The Right Honourable Percival Patterson, former and longest serving Prime Minister of Jamaica and a resilient proponent of regional integration in a speech at a function honouring him reminded us that “the challenges which we face oblige us, not just out of a question of sentiment, but of shared necessity, to pool our collective strengths and combine all our resources in the development of the Caribbean to which we all belong”.
This reminder could not come at a more timely moment when the regional integration movement is virtually comatose, when our political and administrative will is most enfeebled and our vision has moved from the long-sightedness of our post-colonial leaders to the short-sightedness of our current insularist ambitions.
Regional unity and integration – in a global environment characterized by uncertainty, crisis and meltdown – is the surest and simplest answer to the question of survival. If ever there was a time when 1 + 1 = 11; this is it. Unity at the regional level is more than the sum of our fears or our nationalist prejudices – it is the exponentiation of our strengths. It is more than the aggregation of our capabilities; it is the multiplication of our potential.
This is not fancy talk – it is the arithmetic of reality. The Caribbean Examinations Council has over the past 30 odd years proven that working together, leveraging the intellectual capacity of 19 countries we can produce world class certification and a harmonization of upper secondary education that gives us access to the best avenues of higher education anywhere.
Imagine the possibilities of an expanded regional project in education alone… a replacement of the dreaded Common Entrance or GSAT Exam with a form of assessment which helps to guarantee that every child leaving primary school has mastered the core competencies necessary to perform successfully at secondary and beyond. Imagine that and you have the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment.
Imagine the possibilities of teachers in every subject area across the entire Caribbean, working seamlessly, sharing lesson plans and study notes, working in teams unimpeded by the dividing waters of the Caribbean Sea and creating a huge open source body of material for students in classrooms everywhere across the Caribbean and in the Diaspora. That learning content is interactive, dynamic, and audio-visual and can be shared with learners at the same level in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Imagine that and you have the new version of Notesmaster (2.3).
Imagine the possibilities of Ministries of Education twinning with each other and staff at each level interacting with their counterparts, sharing knowledge and expertise, and enriching their own environments with the lessons and experiences of their colleagues in other parts of the Caribbean village. Imagine that and you can visualize what the exchange between the Ministries of Education in St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines achieved (see SLU-SVG Exchange Report at http://www.oecs.org/oeru/publications/cat_view/29-education-reform/72-re…)
The harder times get internationally, the less we can depend on external Godfathers to provide aid and assistance. The faster we come to the realization that pooling our resources, combining our capabilities and converging our institutions is the only way to survive; the quicker we will begin to thrive. We are far greater than the sum of our fear and our insecurity; we are the aggregation of our potential and our possibility.