SENATOR the Honourable HAZEL MANNING, minister of education
Bringing our students face to face with excellence and Excellence in Education is our goal.
The 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 as:-
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 set.
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 behind.
Therefore we have done a number of things, the major ones being:-
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 (Cape).
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 youth.
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 future.
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 project.