Every household on the island must become a learning society. That was the message of Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, as he delivered the feature address at the National Summit on Education, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.??
The Pro Vice Chancellor told the gathering of educators drawn from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions that the main objective of educating our people was to ensure that Barbados became the smartest nation. "If this is to be achieved," he explained, then "there would be no room for uninformed citizens and uninformed societies. All brains must be on deck and this is necessary to maximise on the investment in education," he observed.
Sir Hilary categorised the educational sector today as being "at the crossroads," and suggested that persons involved needed to take stock of where they were now.?? He sees education as "the golden gate in which persons are all passing through" and he lauded the Minister of Education for his vision and oversight. He noted that Government’s massive investment in education would undoubtedly result in positive returns.
Speaking from a historical perspective, the university head said that Barbados was the only society where its people had experienced a landless emancipation. He, therefore, identified education as the only way to secure ???freedom.’
Sir Hilary reminded his audience that "we are all involved in this collective exercise and have a responsibility [to be educated] and that is the only way we can proceed." He opined that the only way this could be achieved was to produce a citizen with all of the skills. "It is important for us to master this language, but we must not self denigrate and we will get there by continued effort. There must be a commitment to excellence," he contended.
The Principal said that at this juncture there was concern about the lack of critical thinking. However, he surmised that this translated into critical thought and action, which usually meant radicalism to which society was opposed. "So we need to abandon hypocrisy because critical thinking says let us reform, but if you denigrate your student you denigrate the radical," he noted.
In his remarks to officially open the summit, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, indicated that the need for the national summit on education had resulted from the concerns expressed by educators and stakeholders alike over the declining skills and competencies of graduates entering the workforce. He noted that all the stakeholders were trying to resolve the various issues which confronted our people as a nation. But cautioned that we must never be daunted by the immensity of the challenges.
He stated that there was a lot of blame amongst educators as to who was at fault. However, he cautioned that persons needed to move away from passing the blame to working towards correcting the deficiencies which might very well be limiting the system.
In his welcome address, Director of the School of Education, Professor Alan Cobley, said it was necessary to consider the direction in which we were going as it related to student performance. He noted that the forum was a tool for identifying common problems and ways to find collective solutions. He stressed that special consultations with principals of schools might be necessary to seek the way forward. (CL)