Foreign languages are essential for Guyana as a global oil country
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Dear Editor,
THE transformational aspects in Dr Muniram Budhu’s letter in SN May 15, 2022 should be followed up as a guide for implementing changes in our secondary and tertiary levels of education. The existing education plan could be examined for missing elements, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving that are essential in a curriculum. These elements are infused at the tertiary level in assessment rubrics under the more generalised ‘levels of learning’ that range from observational data, data analysis, conceptual modelling, and evaluation. The poor results in the STEM programme among US students who were assessed using the programme for International Student Assessment could hardly be blamed on the three ‘missing elements.’

The low overall test results in 2001 and in 2010 could be blamed on the disparities in resources available in inner-city high schools versus suburban high schools, both in terms of quantity and quality. These resource gaps would need further research to help policy makers make improvements to the overall curriculum and its implementation.  One may find that suburban schools outperform their inner-city counterparts. Low-income versus middle-income disparities within and between educational districts may be a second potent force explaining the relatively low scores.

Dr Budhu’s letter could also guide policy-making at the tertiary educational level. One area that could be added to the three elements of critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving is foreign language and culture as the composition of the labour force becomes culturally diverse.

The mastery of any foreign language, including computer languages, involves ‘parsing and analysis’ into the elements of that language.  In Guyana’s case, some students benefited from learning Latin. In addition to vocabulary in reading, there were the benefits of understanding how sentence structures were developed, with the level of details required to separate and combine words, indeed beyond mere memory and recall. The analysis of word strings and their conformity with grammatical rules are just as important as in computer data structures.

I support Dr Budhu’s suggestion that our languages curriculum could be enhanced with such languages as ‘Sanskrit (Samskritam), an ancient Indian language, and mother of the Indo-European family of languages which include English,’ to which I would add our own ancient Amerindian languages.

Anecdotally, I attended an Anthropology Conference in Western Pennsylvania where a brand new language was developed at the Assembly’s general session using three sounds and two gestures. We exited the hall babbling.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Ganga Persad Ramdas, PhD, MA, MS

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