Minister of Education Dr. Tim Gopeesingh
Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre
Saturday February 5, 2011
Madame Chairperson, Ms Marcia Henville
President of TTUTA, Mr Roustan Job
National Officers and members of TTUTA
Chairman of the Gillette Group of Companies and co-sponsor, Mr. Peter Gillette
Mr Gary Woo Chong of Mohammed’s Book Stores, co-sponsor
My dear friend and colleague at the UWI, Professor June George
Mrs. Banmatee Seepersad and family members
Ministry of Education Officials
Nominees and Finalists of the Teacher of the Year Award
Specially Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the Media
A very pleasant evening to one and all.
I feel extremely privileged that you have asked me to be here tonight to share in this special moment for our nation’s teachers and I must say that the words of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung come to mind.
He once said and I quote that:
“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. “
ENDORSEMENT OF THE TTUTA AWARDS
Indeed, this is a true reflection of how I feel as the Minister of Education and how the Government feels about our nation’s teachers—and that is gratitude.
Indeed, I can tell you all here tonight that I know the personal sense of fulfillment and joy you feel when a former student comes up to you and thanks you for making him or her the successful human being they are today since, I myself have been in the teaching profession and an educator for over 40 years of my life.
Many of you may only know me from the medical profession but tonight I want to tell you that I began my career in teaching. I will not say how long ago, but fresh out of my alma mater Naparima Boys College in San Fernando, I taught at St Benedicts College before moving on to study medicine.
From 1978 informally, and 1985 formally to 2007, I was a lecturer then senior lecturer at faculty of Medical Sciences at the University.
So as Minister of Education now, I say that award ceremonies like tonight’s hosted by TTUTA are very much appreciated by our Government, and my Ministry completely endorses the Teacher of the Year Award ceremony.
TEACHERS PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE
The Ministry of Education has always recognized that teachers are critical to the success of the education system.
Their efforts in great measure determine the direction of the country’s welfare by taking acre of the student’s lives. The quality of teachers therefore is extremely vital in the growth and development of the education system and the nation in terms of human capital development and national development.
Today the education sector is undergoing complete review, remodeling and reengineering to suit the developmental needs of our country’s children in the context of global technological exposure and best practices.
This remodeling is inspired by our innovative and pioneering Prime Minister the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who, when she held this seat over a decade ago, ensured that universal secondary education was implemented so no child would be left behind. We have shared this information with TTUTA and in a month or two, we are hoping to have a white paper on the way forward in education.
Today, in less than eight months of assuming office, the Ministry of Education can boast of implementing the most trailblazing policy in the world—that of providing a free laptop for all form one students in secondary school. It is a statement of the Government and we will continue to do this for the next four years. At the end of five years, at least 90,000 students would have been issued curriculum infused laptops and by extension, over 360,000 children, that is to say the students, their siblings and so on, would have been exposed to the level of technological development.
By outfitting our younger generation with this key tool of technological development, we have ensured that they are not left behind in the thrust of globalization.
The Ministry of Education is also aggressively ensuring that universal early childhood care education is implemented in a structured, effective and efficient manner, another vanguard developmental pillar in the global village in which we live.
Today, as I am at the helm of these new pioneering thrusts in education, I wish to reiterate that the Ministry recognizes that without our nation’s TEACHERS, our education sector cannot progress.
It is for this reason that the Ministry of Education has consistently recognised the work of our primary educators—the teachers--by providing certificates, scholarships and awards for them over the years.
I intend to not only continue in that vein but strengthen it. Very soon, teachers will benefit from several more relevant training sessions that will be timely to ensure that they too are not left behind in this new age of technology and new methods of teaching as we encircle with innovative systems from early childhood to primary to secondary education.
Very soon we are embarking on making changes to the primary school curriculum, via a consultation to be held in mid March, in order to make it more relevant to the needs of the country, not only for academic pursuits but for non-core curricular activities like the visual and performing arts, and sports.
This will call for additional training so that our teachers can deliver the curriculum properly.
In the past we have been inviting teachers in cohorts of 50, 60, 100 etc. to be trained at the Learning Resource Centre and other venues throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
This is long and tedious, taking away the teachers from the schools for long periods.
There is now technology available so I believe that the time has come to use it to train our teachers.
In a bid to ensure that our schools are staffed with qualified professionals. 331 students entered the Bachelor of Education program in 2009. For 2010, 16 students received scholarships to pursue the Masters in Education program. We also have the Bachelors of Education programme at UTT, the Bachelors of Education programme at UWI, the Bachelors of Education in early childhood, the Masters in Education programme, Principals Leadership Training, and may more. As an educator, I give you the assurance that teachers’ continued development and life long learning will continue.
The Ministry of Education will continue to honour teachers who have worked hard to keep the education system moving forward.
There have been retirement functions in the past when 487 educators were honoured in 2008, 425 in 2009 and plans are being finalized to honour 509 retirees for the year 2010.
TIME FOR TEACHERS TO BE HONOURED BY THE MINISTRY
But more than that, as your president mentioned here awhile ago, I wish to state here tonight, here in this forum that the Ministry of Education will work together with TTUTA and other stakeholders in ensuring the implementation of a new programme for honouring teachers while in active service, in the three areas of Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary education, in the seven districts of Trinidad, and Tobago, by means of scholorships, bursaries and even consideration of financial grants.
Starting in the next academic year educators of the Ministry of Education at all levels—early childhood care, primary and secondary--will be receiving awards for various aspects of teaching and managing our schools. Details are being worked out but I can tell you all that the incentives will be driven at ensuring that teachers are given the opportunity to further their studies if they so wish to the stage of attaining a PHD. After all, it is said that he or she who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
After all, as someone once said, if a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some concept of the classroom teacher's job - this is what our teachers undergo for nine months every academic year.
The time has come for this tremendous job that our nation’s teachers do to be recognized and assisted by the Government and this is what I intend to do.
So in closing, let me once more congratulate TTUTA for its many years of hosting this function aimed at ensuring that teachers know they are appreciated and to congratulate the sponsors in assisting TTUTA with this exercise.
To my dear fellow teachers, I ask that you never stop the great noble work that you are doing. Without you our nation’s students will be nothing, our education system will fail and I urge you all to continue on the path of dedication, diligence and commitment to nation building and human development that is the true calling of your noble profession.
Never lose sight of how much you matter to our children.
Remember, for every single child who grows up to be a successful adult in society, his or her dream began with a teacher who believed in them, who tugged and pushed and led them to the next plateau, sometimes poking them with a sharp stick called "truth."
In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.
Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them.
Tonight I say to you all—use these rocks as stepping stones.
After all, it is said that ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.
Your charges—the students—may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Make them feel like they are the best hope for our nation’s progress and the future development of our world. And 20 years from now, when you see our country living the dream of prosperity, peace and progress, as many who have proceeded you have seen, you will sit back, being the unsung heroes of that reality, and say to yourself –that truly is the fruit of your work.
May I offer sincere congratulations to the finalist and to the eventual winner of the Frank B. Seepersad Memorial Teacher of the Year Award.
I thank you.