EXPERT FORUM ON EDUCATION

Education at its most elemental level is the principal means by which people of diverse and disparate lineages and social strata mobilize themselves to construct a common identity, develop bonds of solidarity and embrace a sense of shared destiny. The foremost focus of education is construction of the future of the people who are mobilizing themselves. Education is therefore fundamental to the realization of any vision of the Caribbean by 2020.

It would not be prudent to proceed without tarrying for a moment to precisely define the Caribbean we purpose to envision. The Caribbean is not merely all the countries whose shores are washed by the Caribbean Sea. Geography is but one component of the definition. The United States of America is part of North America. Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and the Central American countries, apart from Belize, are part of Latin America. Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St Marteen, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Puerto Rico all have political statuses that relate them to continental powers. They are excluded from representation of themselves in the conclave in which we are now gathered.

When these political connections are considered, the countries that are literally left in this room are the twelve independent English-speaking countries, Haiti and Surinam. These are the fourteen countries of this sub-region, mainly middle income, that are left by the political economy of the contemporary world, to survive together as a single market and economy or decline separately as failed states. It is the future of these countries that are being envisioned in this conference. The challenges of forming common Caribbean identity and of developing bonds of solidarity across the language, political and insular barriers of these fourteen sovereign states are enormous to say the least. However, the shared destiny being imposed by the real politick of the globalizing and regionalizing world appears to be its greatest ally along commonalities among the peoples.

It would be remiss of this Forum of Experts not to take note of the political economy and geography of this Conference. The vision of the Caribbean for 2020 is being articulated and affirmed in Washington D.C. There are indeed numerous instances throughout history where the future of a marginal entity or society was sponsored by a superpower of the era, with very positive outcomes for the marginal group being sponsored. In these instances, the scholars and leaders of the marginal groups were careful to discern, understand and respect the explicit and implicit terms of sponsorship, while at the same time taking full responsibility for the authorship, content and implementation of the vision. It is this seeming contradiction and tension that Ezra and Nehemiah, of Biblical fame, so astutely comprehended and so brilliantly executed with outcomes that have bonded a people and have withstood tests over thousands of years.

It is important to recognize that the vision and agenda of the sponsor, however benevolent, may be different from the vision and aspirations of the people being sponsored. Those operating at the interface between sponsor and people must hold in constructive tension these two versions of the vision and their attendant agendas. For in the process of the constructing of their future through education, the people will affirm myths of their origin and destiny; employ rituals to sanctify relationships; generate knowledge to expand and embrace opportunities; master skills that are essential to their survival and develop outlooks and ideologies to explain relationships among themselves and the rest of the world that will not necessarily coincide completely with that of the intentions and expectations of the sponsor. It is with the management of these differences that the skills of the leaders and the wisdom of the experts must contend.

 

It is within this context and against this background that I welcome you all to this Expert Forum on Education this morning. We have two eminent speakers, three distinguished panelists and participants who are all experts in your various fields. This must be the ingredients of a most exciting and stimulating exploration of a vision of the Caribbean 2020 with particular regard to how to:

  • Better integrate education with labour market demands
  • Develop congruent teacher certification standards
  • Expand cooperation in education and training
  • Develop tertiary education institutions and promote networking regionally and externally
  • Ensure accountability for learning outcomes
  • Build capacity for the use of ICTs to improve learning outcomes
  • Develop information society skills and attitudes

INTRODUCTION OF SPEAKERS

Speakers:The Honorable Hazel Manning, Minister of Education, Trinidad and Tobago  

Senator Hazel Manning has for 29 years offered services in the study of social development. Before becoming Minister of Education, she was a Specialist Consultant on Social Impact Assessment studies working in Trinidad and Tobago.  Mrs. Manning was formerly the Head of the Research Division of the Ministry of Planning and Development, Town and Country Planning. She has also held the position of Manager of the Social Affairs Unit of the National Housing Authority.

Professor Eric Hanushek, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Eric Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is also chairman of the Executive Committee for the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas at Dallas, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education. He is an expert on educational policy, specializing in the economics and finance of schools.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree. He completed his Ph.D. in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1965-1974.

INTRODUCTION OF PANELISTS

Panelists:

Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie

Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie assumed the post of Pro Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on August 1, 2002, following her tenure as Deputy Principal of the Mona campus since 1996. Prior to this, she served as Professor and Regional Coordinator of the UWI’s Centre for Gender and Development Studies (1992 –1996), Executive Director of the Institute of Management and Production (1987 – 1992), a Research Fellow then Senior Lecturer in Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education, UWI (1977 – 1987), and a secondary school science teacher in Jamaica (1968 –1977) and England (1964 – 1967).

Professor Andrew Downes, University Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI

Professor of Economics and University Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES). Professor Downes has served the University as Deputy Dean and later Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Cave Hill Campus; Head of the Department of Economics and President of the West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT).  He has also served as Chairman of the Cave Hill Campus Research Fund and is currently a member of the Campus Appointments Committee, the Board of the UWI Press and the Board for Graduate Studies and Research. Professor Downes’ research interests include Applied Econometrics; Human Resources/Labour Economics and Organizational Economics.

Dr. John T. Grasso, Director for Strategic Development and Distance Learning, Carnegie Mellon University

Since 1999, Dr. Grasso led ISRI’s Executive Program Office under Carnegie Mellon’s Strategic Plan, to expand the University’s international impact through academic programs, executive education and training, and corporate relationships, which build from Carnegie Mellon’s existing strengths. He has developed new international activities with Korea, Japan, India, China, Australia, and other countries, as well as working with domestic corporations such as The Boeing Company, Motorola University, and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.