Education - An Essential Investment

A Message from His Excellency Charles A. Savarin, DAH
President of the Commonwealth of Dominica

I have always strongly supported the view that Education is indeed an essential investment. As a former teacher and a former General Secretary of the Civil Service Association (now Dominica Public Service Union), I had many opportunities to interact with teachers on their conditions of work at school and to negotiate on their behalf for better conditions and improved salary for the work they did.

My motivation, in the above mentioned capacities, was driven by the recognition that education plays a major role in the life of everyone from the cradle to the grave. In fact, I am still convinced that education is a powerful tool capable of solving the many social and developmental challenges confronting Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Education is more than an opportunity to get good jobs, it also enables us to know how to be healthy and fit, to care for the environment, to behave well to others, to tackle all challenges of life, to analyze situations and distinguish right from wrong.

No one can deny the fact that Education is very important to live a fulfilling and better life. In fact "Education is referred to as the key to success." It gives us knowledge of the world around us, while opening doors to brilliant career opportunities. Education builds confidence to make decision, to face life and to accept successes and failures. It is the fundamental right of every citizen of our land and it is capable of bringing about the desired change and upliftment in the human mind and society.

Education is not about only gaining certificates. It is also about learning the ways to be happy, learning the way to keep others happy, learning the way to live in society, learning the way to tackle challenges, learning the way to help others, learning the way to care for others, and learning the way how to behave in a loving and sociable manner by doing to others as you would have them to do unto you.

As teachers, you are to remind yourself continuously that you are part of a distinguished profession and the best model or example you can follow is Jesus Christ. He is the model of the greatest teacher ever.

The first purpose of getting a good education is to be good citizens and then being successful in personal and professional life. We are incomplete without a good education because education makes us right thinkers and correct decision makers. In such a competitive world, education has become a basic necessity for human beings after food, clothing and shelter. Education is the basic building blocks of success, bright careers and better quality of life.

Nelson Mandella, a former President of South Africa, refers to education as the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Malcolm X, a human right activist affirms that education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. George Washington Carver, an American Agricultural Scientist and Inventor, states boldly that education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. Michelle Obama, recognizing the importance of education, beckons all students individually and collectively to stay in school. She pleads by saying: "You have to stay in school. You have to. You have to go to college. You have to get your degree. Because that's the one thing people can't take away from you is your education. And it is worth the investment."' In fact, many educators and economists have regarded education as the most important determinant of a person's economic and social success. It must be noted that governments in developing countries refer to education in terms of the economy. They regard it as an economic good because society benefit from a highly educated workforce.

It is this understanding of the importance of education to social and economic development which drives countries and their governments to invest in education. Research has shown clearly that countries who educate their children grow and prosper. As this country pursue its development goals, as we seek to build a society that grows and thrives, it is imperative that the private sector and government work together in focusing on education and training. According to the World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim: "If the private sector is the engine of growth, and government is the driver, then education is the fuel that runs the engine". The world Bank's President invites us to take a glimpse at the impact that education can have on competitiveness, by looking at the country where he was born - South Korea.

Research and various studies have revealed that after the Korean War, 78 percent of Koreans were illiterate. In 1970, the per capita income was 200 dollars. Until the 1960s the World Bank Group considered the country too risky for even the lowest interest rate loans. South Korea knew that education was the best way to pull itself out of economic misery. So it focused on overhauling schools and committed to educating every child - and educating them well. Coupled with smart, innovative government policies and a vibrant private sector, the focus on education paid off. It is said that today, South Korea has a 98 percent literacy rate. It's a high-income country and a model of successful economic development for other countries to emulate.

The challenging question is how do we create an efficient, cost-effective education system that meets the needs of our students in the 21st century? How do we educate students to be what employers in this new century are seeking? One word answers these troubling questions: invest. We need to continue to invest more and more in education. Making an investment in public education is the surest way to build up a country's economy and position it for stable, long-term growth. Investments in education can be difficult policy decisions because returns cannot be seen immediately. They take time but investing in education is the only way.

As we look to the future, I am convinced that it is imperative that teachers, the teachers union, along with the Ministry of Education continue to pursue efforts at creating a structured career path for teachers to promote changes in the system and continue to strive for excellence. The future of Dominica lies in your hands. The Government has signaled its intention and continues to invest in the development of education in the country. We have the vision, the provision of HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION FOR ALL. We know what to do, let us find creative and innovative ways to make it happen.

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