Towards prioritising tech in education
The 2023/2024 academic year starts on September 4. (Photo: Joseph wellington)

Technology has been a godsend for parents and children. Toddlers can be seen reading, singing along, and doing simple arithmetic via games before they even begin preschool.

As we hear parents complaining about the expensive booklists to get their children ready for "September morning", we believe that more textbooks should be available online, although we understand that some workbooks may still have to be bought.

We welcome the news from Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams that her ministry will be holding sensitisation sessions to promote greater use of e-books. She posted on social media, "The biggest advantage of e-textbooks is the ability to include videos, animations, and simulations to help students understand complex concepts and make learning more fun."

This sent me back to a lecture in 2017 by Edie Weiner, founder and CEO of Future Hunters. I share here revised excerpts from my column in April 2017 on her look at education.

Weiner turned to the hot topic of education, reminding us that the brain grows fastest before the age of three and that it is ridiculous that after being exposed to iPads and smartphones children are then taken to schools that are still using the same system that was designed for their grandparents. This was actually quoted at the finale of the Education Enrichment Programme, which, with the support of the then Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; USAID; and the Digicel Foundation, covered 104 schools, improving the literacy and numeracy of 43,000 primary school students.

The enrichment centres in 43 schools, which are heavy on information technology and bright visuals, particularly attractive to boys, have turned unenthusiastic students into high achievers. This was reinforced by Weiner as she demonstrated the difference between the way that male and female brains develop and what stimulates this development.

Weiner predicted a dramatic transformation in the delivery of education. According to her, information technology will make education available to millions in experiential forms. Therefore, she says, "critical thinking is the most important thing we can teach our young people".

She says that all of this recent technology is creating disruption. "In future," she says, "no one will be paying for 'smart', only 'intelligent'. This is the kind of intelligence that will enable you to figure out things that you have never seen before."

She suggested that university students should not major in any one thing but take multi-disciplinary courses and challenge themselves to see the connection. The Antiguan student who sat all 26 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects seems to have been on the right track.

While we need to limit the time our children spend on gaming, we should note that there is a brand new category of sports called e-sports. Wiener said that video games are evolving into competitive events, one of which was held in California, attracting 35 million online viewers. She said that universities will shortly be recruiting students who excel at e-sports for their teams.

IGT's After School Advantage Programme, Digicel Foundation, and NCB Foundation this summer sponsored coding and robotics camps, gearing our children to make the best use of technology, learning how to create websites and apps that can create a better planet.

Let us allow our children to transition to the new school term, making use of technology to give them the best chance at navigating this Fourth Industrial Revolution described thus by the World Economic Forum (WEF): "The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work, and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril."

"The speed, breadth, and depth of this revolution is forcing us to rethink how countries develop, how organisations create value, and even what it means to be human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity to help everyone, including leaders, policymakers, and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centred future. The real opportunity is to look beyond technology and find ways to give the greatest number of people the ability to positively impact their families, organisations, and communities."

The gift of technology is that regardless of the size of one's country, the tools are there to help us stand shoulder to shoulder with leading professionals anywhere in the world. Let us seize the day.

Running for worthy causes

MBJ/TEAMSANGSTER 2022 5K winners Brandon Kerr (left) and Danielle Terrier

MBJ Airports Limited/Team Sangster raised $4.5 million last year from their run-walk, which went in entirety to academic grants for primary, secondary, and tertiary students. They are back again on Sunday, September 10, with generous sponsors stepping up to give great prizes: airline tickets from JetBlue, Spirit, and Virgin airlines; as well as weekend stays at Couples Resorts, Hyatt, Hilton, Zoetry, and S Hotel; and day passes at Royalton Luxury Resorts. Additional prizes include Chukka Adventure Tour excursions; tablets from Digicel; gift baskets from Tortuga, Reggae Mart, and CPJ; and gifts from the Airports Authority of Jamaica and MBJ Airports Limited. Participants will be refreshed after the race with breakfast, courtesy of Express Catering Limited, Goddard Catering Group, VIP Attractions Limited, and CPJ beverage station and will also be able to enjoy an after-race massage.

Deadline for registration is this Wednesday, September 6. The fee is $2,000 for adults and $1,500 for children. Participants will have the option to register for a 5/10K run or 5K walk, which will run from the commercial pickup area at the Sangster International Airport to Flanker/Whitehouse.

Meanwhile, Bert's Auto Parts has partnered with Food For the Poor Jamaica in its 4oth anniversary Build Back the Love house-building programme. The Build with Bert's 5K will be held on Sunday, October 1 at Emancipation Park, with the target of US$49,000, the cost of building 10 houses.

Marketing Manager Waynette Strachan noted that the company has been giving back over the years in appreciation of the support from their fellow Jamaicans. I can attest to that as Bert's is a kind discount partner of CCRP.

Andrea Williams-McKenzie honoured with CBE

King Charles converses with Andrea Williams-McKenzie, CBE after her investiture.

Our family was delighted to learn that Andrea Williams-McKenzie was invested with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by King Charles III earlier this year at Windsor Castle.

A human resource development specialist, Williams-McKenzie has led significant projects for the Government. One of the most challenging was leading the workforce planning, resourcing, and training to support all UK borders for the 2012 Olympics, an unqualified success.

Williams-McKenzie volunteers widely. She was a school foundation governor for her church parish, chair of governors for the parish Roman Catholic primary school, and a Eucharistic minister. She has been volunteering at the winter homeless shelter and in other community activities.

Williams-McKenzie has joined the ranks of famous individuals who have been invested with the CBE, such as Stephen Hawking, Harold Pinter, Hugh Laurie, Jonny Wilkinson, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Heartiest congratulations to you, Andrea!

Jean Lowrie-Chin is executive chair of PROComm and CCRP. Send comments to

Jean Lowrie-Chin

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