REMARKS BY DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY FOR THE CARICOM TEACHER STANDARDS REVIEW
MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2020
ENHANCING RESILIENCY THROUGH EDUCATIONAL REFORM
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Mrs. Carolyn Stoutt Igwe; Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Connie George; Reverend Anthony; Education Officers, Principals, Teachers, Parents, and I extend a very special welcome to Dr. Laurette Bristol, Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the Caricom Secretariat. I am pleased that through the wonders of technology we can still see the benefits of the sterling work being done in the region on education.
As a Territory and a region, we are seeing some difficult days. Even before this global pandemic, the Virgin Islands was struck by two of the most powerful storms in the history of the world, causing unprecedented destruction. Tourism was just starting to recover when it was again shutdown by COVID-19, with an even more catastrophic impact on that pillar of our economy. The BVI faces the threat to our financial services sector through a shifting goalpost and political pressures in places like the United Kingdom.
Government’s recurrent expenditure is at its maximum capacity and government jobs are not as available as before. To withstand these challenges, it is necessary to build resilience in our economy through diversification of our main economic drivers and capitalizing on the opportunities which are created as a result.
It is impossible to ensure that economic opportunities are evenly distributed and our human resource capacity is properly utilized without a properly functioning education system. While our education system has produced incredible students over the past decades, it is important that we continue to evolve, develop, and adapt to the growing demands of the economy and social structure. We have a strata of our young people who have been dropping out of school.
This morning I opened a work programme in the Seventh District focused on primarily young men, many who never finished high school. So as a district representative I see first-hand the impact of those who have not been sufficiently served by our education and social system. We have another strata of young people, who need better preparation to compete in the main sectors of the economy because the industries are under pressure and performance is key. Key performance indicators suggest that better performance is required in math and science, and the future economy depends heavily on these areas. After careful analysis, the conclusion is obvious. More is required of our education system.
To build resilience in our economy, it is necessary to build resilience in education system. We build resilience in education by applying standards. If we want to see a more prepared crop of teachers entering the profession, we need a teacher education programme with standards. We need a recruitment strategy underpinned by standards. We need an orientation and mentorship system that inculcates standards. We need an evaluation process based on commitment to standards. We need a licencing system, which is based on standards.
If we want to see technology utilized in the classroom, that has be a part of our standards. If we want to see pedagogical approach that is student centred and appeals to different learning styles that must be tied to our standards. If we want equity in education; if we want better learning outcomes, that has to be reflected in our internalisation of standards.
We must have a standard that can be tested across the region. CARICOM’s standards are excellent, and once I was introduced to them, I was certain that our education system would benefit from them and that we must embrace them. This is a key part of our strategy for reform in our education system. This process in itself will reveal areas that require greater focus. I am grateful to Dr. Bristol for leading this exercise, and I look forward to the positive outcomes as a result.