an act of parliament must make it a statutory regulation from overseas recruiters and or government to recruit through the government in conjunction with the Nurses Association of Jamaica so that compensation fees should be worked out for the amount the government had spent on training these nurses.


UTECH Midwifery Students (2014).

The government according to Dr. Christopher Tufton has not built any new hospitals in the last 25 years and it means that in 1995, Jamaica had a population of 2.4 million people which has now risen to 2.7 million. Drastic measures will only serve to stem the tide of the nurses who are going overseas and not only that use the compensation as part of a fund to boost and improve the public sector health services. It is agreed that the nurses in Jamaica are working in conditions which are not as good as the countries that they are leaving to, such as Canada and the USA .In terms of facilities and the pay, this does not make for encouraging reading either with an average salary of J$156,666 monthly for a registered nurse and in 2010, three out of every four nurses that were trained went to the US, and Canada.


Nurses protesting for higher wages in 2006 (Jamaica Observer, 2015).

The Jamaican government should have the nurses in five year contracts which if it is broken, the compensation should be all that was spent on the training and development and also for the remaining balance of the tenure of the contract compounded by a break clause of an amount to be determined by the government for each nurse which would go directly to funding training and salary remuneration for salaries that are here in Jamaica. Hence, a bilateral accord should be struck with any countries that are seeking to recoup our nurses from the public sector and having the host country which is receiving our nurses to send professionals such as professors and other academics to assist with training in specialized areas, as well as medical supplies.


Bed donation to Spanish Town Hospital from J.Wray & Nephew (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016).

There is a chronic shortage for specialist nurses in Jamaica and therefore whilst countries recruit our best minds in reference to our nurses then the compensation must not be a deterrent but as what the Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton says should be a barter whereby Jamaica benefits from exporting nurses by way of getting revenue that goes directly to funding the health sector. The funding does not have to be cash but an offset of the cash amount whereby the professionals and academics along with expertise in building new hospitals and the funding of new hospitals in the form of grants so that we as the citizens of Jamaica do not look at our nurses as mercenaries but that they are bringing development and infrastructure to our health sector.

The next 25 years

The barter system should then be measured after 25 years so that it is not a haphazard or incoherent approach taken by the government but one which is methodical and systematic. In looking at the future we should encourage our nurses to remain in the health sector, however, not to be an impediment to their professional growth and therefore the path that the nurses should take to working in health sectors in the US for example must be through a barter system which benefits Jamaica which is only fair.

Conclusion and recommendation

The health system has been haemorrhaging from the loss of our trained and specialist nurses because better remuneration to developed countries and as a result us at home have to bear the brunt of the costs. That is to be expending on training of new nurses and this seem as though it is a revolving door with no end in sight. Finally the government through the Minister of Health Dr. Tufton has made a bold declaration that bartering can be done with the host countries where the nurses are going. By virtue of this we await with hope that not only will we recoup financially from the nurses that are leaving but also that the health system start to become more modernized and this will be welcomed by news and or announcement that a new hospital will be built which would have been the first in 25 years. Until we await for a policy at the government level on the matter nurses should foot more of the expenses to their education.


Barnes. G. (2015). Budget of $641.56 billion for 2015/2016. Retrieved from:

Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) (2009). Funding tertiary education in Jamaica. Retrieved from:

Porter, R. (2015). Public Health Sector lost 200 nurses last year – NAJ. Retrieved from:—NAJ_19219817

World Bank (2016). Jamaica. Retrieved from:

Cashing in on the Brain Drain

Higher education is more than vocational training.

Should universities stick to higher learning and leave on-the-job training to employers?


The Universities Australia initiative sets out a perfectly reasonable set of objectives for the ways in which higher education can help prepare students for their working lives. This is preparation for work in a different world, for work that is going to require learning over a lifetime, not just the first few weeks of that first job after graduation. Universities Australia recently announced a joint initiative with business groups to get graduates “work ready” through vocational workplace training. When recruiting staff, graduate or non-graduate, employers have a responsibility to provide suitable induction and training. They are about preparing for work in the long term, in different jobs and, quite possibly, in different sectors. Rather than being concerned about whether the graduates had the right kinds of skills and competencies, the point this employer was making was that he didn’t know what skills and competencies his workers would need in a few years’ time.

