Importance of Science in hazard mitigation being highlighted at CAS forum
A three-day workshop aimed at amplifying the importance of science in the Caribbean society commenced Monday at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD). Some 25 local science teachers have been selected to participate in the workshop, as are three Trinidadian teachers and another two from St Lucia.
This is the second year that Guyana is hosting the annual forum, which is undertaken by the
Caribbean Academy of Sciences, having previously hosted in 2009.
The forum is being held under the theme “Hazard Mitigation: Protecting Caribbean Infrastructure – Securing Caribbean Communities,” and is being facilitated by a number of renowned scientists, including the likes of Professor Emeritus Winston Mellowes and Dr. Julianna Alexander of the University of the West Indies, as well as Professor Arnoldo Ventura of Mico University College in Jamaica. The latter professor has been instrumental in drafting a science policy for Guyana which will serve as the basis for a nationwide consultation in the coming months.
Among the other facilitators are Messrs Phillip DaSilva and Patrick Ketwaru of the University of Guyana; the local Ministry of Education’s Science Coordinator, Ms. Petal Jetoo; Science Educator Mr. Ottis Karuth and Mathematics Educator Ms. Henry both of Trinidad.
The objective of the forum is to raise the level of scientific literacy in the Region and to increase public understanding and appreciation of the importance and potential of Science and Technology in human progress; to provide teachers with knowledge and skills in inquiry teaching and learning; to put experimentation back into schools; to introduce the use of micro-science kits in the teaching of secondary science and to use teaching and learning methodologies that will increase students’ interest in the sciences and mathematics.
The workshop, which will also direct some focus on the importance of mangroves in Guyana, comes at a time when Guyana is directing much attention to the area of science.
In presenting a feature address in place of Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, Adviser to the Minister, Ms Melcita Bovell, revealed that “here in Guyana we are making more and more efforts to cause more teachers to be qualified in science. At the moment we are making the effort to encourage teachers to go to the University to do the separate Sciences.”
In fact, she disclosed that the Education Ministry has put in place a plan to give priority to teachers who are desirous of pursuing studies in the sciences, even as she alluded to a system to facilitate the release of teachers to attend the University of Guyana.
“We are doing this because as a Ministry we understand that science, mathematics and technology are the foundation on which the rest of our world will stand,” Bovell passionately asserted.
With this in mind, she commended the CAS workshop, which seeks to bring together the resources from Guyana and around the Caribbean to ensure that teachers are prepared for the task of moulding the Region. This strategic move, she said, would ensure that science is demystified and that classrooms become a place where students are happy to do science.
Representing CAS was Professor Mellowes, who highlighted that popular notions suggest that science and mathematics are difficult subject areas and are therefore only for gifted students.
“These attitudes, fuelled by poor science and mathematics teaching, account in no small measure for the large numbers of persons in the society who are technologically deficient and the small stock of scientists, engineers and researchers as well as innovators,” said Mellowes, who is the CAS’ Focal Point in Science.
As a result, he intimated that the CAS forum is aimed at helping to build a national community of scientists, engineers and innovators, and to address an urgent need to increase the number of students pursuing science subjects, while at the same time seeking to increase the success rate of students writing the examinations in the Caribbean.
“We think and hope that this will constitute a foundation for the country’s competitiveness and development of knowledge-based economies…We decided that we had to help build a large societal base that is scientifically literate, technologically sound; that are creative and that are innovative, and to build an awareness of the positive impacts of science…” Mellowes added.
In this regard, he said that CAS has recognised the importance of focusing on environmental issues such as unplanned settlements, poor farming techniques and methods, waste from manufacturing and the overall impact of climate change and also the mitigation of hazards in the Caribbean region.
In her inaugural presentation as Head of NCERD, Ms. Jennifer Cumberbatch said that the CAS workshop is both a timely and interesting move in the wake of several natural disasters.
According to her, it is evident that mitigation is the way forward to provide protection, even as she stressed that action needs to be taken to reduce or prevent future damage, preferably before a disaster strikes.
“I do hope that the workshop does not only promote knowledge acquisition, but emphasises knowledge application,” Cumberbatch asserted.
In the same vein, UNESCO Commission (Guyana) Secretary General, Ms Inge Nathoo, underscored that the UNESCO Science Report 2012 is in fact very clear in stating that “we must continue to underline the importance of science and technology education in schools and strengthen scientific cooperation to overcome knowledge gaps.”
As such, she expressed her expectation that the workshop will provide the opportunity for participation, collaboration and networking between science and mathematics teachers in the Region.
“We must use the resources we have around us and improve continually,”she added.
Offering brief remarks, too, was Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development, Mr. Navin Chandarpal, who not only noted that he was pleased that the CAS forum is being held in Guyana, but pointed out that the theme of the event highlights an issue that is very crucial. He alluded to the importance of securing Caribbean communities which will serve to safeguard the very existence of the Region which is in fact the premise on which CAS operates.
CAS was inaugurated in Trinidad in 1988 and currently has five divisions – Natural, Agricultural, Medical, Engineering and Social Sciences.
The 200-member institution is an independent, non-governmental body which includes the involvement of scientists from the English-speaking Caribbean, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Cuba and Suriname.
Its mandate entails providing a forum for interchange among scientists on important issues related to the application of science and technology to develop and to serve as a source of advice to regional, governmental and non-governmental organisations in scientific and technology matters.
According to chairman of Monday’s opening ceremony, Professor Lloyd Puni, CAS will from November 2-4, 2012, host its 18th General Assembly in Barbados which will further highlight the theme of Hazardous Mitigation.