New CAPE subjects bring academia closer to helping region meet key needs

Of the five ‘new generation’ subjects launched earlier this week across the Caribbean as part of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), Guyana will more likely than not be most interested in Agriculture Science, Tourism and Entrepreneurship.

For Guyana, all three areas are much more than academic disciplines. They are, as well, important economic sectors; agriculture remains an indispensable part of the Guyana economy while tourism has long been an area of significant investment, not matched by commensurate returns. As for entrepreneurship, its emergence as an academic discipline coincides with modest opportunities now available on account of the creation of a local Small Business Bureau to expand the frontiers of self-employment in Guyana.

The new CAPE Agriculture Science subject was launched in Georgetown on Wednesday where the Caribbean Examination Council’s (CXC) Acting Registrar Glenroy Cumberbatch made the altogether pertinent comment on the overcrowded public sector in the Caribbean and the need to begin to produce more skills that can be pressed into service in the region’s private sector.

Students of  Tutorial High School at the CAPE Agri Science launch
Students of Tutorial High School at the CAPE Agri Science launch

Agriculture Science, Tourism and Entrepreneurship apart, Physical Education and Sport and the Performing Arts will be taught in schools from September in preparation for CAPE examinations in 2015.

Hopefully, the CXC official is correct in his assertion that the introduction of the new subjects on the CAPE curriculum will assist students in making a seamless transition from school to the world of work. If it remains true that the contemporary private sector is on the lookout for a combination of certification and practical skills, the issue will inevitably arise as to whether the CAPE curriculum will provide them with what they want in those key new disciplines.

Discourses have surfaced here in Guyana and elsewhere in the region as to whether CXC subjects like Agriculture Science and Home Economics are not tailor-made as ‘make up’ subjects for students aiming for success at multiple subjects that position them for a regional award.

With some of those subjects now appearing on the CAPE curriculum the challenge which the CXC now has is to ensure that its graduates in areas like Agriculture Science and Tourism are adequately equipped to meet the demands of the private sector workplaces.

Insofar as the introduction of Agriculture Science on the CAPE curriculum is concerned CXC says that this is in response to its recognition that agriculture and increased food production are critical regional sectors and key components in the development of policies that drive economic growth. CXC says that by including Agriculture Science on the CAPE curriculum it hopes to make available more persons who are equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to understand and sustain the development of agriculture.

Significantly, the CAPE Agriculture Science curriculum includes instructions in the disciplines of packaging and marketing, both of which have been key areas of underachievement in the Guyana’s manufacturing sector.

If CXC through its current intervention can turn those weaknesses around, the local and regional private sectors would be indebted to the institution. Other subject areas that are part of the CAPE agriculture curriculum including horticulture, farm management (and farm attachments) are all directly relevant to raising standards in the sector.

In Barbados, where the launch of CAPE’s tourism discipline took place this week the Caribbean Tourism Organisation also recognised the significance of the CXC initiative. Equally, it made the point regarding the importance of ensuring that the subject be taken beyond simply another academic discipline. As in the various other newly introduced CAPE subject areas, tourism will only be relevant if it serves as a vehicle for strengthening the human resource base of the sector and ultimately contributing to its growth and development. That will be the acid test of the effectiveness of the initiative which the CXC took in the region this week.

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