lecturer-and-studentHigher education is about life skills, not just job skills.
The very point of hiring graduates was that you hoped to get people who would themselves be able to work out what was required and be capable of delivering it. All higher education is vocational in the sense that it can help shape a graduate’s capacity to succeed in the workplace. I recall one employer, who had spent the whole of his long career in the motor industry, remarking: Over the years, I’ve been responsible for hiring something in the order of 3000 graduates for the different companies I’ve been part of. Some years back I was at a meeting about higher education and employment, attended by a number of employer representatives.
Brennan (2014) in his article begins with the question “Should universities stick to higher learning and leave on-the-job training to employers?” However the author’s main focus was on how graduates would fit into existing organizational arrangements and master existing ways of doing things, here was an employer who expected graduates to change existing arrangements and traditional of getting work done, rather than being concerned about whether the graduates had the right kinds of skills and competencies. Should universities stick to higher learning and leave on-the-job training to employers is a debatable issue.
Higher education certainly should play an important role in helping to provide students with the resources, knowledge and skills they need to be successful in today’s economy on the other hand employers themselves should also invest in furthering employees’ skills and knowledge on the job.
There are so many short duration of professional and executive education programs that higher education play in helping organizations provide that on-the-job training.
Jaschik (2015) in his article reminds us that, professionals will change careers an average of three or four times. This, among other forces, has created an ongoing need for continuous learning, possibly through short-duration professional and executive educational programmes. Organizations also saw the need where selecting universities to educate their employees is of paramount importance.
Universities should not be, in the business of producing “educating and training” of graduates, workers who can fit immediately into a specific job in which they will spend the rest of their lives. Rather, universities must provide an intellectual and personal development that will enables graduates to succeed in a world that is constantly changing, a world that demands innovation and adaptability, a world in which they will change careers regularly between the time they enter the work force and the time they retire.
Employers, I believe, have a responsibility to be partners in this process. Specific job training should come mainly from the workplace, structuring on the comprehensive educational basis developed through the university experience.
Nearly all of us discover our passions and talents through exposure to ideas, experiences and opportunities, whether educational or employment. The ideal first job is often not readily available at the moment of graduation, but there are evidence to show that a university education and experience frequently lead to a rewarding career.
Universities are primarily in the business of positive human development. They focus on enhancing the capabilities of our graduates to communicate clearly and effectively, to analyze, to confront ambiguity with clear methods and confidence, to break down problems into practicable parts, to think critically and to question deeply.
All of this has real worth in the workplace. When a university graduate is recruited, the employer has hire an knowledgeable communicator, an proficient researcher, a problem solver and a critical thinker skills that have long been valued. In the past, most employers expected to train employees for job-specific tasks. There would often be orientation, training by human resources or senior managers, a period of job shadowing, a trainee-mentor relationship involving experienced staff, regular feedback and, if necessary, retraining.
Now, more and more employers seem less willing to invest in training new staff. Instead, they call on universities to tailor curriculum ever more precisely to meet specific workplace needs, and consistently advertise for candidates with two or more years of experience in hopes that another employer has prepared a young person for the demands of the workplace.
When employers do this, they risk valuing workers, eventually hurting their own growth. Businesses and regional and global economies will flourish when fresh, creative ideas can flow freely and employees at all levels are encouraged to think critically and be innovative. The university experience enhances self-awareness and personal competencies. This scope of growth provides the kind of intellectual flexibility that allows employees to more easily move from this career to the next, and even into careers we can’t yet imagine will exist.
Our economic well-being depends on the critical thinkers our universities are graduating. The next generation of leaders in our knowledge-based economy will emerge from these institutions and can only truly be great if employers understand and value a university degree as a comprehensive education, not specific skills training.
The line between education and employment does not help individuals or society well. Employers, universities and governments need to recognize this and invest appropriately in their respective roles in education and job training.
On the flipside, employers are increasingly requesting a greater element of career training be introduced alongside academic studies, something which many universities are now responding to, one example being vocational training for graduates to prepare them more thoroughly for responsibilities like dealing with clients or managing staff.
It’s clear that on the job training is no longer the deprived relation of the university degree. Rather, it is filling a gap which a university education is not necessarily covering when it comes to equipping young people for the workplace. Combinations of the two are increasingly sought after by employers in order to produce new workers with a more rounded skill set who are better prepared for all of the demands of the roles they are taking on. But perhaps the most important lesson of all is that individuals need to be provided with a greater understanding of the variety of options available to them and should shake off any preconceptions that on the job training can only lead them to a second-class career. On the contrary, it can lead to valuable, lucrative and fulfilling professions.
An educated workforce is critical to the development of a country. Workers with a basic level of education is only able to carry out basic, simple manual tasks and will find it very difficult to adapt to advanced production techniques in today’s workplace. Workers with tertiary-level education, on the other hand, can add much value to the labour force, as they are able, because of their level of education, to adjust quickly to the speedily changing working environment which has become increasingly technological. Quality higher education and training is therefore extremely important if the country is to move beyond simple means of production.
Companies employing graduates should have on the job training programmes in place. An on the job training is a way of bridging the gap. Graduate training programmes ease candidates into the world of work and give them the skills necessary to become part of the larger team. On the job training will offer graduates the opportunity to experience several different areas of business before choosing a final career path within the company.



