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Education Minister Hon. Rachel Taylor's Full Ministerial Speech

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning both pleased and excited to present to this House, my Ministerial Statement representing an update on the progress my Ministry.

Mr. Speaker it was with great privilege and honour, that the Ministry of Education hosted the Opening Ceremony of the UWI Meeting of the Technical and the Advisory Committees this Tuesday, March 8th 2022. This meeting entailed all the contributing members, that is the Governments of the English Speaking Caribbean who met to explore resilient and sustainable strategies to continue to fund UWI but more importantly to ensure continued access to Tertiary Education for our people.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to note that our guest speaker for this event was our very own Premier, Hon. Charles Washington Missick, whom delivered a riveting speech, in which he challenged the Governments of the region to ensure sustainable financing of our Education Sector the cornerstone of economic development, as we are currently doing here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This event Mr. Speaker, prevented my attendance at the TCI Women Parliamentarian International Women’s Day Workshop. Congratulations to Mrs. Tracey, Hon. Akierra and the team for such initiative to encourage our women.

Education Week 2022

Mr. Speaker, Education Week 2020 commenced on Sunday, March 6th and will conclude on Friday, March 11th 2022 under the theme, ‘Success for Every Learner’. Mr. Speaker, the week commenced with Ecumenical Services across the country, giving God thanks and praise for his many blessings.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my honorable colleagues and the general public to join us for the rest of our celebrations. Mr. Speaker, let us continue to pray for teachers, students and parents for God’s favour toward the people of this country and to seek his face for the journey ahead.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, 7th March, Mr. Speaker, FortisTCI, a longstanding partner of the Ministry of Education, hosted Virtual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Workshops for our teachers in primary and secondary schools. FortisTCI is committed to assisting teachers improve their craft by STEM strategies in their instructional delivery. Mr. Speaker, our teachers were exposed to topics such as, Principles and Practice of STEM Education, Inquiry Based Pedagogies for Stem Learning, and Technology for STEM Learning.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday afternoon, there was a symposium where the theme Success for Every Learner was treated in greater depth. The symposium begun with a keynote address given by Dr Carlton Mills and followed by a panel discussion. Mr. Speaker, attending this Symposium, highlighted the gaps in education and provided an opportunity to highlight where we are in our roadmap to quality education in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Mr. Speaker, one of the original objectives behind Education Week was to provide opportunities for the public to see what students are learning in schools. On Tuesday, 8th February, the Ministry of Education hosted a TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Day titled “TVET: Skills in Action” at the Gustarvus Lightbourne Sports Complex. The purpose of this exercise was to bring attention to the strides being made locally to ingrain TVET into the fabric of the educational experiences that we provide to students.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the main activities, individual schools across the country continue to host their in-house events. We encourage parents to look out for the activities at their children’s schools as an important feature of the school level activities will be the recognition of the academic and co-curricular success of our students despite the challenges they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Week concludes on the Friday, 11th February – Teacher’s Day. Mr Speaker, consider this quote from Donald D. Quinn, “ If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at the same time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer or dentist, without assistance had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

Mr. Speaker, Teachers are this world’s unsung heroes. As a former teacher, I am encouraging every resident of this country to remember a teacher or that special teacher who made a difference in your life; the teacher who helped you become the successful individual that you are today and send him/her or them a shout out and token of appreciation.

Mr. Speaker, I commend three of our children at the Precious Treasures International school who placed in the top 20 students in the region in the 2020 Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) Short Story Writing Competition. Malik Forsy placed 5th for his short story entitled “Chronicles of a Grenadian American Boy in the Turks and Caicos Islands.” Kavya Mirwani, placed 12th for the short story entitled “Hannah’s Adventurous Christmas Holiday.” Jadon Harvey placed 18th for the short story entitled “The Harvey’s Survival Against Hurricane Irma.” The short story competition is an annual competition open to students participating in the CPEA programme.

Mr. Speaker, our work is to prepare our children and young people for their future roles and stations in life.

Library Service

Mr. Speaker, The Turks and Caicos Library Service had a relatively quiet start to the new year, however there are signs that they may soon return to the level of patronage experienced prior to the pandemic. With schools resuming face to face classes for majority of the students, the Library staff is confident that the children who have been their main users will return.

