the Honourable HAZEL MANNING, minister of education
our students face to face with excellence and Excellence
in Education is our goal.
Government of Trinidad and Tobago has mandated the Ministry
of Education to create the human capital necessary for sustained
growth and development as we shape a vision for our country
to achieve developed country status by 2020.
The Ministry of Education recognises that we cannot create
this human capital without the input of strategic partners.
In a very general sense we recognise the public media as
one such strategic partner.
Specifically, we welcome the opportunity to partner with
the Trinidad Publishing Co in its secondary schools essay
project, Making a Difference. This strategic partnership
with the Guardian in Education project does two major things:
1. The Making a Difference project secures a strategic alliance
between some of the best products of our education system
and our schools, as it brings together celebrities like
those present here today - Wendy Fitzwilliams, Ato Boldon
and Michael Phillips with students in our schools!
2. The Making a Difference project also makes a strategic
intervention in our school system by stimulating reading
and writing on the one hand, and encouraging reflection
on life's goals on the other.
The Ministry of Education considers these two objectives
as important interventions in the lives of our students
reading improvement is a major focus in our work at the
Ministry of Education as we develop basic literacy skills
- reading and writing from pre-school to secondary to adult
education and lifelong learning.
Just a few days ago, I launched the Mayaro cluster of the
Centres of Excellence in Teacher Training (CETT) project.
The aim of CETT is to make every teacher at primary level
a reading teacher and is being implemented in educational
districts and at the teachers colleges.
Just yesterday (Thursday) I made a post Cabinet statement
about the results of our 2004 National Test for Standard
One and Standard Three, which tell us that we need to identify
more precisely what needs to be done to improve performance
of students at primary level in language arts and mathematics.
We know that reading holds the key.
We recognise that performance at the primary level impacts
on performance at the secondary level. We recognise also
that there is a correlation between a student's ability
to master the basic skills of reading and writing and behavioural
problems. Therefore, a project such as this is to be commended
1. It stimulates students to read and write.
2. It presents a safe emotional space for students to talk
freely about their feelings with some of their heroes.
3. Above all, it brings our students face to face with excellence
and Excellence in Education is our goal.
At the Ministry of Education we are committed to total quality
in education. We have developed standards for early childhood
care and education. We have set up a committee to set standards
for our secondary schools and we have established a Quality
Assurance Unit that will develop and monitor the standards
These initiatives are all part of a major system wide reform
agenda as we seek to implement the recommendations of the
Education Policy Paper and our Strategic Plan. Education
is changing, schools are changing and changing fast. The
global context is radically transforming the shape of the
education sector forcing us to either adjust or be left
Therefore we have done a number of things, the major ones
The range of support services for students has expanded.
The curriculum has been revised.
A massive school upgrade, construction and maintenance programme
is in progress so that schools have the physical space required
to deliver the new curriculum
New and appropriate assessment procedures are being implemented
Teachers are being retrained so that they embrace technology
in educational delivery
Safety and security for teachers and students is a priority.
Our celebrities here today will visit schools over the course
of the next few months. You will be able to see at first-hand
some of what we are doing. You will be able to be able to
help students to appreciate these changes in the light of
your knowledge of the global context.
As you interact with students you will no doubt transmit
information about your successes and the challenges you
have encountered in achieving them. But more significantly,
you will be transmitting intangible aspects of our culture,
our way of life, our shared values. And that's the difference
a project like this one makes!
While you have become internationally famous, you are one
of us. You know what life in Trinidad and Tobago is like,
for at some stage of your life you went to school here.
You have been influenced by many of the things that influence
students today. Above all, you can understand the experiences
of our youth and empathise.
I have no doubt that you will stimulate them in many ways
this year as you have done in the past to produce essays,
the best of which we will read in the Guardian during the
course of the year. We look forward to your presentations.
The Curriculum and materials production units of the Ministry
of Education will ensure that your messages are widely used
in our schools, thereby adding value to your effort.
To the Trinidad Publishing Co, I wish to say that we would
like to strengthen this partnership as we develop our communications
studies programme in schools. The new curriculum provides
the opportunity for students to offer communications studies
as a subject for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination
We also have plans to assist schools that already produce
newspapers and newsletters to improve their techniques and
to stimulate this activity in schools where it does not
now exist. In the long term we hope to see these students
working to enhance the national communications arena.
It is my hope that the strategic partnership between the
Ministry of Education and the Trinidad Publishing Co will
go beyond this project. I hope that together we can truly
make a difference on the media landscape of our country.
At the Ministry of Education we are about to embark on improving
public awareness about the many changes taking place in
education. Our communications capability is being strengthened
both in terms of human resources and technology.
We will use our enhanced communications capacity to account
to the public. We believe that the public can and will make
the right choices provided they are given as the information.
The vision of a developed country brings with it a vision
of a highly qualified media industry.
I want to encourage some of the students who participate
in this project to become media professionals and educators
and play a role in educating the national community. In
this way education does not remain confined to classrooms
but also finds expression in the public domain.
To the principals, teachers and students present who emerged
winners in last year's exercise, I am sure that the experience
is one you will treasure for a long time to come. Exercises
such as this do make a difference!
On behalf of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf
of the Ministry of Education and on my own behalf, I congratulate
the winners and thank the sponsors especially the Trinidad
Publishing Co and its staff for organising this project,
the celebrities for generously giving back to the nation's
I wish to congratulate principals and teachers and to highly
commend their contribution to this exercise. I thank the
students for their willingness to participate and the parents
for the love and support they have given.
I want to encourage students who benefit from this project
to emulate the celebrities. I hope you are inspired by their
gesture of giving back and that you, too, in turn will give
something back to the industry that made this difference
in your lives.
Continue to improve your writing skills. Use them to inform
and uplift others. The Making a Difference Project gives
you a chance to hear some of the best human-interest stories
our country has to offer at first hand from our celebrities.
Use the encounter to continue to guide your writing in the
It is the stories of greatness that give a people hope.
It is the stories of achievement that motivate a nation.
It is the stories of struggle and endurance that encourage
those who despair. It is the stories of our heroes that
inspire and give us the chance to change our future.
I wish you good luck and now duly launch the Making a Difference