Belinda, P., & Alexander, S. (2015, Sept 30). A 21st-century higher education: training for jobs of the future, Retrieved November26, 2016 from

Brennan, J. (2014, March 16). Higher education is more than vocational training, Retrieved November 25, 2016, from

Jaschik, S. (2015, January 12). Well- prepared in their own eyes, Retrieved November 25, 2016, from

Higher education is more than vocational training.

Repeating a year ‘good for students’ but may push up dropout rate

Author: Hilary Lamb    Reviewer: K. Anderson

The article, Repeating a year ‘good for students’ but may push up dropout rate’ by Hilary Lamb, dated December 5, 2016, examines the study ‘Doing it twice, getting it right? The effects of grade retention and course repetition in higher education’, which explores the impacts of grade retention in higher education. 

The Summary

The process of repeating a semester, course or year of study, which is known as ‘grade retention’, is a support system many universities and colleges have employed to assist failing students to improve their academic performance. Another strategy the higher education institutions have employed is remedial education (repetition of courses below college level). It has been found that grade retention improves students’ academic performance, however, it also has the side effect of increasing the ‘dropout” rates among students of higher education (HE). 
When failing students repeat the course, it was found that their performance improved and several factors such as experience, improvement in judgment and familiarity with the content are cited. The study also highlighted that while most students showed marked improvements in their previously failing areas, a noticeable fraction of the ‘repeaters’ quit HE. 

There are many controversies surrounding this strategy: it is a coercive practice used by many HE institutions to get students to repeat courses; it is expensive and time consuming for students; it delays students from progressing into work or other courses. While some view the strategy as demotivating for students, others readily grasp the opportunity to remount their academic chariots. The practice is seen as being beneficial in spite of increase of the dropout rate because it gives students the chance to redeem themselves academically.

My Views

Having students repeat a grade has been a practice employed in many secondary schools within the Jamaican education system. While there are many mixed feelings surrounding this practice, it does give students who learn and mature at a slower pace the time, opportunity and resources needed to progress to the level they need to be. This strategy is quite useful to students at the tertiary level as well, because oft times students do not get the time to ‘digest’ or internalize the information presented in a course before the exam is thrust upon them. I’ve sat through courses and done well in exams, but did not really grasp the practical applicability of the information until the course ended and examinations had been sat. I have always thought that I would have done much better if I had done the exam to a particular course after more time had elapsed: food isn’t the only thing that needs time to digest.

It is fantastic when HE students are given the opportunity to repeat a course, as this represents the chance to recapture a lost opportunity. However, not all students who fail a course do so for the same reasons, so not everyone may need a year to re-sit the exam: time in which long-term memory retention is greatly impacted (Nitsche 2012). Some students become demotivated and demoralized when their perception is that they were setback a year by being coerced into wasting a year. It would be more beneficial if failures were assessed on their individual merits and remedial methods be implemented to determine the necessary course of action.


While grade retention has the added benefit of assisting failing students in improving their academic performance by giving them time and access to resources, the process also demotivates students who perceive themselves as being voiceless in the process. The dropout rates for these students have increased due to this factor. Policy makers need to implement structures that cater to individuals instead of a generalized population, because while their intentions may be good, their actions may cause more harm than good eventually.


Lamb, H. (2016). Repeating a year ‘good for students’ but may push up dropout rate. Retrieved 5/12/2016 from

Nitsche, L. (2012). Brain Based Learning: Memory, Retention and Learning. Retrieved 5/12/2016 from

Tafreschi, D. and Thiemann, P.(2016). Doing it twice, getting it right? The effects of grade retention and course repetition in higher education

Economics of Education Review, Volume 55, Issue null, Pages 198-219

Retrieved 5/12/2016 from

Repeating a year ‘good for students’ but may push up dropout rate


By: Anthony Forster

Reviewed by: Lyndon Edwards




The article, ‘Postgraduates who teach: an overlooked and undervalued group’ by University of Essex vice-chancellor Anthony Forster dated September 15, 2016, outlines his university’s plans for postgraduates who take on teaching responsibilities. This article presents itself as a thorny issue for the UK higher education sector

The Summary

Forster holds the view that postgraduates who teach add value to the life of undergraduates and universities. He maintains that they are positioned to discover and share new knowledge about their subject with students. Working closely with permanent staff adds to the quality of training a postgraduate will received.

