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T&T to host education symposium in 2014

By Kim Boodram

TRINIDAD and Tobago will host the second Virtual Educa International Symposium next year, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, announced on Tuesday.

The ministry has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Virtual Educa ahead of the staging of the event, which will bring together international, regional and local education stakeholders.

Virtual Educa is a multilateral cooperative in the area of innovation, applied to education and professional training for human development.

A decade ago, the OAS and Virtual Educa signed an agreement to organise an annual symposium on education and the use of technology and e-learning, now known as the Virtual Educa Symposium.

Gopeesingh said hosting the event is one step towards T&T’s adaptation to a global education system that is rapidly moving forward and becoming technologically heavy.

“Preparing students today for tomorrow’s workforce has a lot to do with teaching about how to use and evaluate knowledge, and the Internet is rapidly becoming the biggest repository for information we have ever known,” Gopeesingh said.

The minister said Government has so far issued up to 68,500 laptop computers to local pupils entering secondary school and has added 4,000 new teachers to the local league.

By 2015, he said, 90,850 pupils will emerge from secondary school with computing and information technology skills.

“In the first year of its implementation, Trinidad and Tobago rose by 16 points on the international benchmarking scale, as far as science and technology is concerned, and recently we signed a memorandum of understanding with the St Lucian government, to assist them in developing this programme, under which we purchased 3,200 computers for them on a loan basis, as well as lending them the technical assistance to get their programme on the way for Form Four students in their country,” Gopeesingh disclosed at the signing ceremony at Capital Plaza, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

Assistant secretary general for the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdhin, said fora like the symposium must become the way forward for the region, which is still ranking at an “unacceptable” level on the Global Competitiveness Index.

“This ranking seems to indicate that our region has a deficit of people who are adequately trained and equipped to create, compete, invent and innovate,” Ramdhin said, adding that competitive regions typically invest up to 2.5 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) into research and development, whereas the Caribbean region stands around 0.6 per cent.

Ramdhin also commended Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for hosting the Eighth Americas Competitiveness Forum in Trinidad next year and her choice of the theme, “Human Imagination at Work: Driving Competitiveness, Empowering Innovation”.
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