–in quest to revive interest in learning foreign languages
THE University of Guyana (UG) is on a mission to revitalise foreign languages in the country for the benefit of the business and other sectors and to this end commenced a week-long consultation seminar on the matter.
The consultation is focussed on enhancing and developing language programmes at the university, and began Monday at the Education Lecture Theatre at the Turkeyen campus.
Present were stakeholders from the Ministries of Education, Social Cohesion and Foreign Affairs; representatives from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and Deans of faculties, lecturers and other overseas participants.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith in his opening remarks made the telling observation that Guyana will continue to limit its options development-wise, if it does not extend its linguistic domain to include the rest of the world.
He stated that many opportunities for business relations lie not only in the recent influx of foreigners to the country, but with Guyana’s continental neighbours and those who have assisted in the past.
“This is a world in which Russian and Chinese investments are significant in Guyana. This is a world in which the perimeters for education and economic development with Brazil are grand,” Dr Griffith said, adding:
“We have market potential; cultural connection potential with the rest of South America. This is a world in which we are limiting ourselves if we limit ourselves to English.”
Over the years, the university itself has seen a significant decline in enrollment to the foreign language programmes, the impact of which is reflected in the diminishing number of Guyanese that are functional in one or more foreign languages.
Asked later about the private sector’s response to the programme, Dr Griffith told the Guyana Chronicle that as far as he knows, the Americas Bankers Association has commended the university for recently making it mandatory that students of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) be functional in a second language before they can graduate.
In addition, Guyana’s geographical location as the only English-speaking country in South America presents several opportunities for the university, which, through the consultation, intends to design and develop a curriculum for English as a second language.
This means that non-English-speaking foreigners, including students and business professionals, will have the opportunity of learning English and in return allow the university to gain financially.
Added to this, the consultation also seeks to design and develop curricula for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dutch and Mandarin.
Minister of Education Nicolette Henry, who commended the institution on its initiative to revive foreign languages in the county, asked that special interest be placed on teachers as a main target group, so as to ensure that children become familiar with bilingualism from an early age.
“It is my view that enhancing and developing the language programmes will assist in supporting our teachers in taking up modern and foreign languages,” she said, adding:
“The Government of Guyana is 100 per cent committed to restoring languages to their rightful place in the school curriculum.”
The consultation meeting also seeks to develop a framework for support of language development from primary through tertiary levels, and to review and update present curricula for French, Spanish and Portuguese programmes.
Apart from the foregoing objectives, Minister Henry spoke on the benefits of being able to communicate in multiple languages, which she agrees adds value to conducting business on the global scale.
Even as the Government seeks to provide 21st century level education to its citizens, Henry says that the education system must support learners of all ages to become global citizens and to thrive in the modern economy.
“We certainly need a paradigm shift around language leaning here in Guyana and I believe that the University of Guyana is well position to lead and, perhaps, is the ideal change agent,” she said, adding:
“For this to happen, our education providers and employers must work to increase awareness of the importance of gaining proficiencies in foreign languages.”
Throughout the consultation, participants will provide feedback on the aforementioned matters which will lead to the university’s implementation of a robust foreign language programme in the 2018-2019 academic year.