Interestingly, the article stated that a postgraduate who teaches has to grapple with the dual roles played as a student and teacher. In cases where a university is ridiculed for the use of postgraduates rather than a member of staff underscores the main issue- the group is overlooked and undervalued. The National Union of Students and other groups have bemoaned the treatment of postgraduates who teach and have made petitions for redress. Forster believes his university has responded to the call of postgraduates who teach by crafting a plan of action to ensure that postgraduate students are supported, valued and fairly remunerated.

The article pointed to six methods that a university adapted to improve the conditions for postgraduates who teach. These include: improved recruitment process; students will be placed on a university pay scale; the hours of each job will be calculated in the same way as established members; mandatory training for teaching will be implemented; equal rights will be appropriated to students as other employees.  The article ends by highlighting the point that postgraduates who teach are the future of our professions and they must have the right start to be successful.


My Perspective

The first glance at the title of this article placed me in a reflective mode. My very own experience with postgraduate student doctors is enough to bias my view. I had an experience filled with fear and apprehension seeing a student doctor operating without supervision. Unfortunately, I had undervalued and overlooked the very opinion and credibility of medical students simply because they were postgraduate students. How many persons could attest to an experience like mine? Is it fair to overlook these individuals?

After reading this article, I realize the importance of improving the conditions under which these postgraduate students work. Like Forster, I share the view that all universities should put measures in place to make postgraduate students feel valued, appreciated and supported. They must receive appropriate remuneration for the work they do. Gibbs and Coffey (2004) opine that investing in postgraduate students is mutually beneficial. Any opportunity to improve postgraduates’ experiences in higher education will only serve to benefit the undergraduates they teach. In fact, I opine that students who devote their time and effort to teaching ought to be fairly compensated.

A survey conducted by the National Union of Students revealed that a number of postgraduate students make invaluable contributions to higher education by taking on part-time teaching at their institutions. The article celebrated the fact that students are able to gain employability skills and experience to help future work. However, there are differences in students’ experiences. Here are a few of the findings based on the survey carried out in the UK:

  1. The experiences differ according to departments
  2. No job description was given to the postgraduate student when they applied for the job
  3. One in five students received no induction before commencing the job.
  4. Students worked twice the hours for which they were paid.
  5. Fifty percent of students who teach don’t receive feedback
  6. Students lack departmental representation


In addition to a postgraduate student being undervalued, there are cases where students are overworked and used as slave labourers. They are mistreated by their senior counterparts who continue to exploit them. Supervisors assign cumbersome tasks which only cause the postgraduates to show signs of incompetency. Although the article alluded to cases which vary according to departments, the general consensus is that postgraduates are overlooked and undervalued. When one would think that a postgraduate student would benefit greatly in learning from a senior, it is the bruises gained throughout the process that has crippled the entire teaching/learning process. I can recall reading the story of the world renown paediatrician- Dr. Benjamin Carson. He explicitly stated that he had a dilemma that threatened his young career as a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, simply because he had to operate on a dying man without the presence of his superior or permission to act. Ultimately, the act gave him several accolades, boosted his self-confidence and motivated his growth in the career. He was able to maximize his opportunities to operate and hone his craft whilst being a resident at the hospital. The more experiences he was afforded, the better he became. However, how many institutions would have allowed this? How would they have reacted to a postgraduate who took the initiative and did something wise?

It is therefore pivotal for all higher education institutions to adapt the model of the University of Essex in responding to the woes of postgraduate students who teach. Now more than ever, one must consider the investment made in training postgraduates for the world of work. In their quest to gain employability skills, they should be afforded the proper remuneration for work completed. Universities must exhaust every avenue available to extend support to these postgraduates who teach. I would think that a graduate is a representative of the very institution he or she was trained. Consequently, it is incumbent on universities to uphold their reputations especially if they desire to remain relevant in the twenty-first century. They have to put the mechanisms in place to ensure that postgraduates are treated fairly and the undergraduates they supervise are receiving quality instruction.


In closing, it is in a nation’s best interest that all postgraduates who teach are properly prepared and ushered into the labour force. Higher education institutions must consider the salary and conditions for postgraduates who teach as well as providing generous support and training for them. Rewarding and adding incentives to postgraduate teaching programs can only serve as a win for students, university and the postgraduates themselves.


Couvee, K. (2012). Postgraduate students are being used as ‘slave labour’. The Independent. Retrieved 9/5/2013, 2013, from

Forster, A. (2016). “Postgraduates who teach: an overlooked and undervalued group” retrieved from

Gibbs, G., & Coffey, M. (2004). The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(1), 87-100.

Wright, Adam (2013). “Untrained, underpaid, undervalued? Results from the nus survey of postgraduates who teach” retrieved from