I respond to the main thesis proposed by Emeritus Professor Dr. Muniram Budhu in his May 15 letter to SN “The government’s intention to transform education must answer several fundamental questions” regarding the use of the windfall benefits of oil and gas boom to transform education in Guyana. The professor speaks forcefully of the need for a new direction in education that would lead to a transformational experience in different areas of life in our country.
In supporting Dr. Budhu, Dr. Ganga Das refers to creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving as elements typically missing from our overall education plan. And, in the past few days, other thinkers, like Dr. Vishnu Bisram and Dr. Tara Singh, have come forward in favor of this new direction in education. Reading all of these ideas brings joy to my mind, as we have been locked in for decades by the politics and educational practices developed by our colonial masters.
Now that oil and gas bring the potential for expanding trade, tourism and diplomatic relations with countries in Latin America, Brazil, Suriname, the Middle East, the Caribbean and with India and China, there is an urgent call on social and print media for the establishment of a Foreign Language Institute (FLI) in Guyana that can train young minds to communicate in Portuguese, French, Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Native American , Spanish and other similar languages.
Such an institute, if well managed, can have an impact on creating the cadre of qualified linguists that we need in Guyana. Like the French parallel language institute called Alliance Française, the Language Institute of Guyana should ideally have autonomy to decide on its program. If, however, such autonomy is not feasible, it could be managed jointly by a board of directors made up of both the private and public sectors. To accommodate increased student enrollment, classes can be in-person or virtual.
Students should be encouraged to apply and be considered eligible to take advantage of GOAL scholarships offered by the government. This will allow them to improve their skills in various linguistic disciplines. Their subsequent placement in the country’s workforce will help bring the transformational experience that Dr. Budhu et al. have spoken. In proposing a new vision for education, the professor and others pointed to the failures of the American education system, in which students, especially in inner-city high schools, pay little attention to math, science and foreign languages.
Immigrant students from countries like Bangladesh, India, China, etc. are those who excel in these areas when they come to the United States to live and study. I witnessed this fact first hand when I was a foreign language teacher at the New York City Department of Education. The results of students in the United States tell a very sad story. Let’s take these results from students in the United States as a warning to us in Guyana.
Doctor Satish Prakash
Maharshi Dayananda Gurukula
United States and Guyana