Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, chatting with Vice President of BAR, Undene Shorey (left) and BAR member, Dr. Patricia Saul, at the conference. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

A society cannot survive or thrive without its citizens being literate!

This was underscored recently by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the opening of the Fifth Annual Reading Conference of the Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) at the Accra Beach Hotel in Christ Church.

Noting that too "many things" were presently being placed on schools to undertake, Minister?? Jones contended that above all, a key function of teachers was to "embed a whole lot of foundational structures to galvanise the cognitive structures of our young people". He said: "And, embedded in that, is literacy, getting them to read and write and to interpret and to comprehend that which is before them… Therefore, we cannot stray from the path of critically embedding within our young learners and young thinkers the notion of literacy.

"And, [we need to] strengthen them so that when they confront this complex world, that they can live and survive and make a meaningful contribution to their society and economy."

Barbadian teachers and their counterparts from the region were told that it was unfair, unless a child had learning defects, for children to leave school without the ability to read and write.?? "It is not fair to them at all," Mr. Jones maintained, himself a former teacher.

"We cannot offer excuses as teachers… we have to try to equip all of our charges with the ability to be literate… to read, to write, to understand and participate as equal citizens," the Education Minister added, stressing that it was one’s knowledge and literacy that afforded that "equality as a citizen".

While explaining that a child immersed in a foreign land, at an early age, quickly learnt the language, Mr. Jones noted: "Literacy is something which must be taught. You must instruct for language acquisition as a result of one’s social environment."?? And, he added that scientific knowledge had its foundation in literacy and understanding allowing students to determine what to do and how to analyse and apply that knowledge within not only the scientific realm but technical, vocational and academic environs.

The Acting Prime Minister also took the opportunity to commend BAR, noting that its theme Differentiating Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Diverse Learners had been aptly chosen. "It focuses our attention on the importance of meeting the needs of our student population in our schools through delivering instruction aimed or targeted at helping each learner to achieve his or her maximum potential," Mr. Jones stressed.

The Reading Conference, which opened yesterday at Accra Beach Resort, forms part of a week of activities that concludes on Saturday, December 3 with a Leadership Meeting. It will be conducted by officials of the International Reading Association, at the Blue Horizon Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church.


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