Panama is seeking to strengthen cooperation with Barbados by creating linkages in the area of education.
This was expressed today as Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, and officials of his Ministry met with Panama’s Minister of Education, Marcela Paredes de Vásquez, and her delegation, on the margins of the 36th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.
“We want to strengthen our relationship through education by the training in English of our teachers, as part of an important programme in our country, called ‘Panama Bilingual’ or ‘Bilingual Panama’.
“That is [about] making our education in the public schools bilingual and letting our students from the official sector learn English and use English as a way to open new opportunities for them to develop as persons, and also contribute to developing our country.
“On the other hand, we are looking to Barbados for the training of our students who are finishing high school in English and the hospitality industry. Panama has many goals to develop a stronger tourism industry, and Barbados has the experience and the language in which it is strategic for our country to develop this industry,” Ms. Paredes de Vásquez stated.
The Panamanian official further explained that her country hoped to send 10,000 teachers to some English-speaking countries for an immersion programme in English. Stating that the United States, United Kingdom and Canada were already participating, she said that it was expected that training in Barbados would also be realised.
Ms. Paredes de Vásquez noted that less than 15 per cent of Panama’s population was proficient in English, and it was strategic that they learn the language given its importance in commerce, business and science.
Disclosing that talks between her delegation and the University of the West Indies had been fruitful, she said the Department of Education in the Faculty of Humanities had indicated that the programmes could be developed. She added that she hoped the courses in Barbados would start by January next year, with an initial number of 40 Panamanian teachers and students.
In welcoming the cooperation, Barbados’ Education Minister said it gave both countries an opportunity to cement their relationship, which began over 100 years ago when Barbadians travelled to Panama to build, first the Panama Canal, and by extension, the wider Panamanian economy.
Assuring his Panamanian counterparts that training opportunities could also be derived from the Barbados Community College and Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Mr. Jones stated: “Working together again is really nothing new for us, and we like to, in fact, cooperate within the area of education with other countries….
“But more important is to have our teachers, our professors cross-fertilise as they develop skills and other attributes, while also learning the language. The bilingual programme of Panama; … that will also help Barbados. And, out of this, we can see a more rapid expansion of that dual language impetus that we truly want.”
Minister Jones assured his Panamanian counterpart that the programmes required to start in January would commence, and stressed that the necessary agreements to facilitate their smooth transition would be put in place.