by Linda Straker
Caricom as a region needs to focus more on the areas of Research and Development as well as Science and Technology, as part of its strategy for the future development of its member states.
“We undoubtedly have a major challenge here. But find we must, a way, innovative as it may be, to overcome this challenge. Inadequate expenditure on R&D has been for too long, our greatest obstacle to development in the region, and we must now make investment in R&D a top priority in our region,” said Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell when he delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of a High Level Conference Organized by CARICOM Science, Technology and Innovation Committee.
Dr Mitchell, who is responsible for Science and Technology within Caricom, said that the Committee was launched out of his conviction that today’s world is more and more driven by Science and Technology, than at any other time in the history of mankind.
“And that we, here in the Caribbean, therefore have no choice, if we are to successfully navigate our way, but to further promote the development of Science and Technology and do so aggressively and with urgency, so that it can assist with the socio-economic development of our people, as it has done and continues to do for the people of so many countries including, USA, Japan, and more recently Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, and many other developed and developing countries,” he told the participants, which comprised of persons in key institutions and organizations involved in the areas of science and innovation.
He said that inadequate expenditure in the area of research and development has been, for too long the region’s greatest obstacle, and it should become a top priority because data is showing that countries that are spending more in that area are developing faster in innovation.
“We have no choice if we are going to ensure a secure future. This is a challenge, not only for governments, but also our private sector which must be more proactive and willing to go beyond mercantile boundaries. The well-being of our region depends on a greater focus on S&T and a greater investment in R&D,” he said, as he called for the region to be more efficient and competitive, to make greater use of Information and Communication Technology.
Prime Minister Mitchell said that Caricom needs to make science education an area of focus, both in content and mode of delivery, and to make it attractive to our young curious minds and link it to technology and innovation.
He also believes that the formation of a science teachers association will bring great rewards. “We need to establish, as soon as possible, National Science Teachers Associations in all CARICOM countries, to act as an effective link between our schools and the scientific organizations, to ensure, inter alia, that our students are exposed to frontier areas of science,” he said.
Dr Mitchell also wants the region to look at some of the best practices in other jurisdictions. “We must, at the same time, look at best practices in science education in high performing countries such as Finland, Singapore and Hong Kong. In this highly competitive globalized world, we must go beyond the narrow confines of our region in making a comparison of performances in schools,” he said.
The conference, which ends on Saturday, is a joint initiative involving the CARICOM Science, Technology and Innovation Committee and the CARISCIENCE, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean and TWAS Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.