Guyana's education system one of 'soundest' in Caribbean
--- CARICOM Deputy S/G by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
October 10, 2003

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DEPUTY Secretary General of CARICOM, Ms. Lolita Applewhaite, yesterday indicated that Guyana's education system is widely regarded as one of the soundest systems in the Caribbean region and certainly in the world.

"The outstanding performances being honoured today and which have been produced consistently by Guyanese students, together with the brain drain that provides highly qualified Guyanese professionals for the world are evidence of this excellence," she said while addressing the Ministry of Education's Seventh National Award Ceremony for Outstanding Performances which was held at the National Cultural Centre, Homestretch Avenue yesterday.

"Today (yesterday) we celebrate the outstanding achievement of our students, schools and teachers. It is a celebration for all of us because we all - learners, teachers, parents, employers, citizens - have a vested interested in what happens in our educational system (and) I wish to congratulate you, students, who by virtue of your exemplary academic performances have assured us all that the future of our region is in good hands," she lauded.

"Vishaal Persaud, Hilier Emptage, Devon King, Daniel Ram, Catherina Gonsalves, Shellon Luke, and your compadres also being honoured here today, we are extremely proud of you," the Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM told the awardees.

"To the teachers who, by dint of your dedication and commitment have distinguished yourselves, I offer sincere congratulations," she said, noting that it is a challenging time for our teachers. "I know many of you grapple with the idea of leaving our Region (but) You who work in our schools have the important job of shaping and changing lives (and) today, as we celebrate the tangible rewards of your effort, I can say without fear of contradiction that there can be few more important tasks," she asserted.

She also thanked the Ministry of Education for providing "this forum for us to celebrate publicly, and to reinforce our commitment to support and nurture all of you to greater success".

She, however, cautioned all those at the ceremony that "although we bask in the exuberance of this moment, we must remain cognisant of the critical need to equip our human resources with the technical and human skills that will ensure the region's effective representation and presence in the global arena."

"So you see, we have much cause to celebrate in our region," she told the large gathering at the National Cultural Centre.

Among those attending the ceremony yesterday were President Bharrat Jagdeo; Prime Minister Sam Hinds; Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey; Chief Education Officer, Mr. Ed Caesar; Officials from the Education Ministry; Government Officials, special invitees and parents/teachers of the awardees and students from various schools.

President Jagdeo, in brief remarks, noted that yesterday's awards ceremony was a simple one, it has "great meaning for our country". "We are here today to recognize the outstanding achievements of many of our young people...achievements that makes us all proud," he said. He noted that these achievements did not come about in a simple fashion because behind every achievement there is hard work, commitment and sacrifice.

The Guyanese Head of State also alluded that Guyanese students have done exceedingly well, in different spheres and areas, and continues to do well which is something that all Guyanese should be proud of.
Among those top students receiving awards were Daniel Ram of Queens' College who, among the prizes he got yesterday was one for being CXC's Overall Best Performer at CSEC for 2003; and Gina Arjoon of School of the Nations who received an award for being CXC's best Business Student at CSEC for this year.

Hillier Emptage of Queens' College received a trophy for the best performer at the General Certificate of Education Examination (Advanced Subsidiary Level).

Written at the back of the invitation to yesterday's ceremony were the words: "The best men are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged the chances; conquered the chance; and made chance their servant."

Meanwhile, in continuing her main presentation at the ceremony, the Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM indicated that the theme under which the awards ceremony was held 'Modernising Education and Strengthening Tolerance', obliges us to look at change. Such change, she said, is occasioned, not by the poorness of what we have, but by the necessity to adapt and prepare for the new environment.

"So, as we celebrate the achievements of the past, we have to be forever looking forward to how we can build on those achievements and make the future even better," she posited.

"What is the new environment of which we speak so glibly? One refers to the world we live in today as the "technological age", the "information society", the "knowledge-based society", and other such terms. It all amounts to one thing: that we need to prepare our populations to be creative - not just to be users and consumers of other people's creations but to be creators ourselves; to be readily re-trainable at any point in our lives," she asserted.

According to her, "gone are the days when most of us had a 'job for life', today it is expected that we will train and retrain for a changing job market, that we will be training for jobs that do yet exist, and that we will be creating our own jobs (since) we need to prepare our people to have confidence, self-esteem, and the values and skills we need to meet the demands of a fast-changing world; to be tolerant of other cultures and to be respectful of our environment".

This, she said, seems to be a lot we are asking of our educational system but pointed out that education has always had a dual purpose: providing personal fulfillment as well as providing the skills and attitudes required for the world of work.

"In the Region, we have a solid foundation to continue to build on," the Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM said. She noted that on 4 July, the Caribbean Community marked a significant milestone, for on that date in 1973 the Treaty establishing the Community and Common Market was signed at Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago.

Thirty years later, our CARICOM family has grown to fifteen Member States and five Associate Members. This year also marks thirty years since the Caribbean Examinations Council has been in existence.

Ms. Applewhaite said in the first year (1979) that CXC administered examinations for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), only five subjects were offered and 30,194 candidates registered for the examinations. She said by 2002, CXC was offering 48 subjects for the CSEC examinations - 30 at General Proficiency, 14 at Basic Proficiency and 4 at Technical Proficiency - and one hundred and twenty-two thousand, six hundred and twenty-one (122,621) candidates registered for the examinations. According to her, the figures speak for themselves.

Additionally, CXC, in fulfilling the mandate given by CARICOM Ministers responsible for Education in the early nineties, developed the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), which is equivalent to the GCE A Level but structured with Units and Modules for the various subjects, offering increased flexibility in studies at this level. She said it is a testament to the success of this structure, that the UK has now adopted a similar approach.