I am responding to the main thesis proposed by Dr Muniram Budhu, Professor Emeritus, in his letter regarding using windfall profits from the oil and gas boom to transform education in Guyana.
The Professor talks in forceful language of the need for a new focus in education that would lead to transformational experience in different areas of life in our country.
In supporting Dr Budhu, Dr Ganga Das refers to creativity, critical thinking and problem solving as generally missing elements in our overall education plan. And, over the past few days, other thinkers, like Dr Vishnu Bisram and Dr Tara Singh, have come forward in support of this new direction in education.
Reading all these ideas brings joy to my own mind, because we have been boxed in for decades by the education policy and practices crafted by our colonial masters. Now with oil and gas spawning the potential for expanded trade, tourism, and diplomatic relations with countries of Latin America, Brazil, Suriname, the Middle East, the Caribbean, India and China, there is an urgent call on social and print media for the creation in Guyana of a Foreign Languages Institute (FLI) that can train young minds to communicate in Portuguese, French, Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Amerindian, Spanish and other like languages.
Such an institute (FLI), if properly managed, can impact the creation of a cadre of the skilled linguists we need in Guyana. Like the French parallel language institute called Alliance Française, the Guyana Language Institute should ideally have autonomy in deciding its curriculum. If, however, such autonomy is not feasible, it could be managed by a Board of Directors incorporated from both the Private and Public Sectors. To cater for increased student registration, classes can be either in-person or virtual.
Students should be encouraged to apply, and be considered eligible for attendance, taking advantage of the GOAL scholarships offered by Government. This would allow them to become skilled in various language disciplines. Their subsequent placement in the country’s workforce would help to bring about the transformational experience that Dr Budhu et al have talked about.
In proposing a new vision for education, the Professor and others have pointed to the failures in the US education system, wherein students, especially in inner-city high schools, pay little attention to Mathematics, Science and Foreign Language.
Immigrant students coming from countries like Bangladesh, India, China etc. are the ones who excel in these subject areas when they come to the United States to live and study. I witnessed this fact firsthand while I was a foreign language teacher with the New York City Department of Education. Student outcomes in the United States tell a very sad tale. Let’s look at such student outcomes in the USA as a warning for us in Guyana.
Dr Satish Prakash
Director of Studies
United States and