Guyana lends science support to Saint Lucia

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Guyana lends science support to Saint Lucia
Organizers and facilitators. From left – Ms. Marcia Symphorien, Secretary General, National Commission for UNESCO, St. Lucia; Ms. Lois Oliver, Assistant Director – Caribbean Science Foundation; Mr. Motielall Singh – Curriculum Officer (Mathematics and Science – St. Lucia); Ms. Petal Punalall-Jetoo – Project Coordinator – UNESCO Micro-science Sub-Regional Project and National Science Coordinator, Guyana, Ms. Caroline Auguste – Coordinator ASPnet schools, St. Lucia.
Organizers and facilitators. From left – Ms. Marcia Symphorien, Secretary General, National Commission for UNESCO, St. Lucia; Ms. Lois Oliver, Assistant Director – Caribbean Science Foundation; Mr. Motielall Singh – Curriculum Officer (Mathematics and Science – St. Lucia); Ms. Petal Punalall-Jetoo – Project Coordinator – UNESCO Micro-science Sub-Regional Project and National Science Coordinator, Guyana, Ms. Caroline Auguste – Coordinator ASPnet schools, St. Lucia.

KAIETEUR NEWS – Having been bestowed the lead role to initiate micro-science experiment projects under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Guyana has been reaching out to some of its Caribbean counterparts to render assistance.

It was for this reason that National Science Coordinator, Ms Petal Punalall-Jetoo recently travelled to St. Lucia. The support in this instance was channelled through a country workshop which commenced on Tuesday (June 30).

Punalall-Jetoo’s input saw plans being streamlined for the commencement of micro-science pilot projects similar to the model used in Guyana in 2012. A total of eight St. Lucian secondary schools (one from each district) have been identified for the pilot project, she disclosed.

Deeming the collaboration with St. Lucia a success, Punalall-Jetoo recounted that the workshop in St. Lucia kicked off with an opening ceremony that saw the attendance of St Lucia’s Minister of Education, Human Resource Development and Labour, Dr. Robert Lewis.

He, at that forum, expressed his pleasure to partner with the National Commission of UNESCO in Guyana even as he stated his appreciation for the opportunities that the project provides for capacity building in Science and Technology for St. Lucian teachers.

Speaking at the forum too was territory’s Minister of Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, Dr. Jimmy Fletcher.

He made it clear that all students must learn science since this discipline provides the foundation for any other discipline. Dr. Fletcher, she recalled, also pointed out the importance of good communication and writing skills which are developed through learning science.

The micro-science experiments project, he added, brings science right in front of the students and serves to popularize science.

Throughout the Caribbean the number of students enrolling for the single sciences at the CSEC level is very small, but Dr. Fletcher asserted that this trend has to be reversed since without a background in Science and Technology explanations in Climate Change, Energy, ICT and food security among others will be very difficult.

According to Mr. Robert Parua, Officer in Charge of the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office, who joined the opening ceremony via Skype, UNESCO has committed its support through funding and otherwise to the initiation of the pilot projects.

He shared UNESCO’s observation on the lack of practical science being done in schools and noted that teachers opt for the easy way out – ‘chalk and talk’. The micro-science initiative is aimed at bringing back ‘hands-on’ science in schools where students use their hands and brains together.

Twelve countries are slated to benefit from this project.  These are Belize, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica and Guyana.

This project will mainly focus on sharing of best practices, curriculum development, capacity building and adaptation of resource materials. The major thrusts are the provision of training for science teachers in the 12 Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) territories and UNESCO Member States.

Through a Caribbean joint project between Guyana, Belize and St. Lucia, Guyana was assigned the lead role to initiate pilots for the UNESCO Global Micro-science Experiments Project in several of the Caribbean countries. This project is supported through the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office in Jamaica under the guidance of Parua.

It was because of the successful implementation of this project in Guyana through, the Science Unit of NCERD that Guyana was assigned the lead agency to execute this sub-regional project. Over 90 secondary schools here have been equipped with micro-science kits for Biology, Chemistry and Physics and a pilot in primary schools also began this year.

UNESCO since 2011 observed that “The steady decline of enrolment of young people in science is cause for concern.”

For this reason UNESCO’s work in Science Education was aimed at making a difference. “In a world that is increasingly shaped by science and technology, the team recognizes this and has made it its mission to not only spread education, but to make an interest in the Sciences a prominent and lasting feature wherever it is offered,” UNESCO has noted.

One approach embraced by UNESCO is its Global Micro-science Experiments Project which provides developed and developing countries alike with new teaching tools.

This Global Micro-science Experiments Project is a hands-on science education project that gives primary and secondary school students as well as university students the opportunity to conduct practical work in physics, chemistry and biology, using kits that come with booklets.

The project thus contributes to capacity building, in areas where limited/no laboratory facilities are available. The experimental techniques that can be covered on a micro-scale include everything, from separating the components of mixtures to measuring rates of reactions between chemicals.

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