Some of the highlights since the start of this calendar year are as follows;

  • Mounting of displays on topical issues or International observances. These include Earthquake awareness month in January and Black History month during the month of February;

  • Hosting of a Black History Month Essay competition for Children at the Primary School level which is continued throughout the entire month of February;

  • An announcement was made about the identification of an alternate location for the South Caicos Public Library. However, in the interim, refurbishment work has started to create more space in order to expand the services offered at the present location at the old Treasury building on that island;

  • A space was also identified to be retrofitted and refurbished to accommodate the Providenciales Public Library; and

  • Effective April 4, 2022 the Library Service will expand its daily opening hours by half an hour.

The new hours will therefore be: Mondays – Thursdays: 8:30 am – 5: 00 pm

Fridays: 8:30 am – 4: 00 pm. The Library Service will also be resuming Saturday openings from 12:00 noon- 4:00pm during that first week of April.

The Commonwealth Games Queen Baton

The Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton will be in the Turks and Caicos Islands from April 6-8, 2022 as part of its epic journey to 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth, containing the Queen’s Message for the Athletes of the 22nd Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham, United Kingdom 28 July - 8 August 2022.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is a Games tradition that celebrates, connects and excites communities from across the Commonwealth during the build up to the Games.

To commemorate the Turks and Caicos’ arrival, billboards were unveiled on every inhabited island simultaneously, at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday 1st March 2022. This unveiling kicks off to the local media interest and awareness drive for the entire month of March, until the Baton’s arrival.

The Baton will arrive at the Providenciales International Airport at 10:55 a.m.via Inter Caribbean Airways JY271 from the Bahamas and will be met by H.E. The Governor, H.E. Deputy Governor, Honourable Premier, Minister of Sports, Minister of Tourism, Leader of the Opposition, other Dignitaries, President of the CGA and Executive Members, who will receive the Baton. Members of the Media as well as school children, civic organizations and residents will be in attendance.

Scholarship Policy

Mr. Speaker, Malcolm X stated that “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I can say that education is vital to building a strong and successful society for all Turks and Caicos Islanders. Our Education System performs well overall and in global terms, and it must if the youth of this country are to be equipped with the values, knowledge and skills to be successful in the 21st Century. Our Government is committed to raising achievement for all our students.

Mr. Speaker, it is our Government’s belief that children and their future should be put first, that they should be the primary beneficiaries of an Education System that engenders confidence and trust. Our Government believes that all children from all walks of life are entitled to a high-quality education and the advantages which come along with it.

Mr. Speaker the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals states that by 2030, our nations should ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.

Mr. Speaker, the UN Sustainable Development Goals also states that by 2030, nations should work towards eliminating gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations. Mr. Speaker, this Government is on the path to bridging that gap.

Mr. Speaker, the revision of the Scholarship Policy is now completed and the final draft has been approved in Cabinet on March 2nd 2021. My Ministry has expanded the areas and level of financial assistance to give more Turks and Caicos Islanders the chance to pursue their dreams of becoming all that they can be, while pursuing areas of study which are relevant to the National Human Resource Development Plan of this country.

Mr. Speaker, this revision included mature students, students from the Cadets, and students from all socio-economic backgrounds. It is the Ministry’s intent to make scholarships accessible to all eligible scholars, thus improving the lives of every Turks and Caicos Islander.

Mr. Speaker, the revised 2022 Scholarship Policy also captures inclusive measures for persons with Special Needs for the first time in Turks and Caicos Islands history, to be beneficences of scholarships for Tertiary Education Studies. The Scholarship Policy will also assist our more vulnerable members of society facing economic hardships. We have created a special scholarship category called “TCI Hope Award” which will target awarding scholarship to vulnerable students, coming from low income families.

Mr. Speaker, our team from the Education, Labour and the Scholarship Unit has mapped out a Scholarship Education PR and immediately following Education Week, we will be visiting all high schools, attending many PTAs and using the various media platforms to ensure that the Scholarship Policy is communicated to the people of this country in an effort to ensure greater understanding of its content. The policy is now uploaded to our Scholarship Unit website page and individuals are reminded of the deadline for submissions which is April 30th 2022.

