(Excerpts from an address by President David Granger to the annual graduation ceremony of the Cyril Potter College of Education on December 15, 2016)
Robert Cyril Gladstone Potter was an exemplary Guyanese. Born at Graham’s Hall in May 1899, the son of a schoolmaster, he was the legendary composer of Guyana’s National Anthem and an outstanding educator.
Cyril Potter was an ardent patriot whose life was one of the finest examples of public service – to citizens, community and country. He understood what it took to make a nation, and he dedicated his life to doing good for Guyana.
Cyril Potter is an ideal role model for student-teachers who have had the privilege of studying at this College. It ought to be an honour for graduates to have been trained in a College which bears this man’s name. It should be an inspiration to everyone to emulate Cyril Potter’s lifetime service and dedication to the nation.
Cyril Potter was a graduate of a teachers’ training college. He was a graduate of the Mico College in Jamaica which, at that time, was the oldest and most prestigious teachers’ training institution in the Anglophone Caribbean.
Cyril Potter, and others of his generation, laid such a foundation that our nation can boast today of having a college with such prestige.
THE GREEN STATE
Guyana is a blessed country. We have inherited, by the grace of God, a precious patrimony. We possess a land of luxuriant grasslands, highlands, islands, wetlands, lakes, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls. We have bountiful timber, mineral and other natural resources.
Guyana is on the way to establishing a ‘green’ state, one that emphasises the protection of our environment, the preservation of our biodiversity, the provision of eco-tourism and eco-educational services and the promotion of practical measures to ensure climate adaptation. Teachers must understand this.
Guyana faces environmental threats from various sources – the adverse effects of climate change; concerns over the sustainability of our water supplies; the security of our food supply; the generation of cheaper, cleaner and renewable sources of energy and, inevitably, the prevention of the spread of diseases such as Ebola and Zika – across borders.
The response to these global challenges requires scientific solutions which:
– provide the present generation of students with an opportunity to be part of the process of finding solutions to these challenges;
– promote solutions to national concerns and help us to navigate through an increasingly interdependent and technologically well-informed global environment; and
– prepare students for the technological changes that will open opportunities for school-leavers to participate in a competitive economy.
WHAT IT TAKES
Teachers must understand, also, that Guyana must become an ‘education nation’ in order to satisfy these most elemental needs. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the water we drink, the houses we live in, the electricity we utilize, the boats, buses and bicycles that transport us to and from school and the books we read or write in can be produced only by some form of science.
Science, also, is about energy-generation, solid-waste management and creating ‘green’ schools, compounds and communities.
It takes an efficient education system to:
– train the architects, contractors and construction workers to build our houses; computer scientists to enhance our knowledge and expedite our transactions; and medical doctors and technologists to protect us from epidemic disease or to cure our everyday disorder;
– train thousands of persons in manufacturing to fabricate machines to process foods and make utensils; miners to produce bauxite, diamonds, gold and manganese;
– train young people, to encourage them to be inventive and innovative and to provide them with the opportunities to develop practical solutions to the physical challenges we face; and
– train a generation of teachers to produce new textbooks to support the new teaching and to devise new techniques to transform our lives.
Teachers, in this regard, must be more than mere tutors. They must be agents of socialisation. They mould the minds of our students, implanting knowledge, inculcating values and infusing the right attitude in them.
Teaching can be improved in three ways:
– Standards. Principals, parents, teachers and students must be clear about what is to be expected in the classroom. These standards must be measurable and implementable and must be the responsibility of the principals and the educational authorities.
– Skills: Teachers, through training, must be exposed to modern teaching skills so that they can be effective in transmitting knowledge to, and in building character in, students. Teacher training must be a career-long exercise, pursuing professional development either in education or through specialisation in subject areas.
– Supervision: Heads of schools have a vital role to play in ensuring that the full curricula are delivered, that teachers complete their assignments and that classroom time is not lost. There is a correlation between preparation of lessons and high levels of educational attainment. The one laptop per teacher initiative is aimed, in part, at ensuring that teachers have this important tool at their disposal to help them better prepare their lessons.
THE EDUCATION NATION
Training is essential for teachers. It is necessary for them to upgrade their skills, acquire new knowledge, to make study interesting and enlightening and to master new pedagogies, techniques and technologies.
The untrained teacher has no place in the future of our educational system. I like to use the analogy about flying in an aeroplane. No one would fly in an aeroplane piloted by someone who is not trained. So why should anyone allow an untrained teacher to be tasked with educating children?
Trained teachers are essential to halting the decline in educational standards. We are facing a crisis in primary education with shockingly high dropout rates and abysmally low pass rates at the National Grade Six Assessment. Improvement in educational attainment, countrywide, cannot be achieved unless we populate all of our schools with trained teachers.
Teachers have been nation-builders from time immemorial. They have educated generations who, in turn, have made a contribution to national development. The agriculturalists, bankers, businesspersons, civil servants, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, judges, nurses, police, politicians and sportsmen and women all had to be taught by teachers.
Teachers are the foundation of our educational system. They are central to achieving the aim of education which is to produce graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to contribute to their personal development and to enhancement of the development of the nation. They are the only ones who can make Guyana an ‘education nation.’
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