To promote more innovative thinking in Barbados, we need to re-evaluate our education system where science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are concerned.

This advice came recently from Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she delivered remarks at the National Conference on Entrepreneurship and STEM at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Senator Byer Suckoo stated that in spite of having a highly educated population, according to the 2014-2015 edition of the World Economic Forum???s Executive Opinion Survey, Barbados was cited as having an ???inefficient capacity to innovate???, and ranked 57th out of the other countries with respect to its innovative capacity.

???These results indicate a disconnect between our education system and the demands of the markets in which our businesses must compete??? Barbadians must be encouraged and equipped to ask questions; be exposed to and learn best practices; research and analyse large quantities of data; learn from hands-on experimentation; identify connections between different disciplines and work collaboratively,??? the Minister stressed.

The Labour Minister also asked a number of questions, including ???How better can we equip our teachers to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills among our children???? as she believed that they raise issues which should be considered as part of the national dialogue on entrepreneurship, STEM and innovation.

Dr. Byer Suckoo also advised that in order for innovative thinking to thrive, there must be a shift away from the fear of failure and risk aversion, which she stated was ???characteristic of the Barbadian culture???.

???Our aversion to risk has not only deterred innovators and entrepreneurs from developing their new ideas but it also permeates our policies and programmes, even financing policies, and constrains innovation???

“There’s nothing wrong with fear of failure and risk aversion. But we are reminded that courage is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of it,??? she emphasised.

Also addressing the event were founder of the Environmental Health Foundation Group of Companies, Dr. Henry Lowe; Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Colin Depradine; and award-winning Barbadian entrepreneurs Shannon Clarke and Khalil Bryan.

From this conference, a strategic action plan for the course of the Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy will be developed. This plan will be circulated by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development and will guide the strategy for 2016 and beyond.??

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