In a packed conference room at the Grand Coastal Hotel, enthusiastic professionals from the Region and the Diaspora, and students and teachers from Guyana gathered on December 2-3, 2013 to discuss how "Stimulating Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Science and Engineering" can be promoted to help diversify the economies of the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF) in collaboration with the Guyana Ministry of Education and the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation organized the Workshop. The CSF was established in 2010 as an independent non-profit non-governmental organization whose mission is to assist with the diversification of the Region's economies by promoting education reform in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship.
The Hon. Samuel Hinds (Prime Minister of Guyana) opened the Workshop, and both he and the Hon. Priya Manickchand (Minister of Education, Guyana) highlighted the importance of harnessing science and technology for the development of the Region. Collaboration and cooperation across institutions and sectors throughout the Region, and networking with the Diaspora were mentioned frequently as key to facilitating science and technology advances. The recent approval of Guyana's National Science and Technology policy was highlighted by Mr. Navin Chandarpal (Science and Technology Advisor to the President of Guyana) as a national milestone in elevating awareness of the importance of STEM education reform. Dr. Chelston Brathwaite (Barbados Ambassador Designate to China, and Director General Emeritus of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) focused on the importance of food security, the expanded agricultural sector, and the need for the Region to produce more of the food it consumes.
Many students and teachers from high schools in Guyana participated in the Workshop, with the students posing some of the most difficult questions to the speakers. The students, under the supervision of Ms. Petal Jetoo of the Ministry of Education of Guyana and her team of Guyanese scientists, also carried out experiments using microscience kits provided by UNESCO. The students had nothing but praise for this hands-on learning experience.
CSF programs such as the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge and the Student Program for Innovation in Science and Engineering (SPISE) were featured, with three Guyanese students speaking about their recent experiences in these programs. Also covered were STEM curriculum and modernization updates, with the primary objective of making science fun for the students. Teaching with examples drawn from local resources and needs, inquiry-based science approaches, the scientific method, and the use of digital e-learning were emphasized. The need for more national science fairs, math Olympiads and science museums was also stressed. The vast range of career options in the STEM disciplines was the subject of a career panel. The requirements for the launch of a high-tech electronics start-up company were demystified with examples showing how, in the Internet era, the materials and components needed could be sourced worldwide from a desktop. The critical need for execution to bring ideas to fruition was emphasized.
The 2013 CSF Distinguished Service Awards went to Prof. Maya Trotz of the Univ. of South Florida, Ms. Petal Jetoo of the Ministry of Education of Guyana, Sagicor Financial Corporation, and Sagicor Life Caribbean. Key sponsors of the Workshop included the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Organization of American States, the Canadian government, UNESCO and Sagicor.