Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon.
Congratulations to all the students who will receive Awards for achieving and maintaining high scholastic averages during the last school year. It is certainly a job well done, and a testimony of your hard work through the year. Your success is also an indication of the commitment and support of your parents and teachers, who gave of their time and effort, or shared their knowledge and understanding of various subjects with you. I salute them this afternoon as well as other individuals who have stood by you.
Purpose of education
Education Psychologist Howard Gardner identifies the modeling of adult roles and the transmission of cultural values as two major roles of education that have transcended many generations. Gardner says that society has a responsibility to ensure that important adult roles are filled by the next generation and that values are successfully passed on to persons who are entrusted to one day transmit them.
I believe education should allow students to freely explore their environment. They should ask questions, receive answers that will further deepen their quest for knowledge and truth. Education must also make our students productive citizens who are trained to perform their duties and responsibilities with persistence, pride and excellence. This should be so, whether they become:
- Civil servants, carpenters or cooks,
- Farmers or firemen,
- Nurses or nutritionists
- Media workers, manufactures, or maids
- Police, pastors, politicians or professors
- Soldiers, sailors or scientists
- Teachers, tailors, tradesmen or taxi men.
Whatever your profession or vocation, education should help to create the framework in which individuals can learn to embrace values that contribute to the development of a just society and redefine our Jamaican identity. Those values must include respect, kindness, love, and punctuality, doing a honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, forgiveness, sharing and lending a helping hand especially to the less fortunate.
It is therefore commendable that Sagicor’s Staff Education Scholarship Programme supports learning by requiring that students not only maintain a high record of academic excellence, but demonstrate good character and integrity, leadership potential, and active interest in the wider society.
Changes in education
If we are truly serious about education and creating pathways for us to achieve all the qualities listed above, then its delivery cannot be static, confined only to a classroom setting, or dictated by volumes of literary work and mathematical formulae. The three R’s, Reading, writing and arithmetic will remain important, but, as technology has shown us, students can also have fun while they learn.
The reality is that the demands of education have changed dramatically. There have been intensified calls for more affordable education equal access at all levels. We witness this call every year around the time when GSAT results are published, when concerns are raised about the number of places that are available in our traditional high schools. Each academic year there are students who withdraw from tertiary programmes because of their financial inability to continue.
I believe one solution lies in new, creative modes of delivering and financing education. It all boils down to our vision for ourselves and our country Jamaica, and the degree to which we are prepared to go the extra mile to achieve or embrace the inevitable changes in education.
For example, education no longer means a formal classroom setting with desks and chairs and a teacher giving instruction. Instead computer and computer-related technologies have dramatically changed education. Just recently during the unrest in Western Kingston when schools were closed, the students of one Kingston High School were able to continue their lessons via the computer. The students who will receive scholarships today are part of the new generation. Technology plays a major role in how they learn and interact with their peers. At the click of a mouse, the world is literally at their fingertips.
The reality is that, information technology has brought unprecedented changes to the way we communicate, learn and transmit social and cultural values. One of our CARICOM neighbors, Guyana, in an effort to improve education, plans to spend US$30 million over the next three years to purchase 90,000 computers to distribute to its citizens who cannot afford to buy.
Values must not decline
However, as widespread as computer technology has become, it will never completely replace the fundamentals in education and training. Manners and discipline must never be allowed to decline because they are fundamental to any modern society. The Internet has little if any means of quality control. Anything can be posted online and the effect is that in the same way it helps to educate and build up, it can also destroy. We have to remain vigilant and prepare our students to know right from wrong and make the best choice in every situation.
I commend Sagicor for the sustained way in which the Company has contributed to the education of the students of employees. Preparing them to be masters of their own destinies on a platform of integrity, respect, performance communication and teamwork represents a significant building block in the development of Jamaica.
I urge the students to honour the confidence and pride you have in them, by continuing to display excellence through academic achievement.
I wish to congratulate the recipients and wish you all the best in the future. “The world is yours, grab it”.