EDUCATION MINISTER Anthony Garcia believes artificial intelligence (AI) is worth pursuing. Garcia spoke at the launch of the NextGen Tech Education Coding Camp, held yesterday at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain. The camp is the result of a partnership between BPTT and technology platform and summit holders Tech Beach, geared towards bridging the skills gap in TT, introducing teens to technology and providing fair access for underprivileged teens to viable technology education.
Garcia said his ministry recognises the need for information communications technology (ICT) in all schools and added that all students at the primary, secondary and tertiary level should have the opportunity to engage in ICT. “Those of us in education deem it of extreme importance to keep abreast off all the changes taking place in the society and wider world,” he said. Garcia said he spoke with UWI St Augustine principal Professor Brian Copeland to discuss the best ways to apply ICT education in TT schools so that students would not be left behind. “I asked the professor about AI and how best we can utilise our resources, especially the human capital of the UWI, so that they can make their contribution to the education system of TT. He told me he is in full support, however, we have to be very careful with how we proceed. He said while there is a positive side to AI, there’s also the side that is most dangerous. Those words resonated with me and we agreed that we are going to pursue this much further so as to avoid the pitfalls.”
The ministry has embarked on a “five star ICT plan” that will ensure a governance structure over all ICT initiatives, provide an overarching ICT In Education policy, ensure ICT devices such as laptops become accessible to schools, update the curriculum to support ICT learning and integration and provide training for teachers to enhance ICT learning methodologies. “Our young people are better equipped to deal with technology than we are but education is a continued process of learning. We will do everything to ensure our teachers are trained. Education is something to be shared with the entire society and our teachers will benefit as well.”
Ronda Francis, BPTT’s corporate responsibility manager, encouraged participants the embrace technology and hoped other countries can look at the initiative and take the leap forward into technology as well.
Tech Beach co-founder Kyle Maloney said he was pleased when BPTT reached out to partner. “Tech Beach is an organisation that envisioned bridging the gap between the major hubs of the world and the Caribbean. NextGen is how we begin leveraging the talent of the rest of the world in propelling the amazing talent we have here.” Though TT is a blessed nation compared to its counterparts, what worked in the past will work for the future. “Our futures cannot be a linear extrapolation of our past. How we got here is not how we will get there. Technology has the power to push us into places we never thought we’d be before.” This camp is small drop in the bucket to begin defining what our place in the world will be, he said, but it was necessary, fostering changes that have yet to happen in the education system.
The camp will host 60 children between the ages of 13 and 19 and will feature speakers such as Mandela Patrick, research assistant at Facebook, and Mark Moyou, data scientist at US software company Lucidworks. The first phase of the camp will be held at the BPTT Hospitality Suite at the Queen’s Park Oval from August 3 to August 7. The second phase will be held at the BPTT Mayaro Resource Centre, Mayaro from August 8 to August 12. Students will learn skills such as web development, agile software development and virtual team collaboration. Five participants will be trained to become tech instructors.