As Minister for Education and Culture I want to extend a warm Virgin Islands welcome to our guests from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), and also to my fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters that through the advances of technology are watching this presentation live, as it is being streamed by CXC.
There is an old African Proverb that advises that, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” On 4th July, 1973 Prime Ministers Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas and formed the Caribbean Community, CARICOM. Over the years CARICOM has grown, achieved many successes, learned many lessons along the way, and continues its commitment to enhance the lives of Caribbean citizens as we navigate the post colonial world together.
Out of this union and commitment, as a region we have developed institutions such as the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and of course, the Caribbean Examination Council, CXC. As those leaders believed some 43 years ago, I still hold that belief that as a Caribbean Community, we stand a greater opportunity to rise above our challenges by unifying our efforts, our knowledge, our resources and yes, our people.
Through the work of our individual education systems and with the leadership of CXC, we are continuing the path of enriching the lives of our people, particularly our young people through education. While locally we have debates about education and the direction we must take, I look around the region and the world and I am comforted by knowing that through the halls of the parliaments in the Caribbean we have educated Caribbean leaders. In the classrooms around the region and at the helm of the leadership of fine institutions around the world, such as at the prestigious Howard University in Washington DC, we have Caribbean educated individuals. In businesses on our islands, United Kingdom, America and Canada, we have Caribbean educated individuals developing businesses and providing services and job opportunities to the world.
So as the debate rages on about education, I take this time to congratulate the leadership of the Caribbean Examination Council, those past and present for their commitment, dedication and foresight to continually present opportunities to confirm the education of our citizens, and also to embrace and lead dynamic changes in education for the citizens of the Caribbean.
As a country we have been a part of the Caribbean Examinations Council from its inception. Our very own Dr. Charles Wheatley sat on the first Council meetings as they made the way to providing the first examinations. His wife, Mrs. Jennie Wheatley sat on the panel which developed the first English syllabus and there are others among our teaching staff who were in that pioneering group. CXC has come a long way and we are happy to be a part of the growth and development of an institution which is really our own.
Which brings us to today. I have a particular affinity for the young people in the Virgin Islands and the region. Because I remember the burning desire I had to get an education that would provide me an opportunity to work towards my goals. But the world has since changed. There are more obstacles facing our young people than were present in the days of many of our leaders.
Yet it is those leaders that are charged with putting together the right policies to support and protect this generation of citizens against the inevitable effects of globalisation, advanced technology, cultural integration and economic uncertainty. It is these considerations that have shaped the education agenda of the administration of Hon Dr D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Premier of the Virgin Islands and many other leaders of the Caribbean.
Just as CXC has done over the years, our government has sought throughout these past five years to provide new generation experiences and education to today’s students. So it is a proud moment for the Virgin Islands Ministry of Education and Culture to be the driving force behind the implementation of Financial Services as a CAPE subject in the Caribbean region.
It was in 2013 that our Ministry of Education and Culture introduced financial services into the curriculum of our secondary schools to ensure the sustainability of the industry. By doing so, we were seeking to ensure that the interests, minds and talents of our students were developed to sustain our leadership position in the sector, to ensure our territory’s global competitiveness and to maintain the standard of living that we have grown to enjoy. This was all part and parcel of the imperative to make education relevant to what obtains in the workplace and in the global community.
In the Ministry of Education in the Virgin Islands, we recognised that we must prepare our students to assume positions of the financial services sector. We must continue to advocate and support our people to acquire the requisite knowledge and skills to maintain and grow our industries. The success of our individual island states and our region depends on preparing the capacity of our citizens and residents to conduct our affairs on the global stage.
We cannot afford to allow students to just pass through our system. Their education must be in tune with the direction of our countries in a complex and competitive world, and we must help all students to identify their role in our development. We must also find ways to make learning interesting, ignite the curiosity and innovative capacity of our students to enable us to solve the challenges facing our individual islands now and in the future.
Since the introduction of Financial Services as a subject at the Virgin Islands secondary level, literally hundreds of students have been exposed to and gleaned a degree of awareness of our Financial Services industry and its relevance to their lives. However, we are cognizant that what is being done to bring about awareness is not enough to build the capacity needed for the industry.
We are therefore very happy that CXC heeded the call to develop this syllabus to take all of our students one step further in that direction. The CAPE Financial Services Syllabus along with the work of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College’s Financial Services Institute will provide an opportunity for our young people to excel in various fields of the industry.
I want to take this opportunity to also tell my brothers and sisters in the region, that you don’t have to go beyond the borders of the Caribbean to further your knowledge of the industry. I invite you to come right here to the VI, to learn from leading experts in the international financial services sector through the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College’s Financial Services Institute.
This launch today comes at a very opportune time as well. Our ministry is getting ready to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with financial services industry partners as we aim to build connections between the financial services industry, the education system and most importantly with our students, the future of this industry. I would strongly advise other Caribbean countries to do the same to build bridges between our main economic industries and the education system. In education we are providing a product for the business community, and therefore it is in the best interest of all of us, for those businesses to also have a hand in shaping the product that is being prepared for them.
I am indeed once again very pleased that we were able to have this syllabus launched here in the Virgin Islands and I express sincere thanks to the Registrar of CXC, Mr Glenroy Cumberbatch and I must also thank the former Registrar, who is now the Director General of the OECS, Dr Didacus Jules, for working closely with me in making CSEC mandatory in the Virgin Islands education system.
Allow me also at this time to express sincere gratitude to Mr Raj Krishnan who was our lead person on the discussions with CXC on the implementation of financial services as a CAPE subject. I must also thank Dr Robert Mathavious who was very helpful to the ministry, in reviewing the syllabus to ensure that our students had the best possible understanding at their level of the financial services industry.
It is important as well for me to thank our local Education Officers, particularly Dr Lavern Chalwell-Brewley who was given the responsibly to work with our local financial services industry partners, to develop our financial services syllabus for the Virgin Islands secondary education system.
We look forward to seeing many students pursue and pass this subject at Grade 12 or here at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. I trust that there will be great uptake of this subject in the region and even beyond. I congratulate CXC on yet another “new generation” subject being completed and ready for implementation and wish the organisation continued success in its endeavour to serve our region to ensure global human resource competitiveness through the provision of quality and comprehensive certification.
I encourage all of us, on all of our islands to continue to support the development of the young people in our region. I fundamentally believe, that it is through the education of our youth that they will build the capacity to find opportunities and continue the development of our region. Thank you, and may God continue to bless us all.