Mr. Speaker, our government is determined to carefully prioritize education with our main focus to lifting Educational Standards to empower our young people and strengthen our economy.

Turks and Caicos Islands Community College

Mr. Speaker, Tertiary Education is a passport to success in our society. It provides Turks and Caicos Islanders and other residents alike, with the skills and knowledge they need to live sustainable and rewarding lives and, in turn, drive stronger economic growth and prosperity.

As the Premier stated in his speech at the TAC UWI Meeting we are aware that the TCI Human Development Index (HDI) measured in terms of its social and human capital development has not kept pace with economic growth. The strategic focus of the current government and my Ministry, is one that has placed human capital development at the very top of its priorities.

Mr. Speaker, with the need to improve institutional governance and rethink the business model at the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College (TCICC), the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College has embarked on an organizational review exercise that commenced during the month of December 2021 and is expected to be completed during late April early May 2022.

Mr. Speaker, critical components of the review methodology included site visits and interface with those who work and learn in the TCI Community College environment. Mr. Speaker, in this regard, a team comprising of local lead Consultant, Dr. Barbara Ambrister supported by visiting consultants Dr. Allister Hinds and Dr. Ian Boxill of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, had a vigorous three-day consultative agenda during the period February 28 to March 2, 2022.

This engagement was designed to provide an opportunity to engage one on one with key stakeholders, ranging from policy makers, the Board of Governors, industry representatives, administrators, lecturers and above all, current and past students.

The objectives of the consultancy are to review and evaluate the following areas and recommend changes where appropriate:

  • The TCICC Organizational Structure to determine whether the design is appropriate/efficient to achieve the medium and long-term objectives of the Government;

  • The roles, responsibilities, qualifications, and performance of managers/teaching staff, to ensure efficiency;

  • The manager to employee ratio to determine if it is appropriate; and

  • The operational policies, protocols, procedures of the College and determine if they are effective and or appropriate and make recommendation of gaps which need to be addressed to strengthen the governance and Management System at TCICC.

We look forward to receiving the final draft of the review, as we work together to strengthen the Governance System in an effort to improve the management efficiency and productivity of the institution.

TCICC Nursing Program

Mr. Speaker, I again turn my attention to our objective of quality education and as a response to the Nursing needs of the Ministry of Health and the ongoing need by the Inter-health Canada Hospital, conceptualizing the program to meet the need of the country was appropriate.

Mr. Speaker, The Ministry of Health has reached out to PAHO and working with North Carolina University of North Carolina. Plans are afoot for experts from the University to visit and conduct quality assurance review of the program as well as the practicum with a view to advise on immediate steps to be taken to strengthen the program. Mr. Speaker, that visit will commence this month of March 2022.

Mr. Speaker TCICC has updated and revamp the curriculum and program schedule, and has developed a Praticum Manual which outlines the learning objectives and targets in anticipation of the proposed visit by the representative from North Carolina University.

Mr. Speaker, TCICC’s revised Nursing programme content and duration is akin to an Associate’s Degree in Nursing and will be three years from entry to completion, inclusive of a one-year Practicum. It was noted that while Associates in Nursing exist in the region, there are but a few of them, given that the regional standard is now a four year B.Sc. programme.

Mr. Speaker, to satisfy this criteria, the approach adopted by many institutions is to have extended the matriculation/enrollment of their Associates Nursing students into the four year B.Sc. programme. Given the importance of portability and comparable standards, Mr. Speaker, this option will also be a matter of discussion with technical experts for the TCICC. Mr. Speaker, it is critical that we broaden our affiliations with highly accredited universities and in so doing the Ministry has reached out to the UWI Faculty of Medicine to provide technical support with the expectation that this collaboration will lead towards having the nursing program accredited.

In light of this Mr. Speaker, Cabinet at its meeting on March 2nd approved for the Ministry of Eduction to transfer savings in the sum of $108,000 to TCICC. Mr. Speaker, Cabinet also gave approval for TCICC to use identified savings in the sum of $108,000 as match funding and together with the allocation provided by the Ministry to be paid to the ten (10) nursing students as stipend, as they undergo their practical studies at InterHealth Canada. Mr. Speaker, this practicum will commence on April 1st 2022.

