The Caribbean’s educational curriculum is causing the region to miss out on huge business and financial opportunities and needs to change, said the leader whose country hosts the newest campus of the University of the West Indies.
Delivering the feature address at the Caribbean Examination Council’s (CXC) award ceremony for the top performers of 2020, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said there was a need for the Caribbean to expand its curriculum to meet the changing times.
He said the region is missing out on billions of dollars worth of investments by not introducing students to such subjects as robotics and coding. He said the COVID-19 pandemic had helped to jumpstart the region’s embracing of technology.
The UWI Five Island Campus’ School of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence offers biological sciences, machine learning, information security, process automation, climate and environmental sciences and architectural engineering, Browne noted.
He said the goal was to use artificial intelligence and data science to solve some of the most menacing threats to the Caribbean such as natural disasters, food security, health and wellness.
The Antiguan leader also suggested students should also have the opportunity to learn more languages, he added.
Browne said: “At some point it will become necessary to change the approach to teacher education as they too need to be retrained to meet the demands of a world in which automation and machine learning are central pieces.
“The present COVID-19 pandemic served as a call to arms as it forced regional governments to find alternatives to the usual face-to-face modes of instruction. Before, the use of online tools provided a glimpse into the future of regional education. The time is therefore ripe for us to continue building on the lessons learned as going backwards to once was is simply not an option.
“There is a place for app development and robotics on the school’s curriculum, thereby extending the existing information technology syllabus for CXC. In those areas the Caribbean could create industries that are worth billions of dollars. Moreover, governments may have to look at expanding the traditional modern language offerings, venturing into languages such as Mandarin, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Russian. The ability to market apps to these large populations in their native languages is yet an untapped area for bringing new money into our economies.”
“The above-mentioned populations number in the billions. If as economies within the Caribbean we can capture even five per cent of these markets, we can significantly diversify our economies and create more wealth. We all know that diversification is a must.
“These possibilities also exist in the creative arts to include our music which we should transition into an exportable product instead of consistently domesticating our music. There is no question that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the subject areas driving the fourth industrial revolution…but it must ever be remembered that the humanities, the arts, play an important role in humanizing us.” (RB)