Making our students more marketable
October 5, 2007

Making our students more marketable

Noting that multilingualism gives an added competitive edge to any person working in this global economy, Deputy Chief Education Officer Luis deShong has said that giving students the opportunity to learn a foreign language is necessary from as early as the primary level.{{more}}

deShong, who addressed the participants at the two-day “Workshop for Teacher Training in the Delivery of the CARICOM Primary Level Enhanced Spanish Curriculum” last Monday at the UWI School of Continuing Studies, said that it was time to make Education more relevant for students.

He emphasized: “Let us do whatever is humanly possible to permit our students to derive as much benefit as they can, as they move from the school to the labour market. Let us give them a chance to connect the dots and go where they ought to in the spaces of this world. Let us continue to provide them with a dynamic Education that takes them from primary to secondary to tertiary and beyond. An Education that can spur economic growth. It is truly the best investment anyone can make.”

The Deputy Chief Education Officer who has also taught foreign languages for many years, and has been an Examiner in Spanish at CXC, said that government was making a huge investment in Education, and believed that it was the responsibility of administrators and teachers to do what was necessary to help raise the level of student achievement in all subject areas.

He said foreign languages formed part of the core curriculum of secondary Education and that students in every one of the 26 secondary schools in this country learn French or Spanish or both.

He also revealed that it was this government’s policy to have Spanish and French on the list of curriculum offerings at the primary level, and that there are approximately 35 primary schools where French or Spanish is taught, but the figures will increase.

deShong, however, confessed that his Ministry was still trying, as he described it, “to get it right”, to have the proper recruitment and retention of suitably qualified persons to teach modern languages in the primary schools, as the staff turn over rate in French and Spanish was “rapid and mind boggling”.

He, nevertheless, expressed gratitude to the Venezuelan Institute for Culture and Cooperation and the Alliance Francaise for their contribution to training modern language teachers.

deShong stressed that it was crucial for teachers to help their students become proficient and encouraged them to rid themselves of the illusion of simplicity in the teaching of French and Spanish.

He concluded: “This two day workshop is aimed at drawing you out, getting you out of your comfort zones, to force you to address the reality of teaching foreign language, instill you with the enormity of the situation…it requires you to find creative and appropriate ways to motivate your students to arrive at a deep love and appreciation for the languages.”

Meanwhile, CARICOM facilitator Cathy Rattray-Williams said that the workshop called on the teachers to be interactive and share their skills.

Rattray-Williams, who has been teaching foreign languages for 19 years, heads a primary school in Jamaica, and has imparted the programme to primary and lower secondary school teachers in Grenada and St. Lucia. She will be heading to Dominica after her stint in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Some of the areas looked at in the two day conference, which was held at the UWI Centre, included: Approaches to Methodologies, Materials used in the Spanish Primary Level Classroom, Principles of Curriculum Planning, Lesson Planning and Micro Teaching.(SG)