Technical Vocational Education Training

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform you that the first cohort of TVET students have completed their first theory and practical examinations during the month of February 2022, in collaboration with Hearts Trust of Jamaica. Mr. Speaker, as we continue to strengthen the program and partner with other regional entities, we are please to inform this house that the President of Bahamas Technical Vocational Institute (BTVI) Dr. Robert Robertson and Dean of Construction Trades and Workforce Development- Mr. Alexander Darville, will be travelling to the Turks and Caicos Islands next week, March 15th to 17th. The objectives being to view the existing program and share ideas for greater partnership in strengthening the number of TVET programs in alignment with the country needs.

Access to Tertiary Education

Mr. Speaker, in 2020, the Ministry conducted a rapid assessment to analyze and determine the number of students graduating from Secondary Schools that went on to tertiary level studies. Of the 411 students who completed Secondary Schools in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2019/20, 34% (120 students) attained five or more CXC or external examination passes in academic or technical vocational subjects, thus making them eligible to continue their studies in a Tertiary Institution on Island or overseas. Of this, Mr. Speaker, only 13% (49 students) with five or more external examination passes had enrolled in a post-secondary or tertiary institution for further educational studies.

Mr. Speaker, an alarming 308 students were found to be either working or recorded as status unknown, but not attending any post-secondary or tertiary institutions. Mr. Speaker, this represents 85% of the graduating cohort that were potentially entering the workforce directly after high school with only a high school diploma or certificate.

If this trend continues Mr. Speaker, it would be very difficult for the Turks and Caicos Islands to achieve sustainable economic development and for the benefits of such development to be realized by the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Mr. Speaker, while it is important to facilitate locals being employed, and attaining the necessary skill sets, it is equally important to ensure that the Government does not unintentionally create a scenario in which young men and women are functionally disadvantaged in the workforce due to not having the necessary academic and skills training to complement the workforce requirement.

We understand clearly, that the key to a prosperous Turks and Caicos Islands is in the hands of the young generation. The youths constitute a major component of the country’s human capital and if we make meaningful investment in their education, both in academia and Technical Vocational Education, to build their skills, they will be the dynamic drivers of poverty reduction, through long term economic growth that create more employment. Increasing employability of the youths through investment in education and job creation can provide massive returns and a sustainable economic driver.

Mr. Speaker, I will also like to inform the people of this country that the draft Population Policy highlights that there is a significant number of our students of BOTC citizens that are not provided an opportunity to access tertiary education and those that have self-finance their studies, are not returning home. Mr. Speaker, the report went on to make the point that the Government need to provide access to tertiary education so that these groups of students can make a meaningful contribution to the development of the country and fill the labour force gap which currently exists.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize also that there is need for greater clarity in the process of naturalization of young people who were born in TCI of non-Belonger parents.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding, as a result of the cost of tuition both locally and internationally, many of our Turks and Caicos Island & BOTC students are forced to make the hard decision of working, to help support their family and or to cover pay tuition at the TCICC and other institutions.

Mr. Speaker, in light of the above scenarios this caring government, in line with the People’s Plan for this country has approved at its Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday, March 2nd approved Tuition-Free Access for any Turks and Caicos Islander and BOTC student to enroll at the TCICC to study any program of choice, FREE, effective September 2022.

Mr. Speaker, when I say students, I am not refereeing to the traditional young-adult, I mean EVRYBODY, the young, and the mature adults. If you are age 60 or evand want to enhance your skills in baking, we will have a course for you. If you want your degree while you are working to facilitate upward mobility in the job-place, go and register at the TCICC.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to put in the necessary resources, and infrastructure overtime to transform the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College to become a premier destination for our people to study, but also a premier Institution in the region attracting students globally to study Tourism, and Hospitality Management. Mr. Speaker, when it comes to Tourism, we are second to non-other in the region, and as such it is only fitting that we transform the TCICC to become the Premier college / University to study tourism and hospitality.

The Turks and Caicos Islands Government is committed to investing in Educating our people. We are spending upwards of 14% on its budget on education, youth and sports and about a quarter of that funding (22%) is spent on tertiary learning.

Today, I stand here, reaffirming my Government’s commitment to ensure meaningful and direct participation of the youth in shaping and giving effect to our development agenda.

May God continue to bless the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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