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Remarks by Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Myron V. Walwyn at the Education Summit for Education Week 2012

GIS - Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 3:44 AM

Minister Walwyn

THEME: “Building the Local Knowledge Base for Global Competitiveness”
Delivered on Saturday, March 17 at the Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium

A pleasant good evening to everyone. I would like to acknowledge the presence of our Premier, Hon. Dr D. Orlando Smith and my colleagues from the House of Assembly. With us today we also have past and present educators, administrators, individuals from the private sector, parents and students. I thank you in advance for seeing the importance of this opportunity and I look forward to an open and frank discussion tonight about education in our Territory.

This evening’s discussion promises to be thought provoking and one that will surely inspire change within the Ministry and Department of Education and Culture. It is also my hope that after this evening, students, parents and members within our communities will also be inspired to enthusiastically join this journey that the Ministry of Education and Culture is now on. Just as this year’s education week has inspired me to work towards, the Ministry and its departments will be seeking to create a culture of excellence within our education system.

On November 9, 2011 the present administration was sworn into office. Our Premier commented that his government would cooperatively seek to engage our community as we attempt to make decisions for our entire well being. Earlier this year as I paused to consider how to make our acknowledgement of education week reach the homes and minds of many residents, those that have children in school and those that do not, I wanted an opportunity for us to go back to the days where as a community, we sat and discussed our issues and collectively resolved those issues. Today we are here at this Education Summit, the first and certainly not the last opportunity that our community will have to speak frankly and openly on issues affecting education in the Virgin Islands.

Ladies and gentlemen I want to set the tone for this evening’s discussion by saying that there is an elephant in the room. That elephant is our education system and no matter how we try to skirt around it, an elephant is a pretty big animal that we must take notice of and find a way to deal with it.

Tonight I encourage all of us to be bold. It is no longer good enough for us to have conversations in our small and select circles about our education system. I know that we all want nothing but the best for our students and for the entire Virgin Islands and now is our opportunity to ensure success.
By providing opportunities for our citizens to become educated, we also provide a path to empowerment for all residents. The road to get to that culture of excellence in education will not be easy. However, I am driven to do my best to facilitate this change, because I believe each and every child in the Virgin Islands deserves a solid education that can take them anywhere. As our Territory is moving forward, every day I see young people that feel that they are on the outside of this development. It is through education that all of our young people will cultivate their talents and skills to become apart of the advancements in our community.

I have heard from a few business owners that have vocalized their willingness to hire young people, but they have also vocalized their concern over the entry-level skills of graduates. What can we do to better prepare our students to enter the labour force? The high rate of unemployment among our youth is evidence that we have some work to do. The statistics gathered for the first round of the Youth Unemployment Register initiative shows why some of our youth have had difficulties. But what do we do to better the chances of success for not just the students that do well in math and science, but also those that can break down bikes and circuit boards? How do we help them find their opportunities in the Virgin Islands of 2012?

CXC just last week publically stated their interest in having more of our students sit their exams that are internationally recognized as the standard for education in the Caribbean. Do we need to consider that exam as the primary benchmark of our secondary school qualifications? Is it in our students’ best interest to gain that exit certification in this globally competitive world?

We have a population of citizens whose challenges are known primarily to their parents and caregivers who struggle daily to help their differently abled children have a dignified life in the Territory. In 2012 what are we doing to help our citizens that face physical, mental and other challenges? How do we help them live an equitable life?

How do we teach both boys and girls about the sanctity of conception, sexuality and the effects of sexually transmitted diseases for them to now have more positive identities? How do we address our increasingly younger population of parents to educate them and find prevention measures for negative effects on our wider society due to the challenges of children raising children?

What do we do about the young men on the other side of the school fence? Do we continue to point fingers, or do we find a way to intervene and lower the numbers of those that are on the outside of that fence and are rapidly filling the cells of Balsum Ghut?

Are the expectations of parents and teachers inline with the educating of our children? What is the private sectors role in ensuring that our students getting their first jobs also are presented with adequate training and a path for advancement on those jobs for those careers? What can we do in our education system so that in the next 10 years, local faces are the head of major establishments throughout the Territory? And lastly, what are the effects of an aged education system on a modern economy? Those are questions that I hope we will all be bold and confront tonight. If not to find resolutions, for us to at minimum have respectful conversation about those very real issues that plague our society.

In any event, this discussion will not end tonight. I too am a person that likes to know what’s next? Where do we go from here? Is this just another talking session? Firstly this will not be just another talking session. After this evening’s discussion, ideas and solutions will be integrated where possible in the Ministry’s living plan to reform our education system. Tonight’s programme is specifically broadcast on radio and will be rebroadcast on television and also uploaded to my YouTube Channel within coming weeks to allow as many residents to be aware of the conversation and carry on tonight’s conversation. At the end of March, I will also be hosting a Facebook discussion similarly to what we will be doing shortly, to reach out and engage our students and expert Virgin Islanders studying and living abroad as we finalise our plans coming out of this forum.

Out of all of this, it is my intention to have a plan of achievable and importantly, measurable objectives for us to create that culture of excellence within our school system and certainly within our students. I cannot stress enough how important this exercise is as we seek to develop the students and innovators that are needed to help our home, our Virgin Islands meet the challenges that are certainly present and those that will come. I fundamentally believe that it is through education we have the opportunity to overcome any issue and an educated population can only add to the development of our great little nation.

Thank you again for joining us this evening and I look forward to your participation.

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  1. Youth
    March 20, 2012
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    I admire Honourable Myron Walwyn’s proactive approach in addressing the issue of education, a subject under his portfolio as Minister of Education and Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports. The Youth Unemployment Register and follow-up training was long overdue, and he did not waste any time after his successful bid for election last November. His aggressive stance on education is appropriate and I do hope he gets the necessary support from all stakeholders in improving the education system, not just in philosophical terms but in practical terms as well.
    One critism that I have regarding the recent summit on education is that it has highlighed the need for “global competitiveness’ rather than local social progress, or social development within the Territory. Nothing is wrong with global competitiveness in general, but since we are so far behind in being satisfied with the system locally, it is important that the needs of this society be the focus, before we put the global competitiveness on the table. Let us not forget that it is ‘global competitiveness’ that caused the neglect of the local development of our youth in the past. It was the global competitiveness of building tourism and the financial industry that took all the center stage attention, while education and health care, environmental health and such took a back seat on the national agenda for development. Now we need to focus on building up our social infrastruction we shouldn’t have to color it with global competitiveness, because if we build a world class education system it would automatically be globally competitive without giving the impression that we are only doing it for the outside world. Same thing with the environement issues of beautification and sanitation, if we do it for ourselves, the tourists would benefit, instead of saying we have to do it for the tourist and leaving our own needs and satisfaction out of the picture.
    That’s my opinion.

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  2. school children
    March 20, 2012
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    we heard that he’s working on replacing the principal of the mighty mighty scattliffe but she is a tough nut to crack

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    • March 20, 2012
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      Is this all that you have to contribute to so
      something as important as education?? You see why this country is in the mess it is in. It has many bad citizens.

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      • school children
        March 20, 2012
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        cart your tail and leave us alone

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