Remarks by Minister for Education and Culture
Honourable Myron V. Walwyn
at the Opening of CARICOM Education and Human Resource Development
2030 Strategy Consultation with CARICOM Associate Members
Student Services Conference Room
December 15, 2016
Good morning all. It is indeed my pleasure to give opening remarks at the start of this very important consultation. It did not take very long for me to agree to host the meeting when my permanent secretary informed me of the request simply because of the importance of this exercise.
I pause to thank CARICOM for agreeing to have this consultation with the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs). After all it was just recently at the OECS Council of Ministers of Education meeting that when this draft strategy along with other research papers were being presented that I asked the question, why is it that so many things are funded by the United Kingdom and yet the UKOTs are not direct beneficiaries? Even though we would be expected to implement the same initiatives handed down.
So I am very happy that CARICOM paused, in spite of the limited time to complete the draft to allow us to be a part of the discussion and to ensure that our realities are also taken into consideration. I believe that this gesture embodies the founding principal of CARICOM, of supporting collaboration by all Caribbean states so that together, we can build a great social, economic and political force, advocating on behalf of the millions of Caribbean nationals that are across our tropical archipelago.
Though the UK Overseas Territories have not taken the full step towards independence, our histories and cultures are intertwined with fellow CARICOM states. The days of Caribbean islands asserting their independence are not over, and as OTs we look to many CARICOM states to examine how they have managed their post colonial affairs, to provide economic and social mobility for their citizens.
The examination of our governance over the past four decades should tell all of us that the millennial goals are important to ensure that we provide our citizens with pathways to success, as our governments work to secure opportunities at home. It was important for us to lobby for the funding of projects around the millennial goals, because often times, we have the ideas, we have the talent, we have the hands ready to do the work, but the funding escapes our grasp.
Like all of your respective countries, the Virgin Islands has signed on to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the UNESCO Education 2030 Incheon Declaration. We have been working diligently to see how we can realise these goals through a system of inclusion, improving the management of our schools, ensuring quality teachers are in all our classrooms, infusing the use of technology in the teaching learning process, ensuring TVET is a priority area and ensuring that we meet the needs of all our students. These are all a key issues to be addressed in our education strategic plan.
This Draft Education and Human Resource Development strategy is timely as it presents a platform for us across the region. It allows for a common set of standards as our people move throughout the region and beyond and helps to ensure that we are operating on a more level playing field.
In today’s world, competence is the key currency for mobility. However, the region is now at a stage where we are must play catch up if our young people are to become competitive in the global community. Our young people must be ready to take on jobs not yet created or thought of, to be able to think quickly and to problem-solve at a moment’s notice in an ever-changing environment. They must find solutions to ensure our environment is sustained and to ensure the development and competitiveness of all our economies in a now more dynamic, unpredictable and inward looking world.
Our schools must therefore now become a well of intellectual capital. Our students will be the products of well managed, well maintained and technologically advanced institutions. And significantly, all of our governments must make more financial investments in our schools, not just in buildings, but in developing our teachers and principals, providing compensation packages that states clearly their value to developing our youth and developing our islands.
Our curriculum offerings must meet the needs and aspirations of all our people. We must recognize that the world we live in is not changing; it has changed. The work place is not just looking for a high school diploma or even a bachelor’s degree. The workplace is looking for sound communication skills, critical thinking and analytical skills, and certified technical knowledge. We must have the courage to look at the direction of the world, and in some areas turn our curriculum upside down. Should our schools move away from placing so much emphasis on the usual academic subjects and start teaching our students about coding, entrepreneurship and other things that will help them to navigate the new world that we now live in.
We have a mammoth job ahead of us but it is not insurmountable. We have persons from a number of sectors represented here and it speaks to the importance of collaboration and working together for a common goal. Putting our thoughts together and sharing ideas is what must be done in order to achieve our goals and bring about sustainability given the challenges faced by our countries.
In closing, I welcome our visitors from CARICOM and our sister territories to Nature’s Little Secrets. I understand it is only a one-day meeting and you might not have a chance to see our beautiful island, but if you are a first time visitor I trust you will come back and enjoy our full hospitality.
I hope your deliberations are fruitful and I look forward to seeing the final draft of the strategy. Our young people are depending on us to get it right so that they can be productive citizens. Thank you.
Photo Credit: Franklyn Skerritt/GIS