Teaching in the age of science

I believe in teachers’ training. I believe that, unless teachers are trained properly, students’ education will be substandard. The quality of education in any society is related directly to the quality of its teachers. Poorly trained teachers, inevitably, will produce poorly performing students.

I took certain decisions for improving teacher training at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE). I did so because I want the trainees to be comfortable in their accommodation, confident in their studies, committed to the teaching service and to be educated in an environment conducive to academic achievement.

I am pleased today to witnesses this significant ceremony during which the equipment procured with a grant from the People’s Republic of China, will be handed over to the College.

This ceremony today has its genesis in my meeting with His Excellency Cui Jianchun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, on 13th October 2017. I had sought the Ambassador’s support for reequipping and renovating the science laboratories at the College.

I was extremely unhappy with the state of the College’s science laboratories which had only two microscopes for 36 students. I reached out to the Ambassador for assistance to help to remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.

The assistance offered will improve teachers’ training. The People’s Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ministry of Education, within weeks of my meeting with the Ambassador. The MOU paved the way for the disbursement of almost G$ 50 M to be spent in reequipping the laboratories here at the CPCE.

Training is essential for teachers. It is necessary to upgrade their skills, acquire new knowledge, to make studies interesting and enlightening and to master new pedagogies, techniques and technologies.

The untrained teacher has no place in the future of our educational system. I like to use the analogy about a flying in an aeroplane. No one would fly in an aeroplane piloted by someone who is not trained. So why should anyone allow an untrained teacher to be tasked with educating children?

Trained teachers are important. They are:

• the sinews of the education system; they are central to achieving the aim of education which is to produce graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values for their personal development and to enhance national development;
• nation-builders and have been so from time immemorial; they have educated generations who, in turn, have made indelible contributions to national development; and
• guardians of quality assurance in education; educational standards will fall unless there is a corps of trained and qualified teachers capable of upholding quality assurance standards in education.
Teacher training is being enhanced. Teacher training is being improved. They are being provided with the tools that are needed for the efficient delivery of education.

Guyana is establishing a digital state. The digital state aims at establishing a network of connectivity, linking every person, community, region and government agency in the entire country. It will integrate Guyana, more fully, with the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

Becoming a digital state is not a side show, it is essential to educational improvement.

The digital state, by applying ICT to add value to our production and service sectors, will trigger economic transformation. It will spawn knowledge-based industries, diversify the economy away from over-dependence on primary production, move manufacturing up the value chain and tap into larger external markets.

The digital state will deliver quality public services all over the country. It will reduce the need for citizens to travel outside of their regions of residence, in years to come, to access legal services, acquire passports, examine their academic and medical records, record births and deaths, receive social security benefits, register businesses, renew drivers’ licences, file income-tax returns and embark on trade and investment enterprises.

Your government is placing emphasis on the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) without deemphasizing the teaching of the humanities. Guyana is moving towards the establishment of a green state. Guyana needs agronomists, biologists, botanists, chemists, engineers and geologists and ICT specialists to drive its ‘green’ development.

The One Laptop per Teacher Initiative was launched at this College on the 5th October 2016, again in the presence of and with the support of His Excellency Zhang Limin, the PRC Ambassador.

It is aimed at providing teachers with the tools they need to prepare lessons so as to improve the delivery of education. Almost 9,000 laptops have been distributed to teachers since the programme was launched. The OLPT Initiative:
• re-asserts the importance of education to the nation., acknowledges the role of information in education and the value of our teachers in the delivery of that information to our students and augments other investment in teacher training; and
• initiated the process modernizing ICT development, starting with educators – the brain of our public education system.
Teachers must be geared for the important role in educating our students for the ‘good life’ as citizens in the 21st century. The teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is being accorded priority. STEM education:
• allows the country to develop a more technologically competent workforce;
• is essential to the establishment of a digital state which demands a reorientation of the education system towards greater emphasis on science, technology engineering and mathematics.
• is the foundation of scientific innovation and the basis for product innovation; and
• requires access to adequate and well-equipped laboratories.
The National Endowment for Science and Technology (NEST) was launched to support in the teaching of science and technology in our schools, including through improving science and ICT laboratories.
The College is the country’s principal training college for teachers. Its primary mission is to ensure that the training provided here is of an exceptional standard.

The College would be unable to graduate science and technology teachers of excellence unless it is capable of providing teacher training of an exceptional quality. It will be unable to guarantee such quality graduates if its laboratories – both science and technology – are defective.

We look forward to the continued international cooperation in education during the Decade of Development which we shall launch next year. The Decade will accord the highest importance to education. It will ensure compliance with the constitutional obligation for free education from nursery to university. No teacher or student will ever have to pay for education again.

The ‘Decade’ will ensure a school in every village so that children do not have to travel long distances to attend school. The Decade will result in the provision of a first-class education for our children.

Teacher education will be improved during the ‘Decade”. Increased resources will be expended to ensure that teachers can be trained in the Regions in which they live.

I thank the People’s Republic of China for its generous assistance. I thank His Excellency Cui Jianchun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, for his swift response to my request to reequip the science College’s laboratories.

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the People’s Republic of China share very strong ties, history and cooperation. Guyana’s relations with China are unbreakable.

China has been a valued partner in our nation’s development, for over four decades. China’s assistance to Guyana is peerless, particularly over the past decade. China is not lecturing to us. They are helping us to prepare for the future.

China’s support for education is evinced in the assistance it has offered under the the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for Grant Aid, which will be used for the development of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service, and for its support for improvements to the science laboratories at the Cyril Potter College of Education.

Guyana’s education is being repositioned. Education is moving now in the right direction. Teacher training is being emphasized. ICT education is being improved. We are making progress.

We must continue to move forward to build an education station, over the next ten years. I thank you. Ω

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