Ministry of Education Clarifies Misinformation on GATE
August 18, 2017: There continues to be a constant spread of misinformation by the former government surrounding the review and adjustment of the Government Assisted Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme. The GATE programme, one of many achievements of the PNM government, commenced in 2004 and was met with major concern surrounding its initial implementation by the then, UNC opposition. One member of the opposition at the time went as far as to call the programme “a barrier to excellence in education.” Now that the programme has been in existence in excess of 10 years as with any initiative, it has become subject to a comprehensive review.
The reviews and adjustments made based on the recommendations of the GATE Task Force are not significantly different to suggestions made by the former Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training in 2011.In 2011 the former Minister announced the intention to “crack down” on the GATE programme however the action to support this statement was not well executed. He said the “the GATE programme will soon cease to be an avenue for private institutions who are creating cash cows from the business of exploiting students eager to pursue tertiary education.”
Meanwhile, students were found to be consistently abusing the opportunities provided through GATE, by programme hopping and course failure and repetition. To eliminate these occurrences the adjusted GATE programme will facilitate students’ progression through tertiary level studies by permitting access to one programme at each level of tertiary study from certificate through to undergraduate and subsequently postgraduate studies.
Misinformation also continues to be spread surrounding the reintroduction of the Means Testing component of the GATE programme. The Means Test will ensure that the recipients of 100% GATE funding are those who are truly in need based on socio-economic standing.
The GATE Task Force report indicated that a significant number of students accessing 100% GATE funding came from families that fell in the middle to high income groups of society and thus are not in need of 100% funding. These students will still benefit from 50% funding toward their tuition expenses.
As the only English speaking Caribbean country which provides 100% funding for tertiary level studies, the Government of Trinidad in Tobago intends to continue offering support to its students, adjusted to suit the new economic circumstances the country faces. Previously, the government spent approximately $700 million on GATE annually. This is no longer feasible or prudent for Trinidad and Tobago as there has been a significant reduction in revenue and foreign exchange as a result of falling prices of oil and gas moving from a high in 2011 of US$128 to a low of US$30 in 2015. Currently, the price is still at a low US$48.
The opposition also continues to spread fear and panic by stating that institutions will be subject to closure because of the changes to the GATE programme. One such institution, SBCS has expressed that such statements are erroneous. Students will continue to have access to funding for studies at institutions that are not accredited by the ACTT, through the adjustments made to the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP), Financial Assistance (Studies) Programme (FASP) and through National Scholarships.
Today Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, urged members of the opposition to seek the best interest of the national population and not simply oppose measures for advancement and development because of the position they hold in parliament. The adjustments made to the GATE programme will facilitate an equitable distribution of government funding and eliminate any further wastage.
For further information contact:
Ministry of Education
Education Towers, #5 St Vincent Street, Port of Spain