In light of the fact that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have their place in helping to build a better future for Guyana and by extension the rest of the world, the Ministry of Education together with the National Centre for Educational Research Development (NCERD) and Sagicor yesterday launched the 2014 phase of the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge.
The Challenge, which targets Caribbean secondary schools, is done in collaboration with the Caribbean Science Foundation with a view of bolstering students’ interest in the STEM subject areas.
Sagicor Visionaries Challenge was conceptualised by the Caribbean Science Foundation in partnership with the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and represent an opportunity for young people to make a difference, learn more and challenge themselves.
Schools across Guyana participated in the Challenge last year before the winning school – Zeeburg Secondary – was able to face off with its regional counterparts.
Although the schools’ shrimp dryer project did not see it carting off the top prizes it however allowed Guyana to be recognised for producing not only the best project in terms of plan and design but also the country that entered the most projects. And according to National Science Coordinator and Representative of the Caribbean Science Foundation, Ms Petal Jettoo, “Guyana has the potential to shine and outshine the rest of the Region as we put forward our visions and ideas.”
Jettoo who chaired yesterday’s proceedings, venued at the Kingston, Georgetown, NCERD auditorium, disclosed that the Caribbean Science Foundation was established in 2010 with support from partners including UNESCO. Its vision, she noted, was to assist with the diversification of the economies of the Caribbean by harnessing Science and Technology for economic development and to help raise the standard of living. Sagicor was soon on board supporting the efforts of the Foundation along with that of the Caribbean Examination Council.
But according to Corporate Communications Manager at the Trinidad based Sagicor Life Inc., Ms Marlene Chin “we began this exceptional journey in 2012 with only an inkling of how life changing it would be for us at Sagicor and the young visionaries.”
Chin who travelled here for the launch of yesterday’s forum recalled that for many persons involved in the start of the venture the use of the acronym STEM was in fact new territory. However, she noted that “the more we talked with our partners at the Caribbean Science Foundation and the Caribbean Examination Council it became clear that what we saw as unchartered territory was truly the next frontier.”
According to Minister of Education, who graced the forum, the projects that were produced by students during the 2013 course of the Challenge were rather impressive, thus she was only too pleased to be supporting another round of the venture this year.
Reflecting on the innovative projects created during the past year of the Challenge, the Minister boasted about how “our young people took problems and applied classroom knowledge they had and came up with projects that are viable that could solve that problem…”
“I was deeply impressed by that…I particularly liked this whole concept of the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge because it really brings Science to life…” said the Minister as she pointed out that while teaching in the classroom is good and necessary “if we can’t teach our children to practically apply what they learn in the classroom, whether that be in the Science subjects or other subjects, then I think we are failing them in some regard.”
Also speaking yesterday was Assistant Chief Education Officer, Doodmattie Singh who noted that the creative application of knowledge and the demonstration of innovation, civic responsibility and problem solving are critical elements of any school curriculum. Moreover, she urged that teachers seek to forge these elements among their students.
Speaking from the perspective of the Caribbean Examination Council she disclosed that over the years the body has been working tirelessly to ensure that students exiting secondary level schools can measure up to what “we know in the Caribbean as ‘the Caribbean ideal person’.” And ‘the Caribbean ideal person’, according to Singh, is people who are able to identify Challenges facing them and have the will to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenges identified.
Moreover, syllabuses were developed and revised, new subjects were offered, with the newest set to be introduced shortly being the Green Engineering syllabus; teachers have been trained and school based assessments were introduced.
As a result, Singh noted that since the aim of the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge has a mandate that is identical to that of Caribbean Examination Council, the body has been only too committed to be involved in the Challenge.
Yesterday saw Lakshman Ramdatt of Zeburg Secondary who represented Guyana on the regional and international scene of the Challenge last year sharing his experience with the gathering at the launch as a motivation factor for students within the audience who are expected to participate this year.