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By Karen Abrams
There are more than 20 multinational companies already operating in Guyana–names like Tullow, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Frontera Energy, CGX, Eco Atlantic have made multimillion dollar bets on Guyana. Every day we hear of more potential investment deals, so more companies will come if Guyana succeeds in reducing overall foreign investment risk and this means factors including political risks, contractual risks, security risks and a lack of supply of high quality workers who embrace change and who possess the soft (essential) skills and the technical skills for the 21st century world.
The pressing question remains, how can we ensure that the benefits of our Oil industry are reaped by more than just the multinationals, a few already wealthy Guyanese businessmen, and a miniscule number of Guyanese workers. The answer to that question will depend on the success of the nation’s institutions in preparing larger batches of our students for high paying STEM careers in companies in Guyana or in supporting the creation of the next generation of Guyana’s IT innovators and problem solvers.
This preparations must begin early and institutions like the STEMGuyana organization–a national institution which leads the way in the technology education of children by hosting STEM clubs and Learning Pods across the country, empowering young people to create technology prototypes which can be commercialized and working with partners like the IDB, Tullow Oil & the Department of Youth to rollout a national model for strengthening the academic and technology skills of vulnerable students through more than 20 (soon to be 40) learning pods across 10 regions of Guyana; will play a critical support role in the preparation of the nation’s children for the 21st century global society in which they live.
It is important to note that STEM accum will be necessary to improve efficiency and productivity in almost every commercial and public sector in Guyana. Whether agriculture, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, entertainment, transportation, healthcare, education, or other industry–every single industry in Guyana will require creators and innovators to help them grow, develop and become more globally competitive. Guyana must develop the local capacity to move these industries into world-class producers for a global marketplace.
Today, Guyana simply does not produce enough high quality, highly skilled workers to meet the future demands of her rapidly developing economy and one thing is certain, if the talent is not available in Guyana, both local and multinational companies will import talent from around the world. Education institutions in Guyana will have to tailor their programs to meet the needs of Guyana’s economy, and tertiary level institutions like the University of Guyana have already begun the process, making more important the role of institutions like STEMGuyana which focus on the STEM education of primary and secondary school students.
While our school system must continue to focus on improving student outcomes for rapidly increasing numbers of struggling students especially those affected by the COVID pandemic, institutions like STEMGuyana serve as a compliment, not a competitor, to the traditional education system by pushing more students through the technology pipeline, by engaging students in STEM education early, and by educating, motivating and inspiring our nation’s young people to be innovators in the STEM field.
In Guyana, there is still much uncertainty about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), but most of the countries in the world are pretty clear about STEM’s benefits and they are investing in their young people to prepare them for the future. Following are only a few reasons why STEM is important–STEM jobs are the future of our economy, STEM teaches critical thinking and innovation, STEM classes provide unique opportunities for teamwork, A STEM curriculum helps students develop project management skills, and recent events in Guyana (and around the world) have only made technology skills more important.
According to UNESCO, “Capacity in science and technology is a key element in economic and social development. Promoting science education at all educational levels, and scientific literacy in society in general, is a fundamental building block to building a country’s capacity in science and technology.”
In Guyana, we must support any effort to integrate portions of the traditional education curriculum with technology. STEMGuyana has worked to integrate more than 1300 traditional Maths, Science and English–grades 1 to grades 10 lessons with technology and feedback from the learning pods program in which the curriculum was introduced indicates higher levels of student engagement and educational outcomes. More of Guyana’s students could benefit significantly when the Learning Pods program is expanded into a national afterschool program. The program is already being tested as an afterschool program in some regions of Guyana. These are the kinds of synergies that are needed to improve the career prospects of thousands of vulnerable children affected by structural poverty, unequal schools and nearly two years of the pandemic.
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“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle