“Meritocracy & Talent Management: Isthe Caribbean Ready for this?”
By Global Expert Systems
As the word suggests, meritocracy is a system whereby an elite group of persons are rewarded according to
their ability and talent rather than by some special kind of privilege based on class, family connections, racegender or some other discriminatory factor. The underlying belief is that this group will better manage and/orlead the system (especially government/public administration). In an earlier article, GES defended the idea of standardized testing for public sector jobs as a means to implementing a meritocracy. Now this is not withoutsome degree of controversy.In the English-speaking Caribbean, for several decades now, we have stoutly defended the CommonEntrance Exam or the 11+ as a means to determine academic merit to decide who goes to the so-called bestschools within the elitist educational systems across the region. And year after year, there is a debate about the
fairness of such a system. Here are some ideas to ponder on meritocracy:1.
Why is a merit-based system more controversial when we speak of academics?2.
Why do we accept such a system more readily in sports?
If we delayed standardized testing until age 16 or 18 or 21, will the results be different? The key to solving such a polemic is that for a merit-based system to work, everyone must be given the sameopportunity. In other words, we must all be at the same starting line. Then our abilities and talents willdetermine how we end the race or which race we enter and complete. This is particularly interesting especially on the heels of the just concluded London 2012 Olympics. British blogger, Neil O’Brien, who writes for The Telegraph and who is also the Director of Policy Exchange, an independent think tank working for betterpublic services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy, strongly defends meritocracy by drawing asimilar analogy. He states that
“Everyone starts on the same starting line, but at the end some athletesare further ahead, and there are clear winners. That's basically a description of meritocracy.”
Are talent management and meritocracy synonymous?
We have to give the “not really” type of answer to this question because we cannot say categorically yes orno. Certainly, if we are speaking of a highly professionalised public administration/civil service, then the mosteffective way to recruit would be through standardised testing. As we intimated before, this is already done in
several areas of public administration, namely the security forces, public health workers (nurses, doctors) andpublic prosecutors who all are subject to rigorous testing before recruited or appointed to service.