Ministry of Education, Guyana

29 Sep Building capacity in Science and Technology

Published in From the Minister's Desk Read 2726 times

It is an established fact that the economic and social growth of a nation is strongly correlated with its ability and courage to invest in challenges requiring the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge and technology. The industrialised developed nations all spend 1.5 – 3.8 per cent of their GDP on research and development while most of the developing nations devote less than 0.5 per cent.

A gradually widening chasm between the developed and developing countries is now emerging due to the greater acceleration in the rates of development and dissemination of knowledge in the developed countries. The need for capacity building in science and technology is therefore of overarching importance to developing countries like Guyana.

The power to science and technology innovation and development comes from well-constructed programmes of education at all institutions of learning, including vocational and technical schools. Capacity building must start at the primary level and teachers must be qualified and trained accordingly. Of deep concern is the present dearth of science teachers serving the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Guyana. This has had repercussions on our throughput rate of science students, particularly in our secondary schools, and our intake of chemistry and physics students to the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Guyana. The Education Ministry is doing its part in increasing the level of competence of science teachers and in incorporating teachers into special science training programmes.  However, this is a short term measure and we must look at ways, such as the micro-science initiative, of encouraging students to pursue the physical sciences and of making science an attractive option for teachers. It is the duty of both the public and private sectors to reward those graduating in the sciences by providing opportunities. Too many of our best talents and minds are being captured by the industrialised countries which then make use of our intellectual capital. The ‘brain drain’ must stop and every effort must be made to keep our intellectual wealth to develop the Guyanese people, even if it involves special privileges! The drain is a serious impediment to building and sustaining indigenous human resources. Guyana’s population is small and for us to develop and use science and technology effectively, a critical mass of talent must be available. Without this critical mass of scientists and technologists, our rate of economic development would be severely hampered and the chasm between Guyana and the developed nations, referred to earlier, will only get wider. While information technology is improving by leaps and bounds in Guyana, this is by no means sufficient for innovation and growth. Knowledge based skills have to be developed for innovation and adaptation to take place. Digital information is but a step in the right direction for achieving science and technological development for Guyana. Education in the sciences and the applications thereof, is not a luxury but a necessity for our people. The design and acceptance of a national science and technology policy for Guyana is mandatory as one cannot forge development of a country without a well-constructed plan.

Importantly, this exercise has been completed under the auspices of UNESCO and the Education Ministry and a plan, involving all stakeholders, proposed.  The University of Guyana must play a pivotal role in building science and technology capacities, and must be a locus in accelerating developments in this regard. Its scientific and technological imagination and vision should rank as second to none. It is critical for the university to be the problem-solver working in an interdisciplinary fashion. But the university cannot do it alone; it requires the support of all stakeholders. It is absolutely vital that science and technology be part of the mainstream of our educational system.

Our science and technology courses and examinations need to be examined and tailored to capture the interest and imagination of students. To do this, we will require many more teachers, knowledgeable in science and technology, and capable of awakening the natural curiosity in students. With our limited human resources, it is certainly possible to implement a distance learning system whereby teachers can be shared locally, regionally, and even internationally. Demonstration experiments can be done at central locations for remote classes to see. We can also establish ties with expatriate scientists and engineers in industrialised nations or seek out retired Guyanese qualified in these fields living abroad. The private and public sectors can support and enable this cause. Public-private partnerships are critical if science and technology are to benefit our society.


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