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Speech of the Most Revd Ian Ernest G.O.S.K
Mauritius Institute of Education – 03.12.2013
MAUEN 131203-2
December 3, 2013

[Diocese of Mauritius - Indian Ocean] Speech of the Most Revd Ian Ernest G.O.S.K
Mauritius Institute of Education – 03.12.2013

Mr R Meettook, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education & Human Resources and Acting Chairperson MIE Council
Mr O Nath Varma, Director, Mauritius Institute of Education

Professor P Griffiths, Dean, Faculty of Education & Sport, University of Brighton

Mrs O Cudian, Registrar, Mauritius Institute of Education

Respected members of Staff of the MIE

Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning,

The event that brings us together this morning offers to us a very precious moment that adorns the life of the Mauritius Institute of Education and honours the efforts of promising men and women who are eagerly awaiting for recognition in the course of this graduation ceremony.

Distinguished guests, you may ask yourself the question of how a religious leader can be invited to preside over such a function! But, as for myself, I have no doubt that this courageous decision emanates from a deep reflection that aims at widening the scope of action of an institution that plays a crucial role in the field of implementing and modelling educational policies of our Republic. In fact, my presence here as the guest of honour, bears recognition to the significant role played by faith-based educational institutions in the history of education of Mauritius. I am therefore, grateful to you and more particularly the Director, Mr Varma for welcoming me in your midst this morning. This clearly shows your intentions to work in full partnership with religious institutions so that we can together sort out what is essential and not so essential as we have to cope with a pluralist environment.

It is important, I believe, for us to be in constant dialogue with partners that promote and sustain policies for the system that educates, instructs and empowers. This constant dialogue at this very time in the history of the Mauritian Community is vital. We as members of this society tend at times to retreat into communities of cultural and religious preference rather than continuing to mix in plural societies. This social phenomenon runs the risk of becoming a collection of closed social systems. So, the new graduates honoured today have a challenging task ahead of them. The youth of Mauritius represent its future and our country cannot afford to let its child grow up in closed system.

So, as educators, you are called, dear friends, to empower them and it will be your responsibility as a partner in the process of educating to encourage them to gather information, to engage in independent research, to apply critical judgement and to make the right decisions.

This graduation ceremony, ladies and gentlemen, actually provides us with a unique opportunity for celebration and reflection.

We, firstly, celebrate the achievements of an institution which this year celebrates forty years of its existence. It has tried over these years to fulfil its mandate as defined in the Mauritius Institute of Education Act of 1973. The Mauritius Institute of Education mission of service lies within the parameters of this mandate.

To mark this celebration, I would like to commend the Mauritius Institute of Education for successfully and efficiently carrying out the 3 fold-aspects of its calling as an educational training institution namely – Educational Research, Curricula development, Teacher education. The M.I.E deserves recognition for being an enabler and an innovator acting in the context of its mandate. It has dedicated itself to improve teacher’s qualifications and work for quality enhancement to create an awareness in respect of quality. This is exemplified in its ability to shape innovative initiatives when it comes to the refinement of learning and training approaches. This is sustained and strengthened by the establishment and the maintenance of international collaboration with Higher Education Institutes.

To my friends who today are being awarded certificates for a work well done, I wish to congratulate you once again but in the same breath inform you that challenges are new everyday. You will have to act as a facilitator though being an educator. A new vision is to be invented to sustain your calling. The children who come under your care would need the means, the skills and the fundamental values that could cater for their human, intellectual and spiritual needs. This is indeed a noble task and a vocation. I therefore congratulate you for taking up such a challenge. Knowledge is no more confined to the world of concepts but is becoming gradually a living experience. I wish here to quote Henry Adams:

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”

As I reflect on the needs of the Mauritian Society and more especially on how, we as an educated nation, can enhance the process of learning and teaching, I would like to draw my inspiration from a quotation from Horace Mann (Lectures and reports on Education) before I humbly make some observations and recommendations.

“Finally, education, alone, can conduct that enjoyment which is, at once, best in quality and infinite in quantity” unquote.

I rejoice that this institution is treading on a new path as it tries to respond effectively to the new trends and opportunities of the day. This gives to your institution an opportunity to be creative, imaginative and unique in the way it approaches the formation of teachers and the development of a curriculum.

Today, we are unfortunately facing a situation that propels a suggestion that what we need is “an intellectual Elite”. Although that I know that efforts are being made by our policy makers to look out into the future with the eyes of a strategic planner, I do agree with psychologists and educators who have said that if we are not vigilant, we are heading towards the creation of a generation that will suffer from chronic depression: with no landmarks or milestones in their lives – symptoms of this chronic depression are already visible, pornographic films through mobile phones are being realised, illicit drugs are made available to students. These situations are indeed putting at stake the social stability of our nation. Our schools should be places of social cohesion and understanding that promote a value system.

As matter of consequence, I would recommend that if there is a module on Pastoral Care, it should be revised and strengthened as an integral and pervasive element in the formation programmes of potential educators.

I also suggest that Ethics should be taught to students – Ethics is a practice that can be dispensed in varying degrees of complexity and entails more than learning good values. Educators and students at secondary level should be exposed to Ethics as they will be compelled to work on the development of a value system and to learn some critical thinking in the process. Ethics is a practice involving moral reasoning and not just an application of values. This is a domain where we can become innovative. What a challenge for the educators!

It is thus important to see how do we involve the community in curriculum development. The parents and other stakeholders of society should be part in the thinking process for a programme that will help our educators to be agents for the transformation of our children into responsible and civic citizens. So, this takes us to the reinforcement of a community outreach within the curriculum which lays special emphasis on the role and specific responsibility of civil Society. This will help us engineer a notion of Mauritian citizenship in terms of values, service and solidarity.

Secondly, I wish to reflect on the need for us to make our educational system more inclusive. In all quarters of societal life in Mauritius, I sense a thirst for learning. There is indeed a need to form a method for unlocking the potentials of a person. This institution is called to encourage the educator to be a good shepherd – the one who goes for the lost sheep. The appropriate curriculum should empower educators and non teaching staff skills who will form the child’s consciousness, which is an imperative for giving him landmarks for appropriate discernment. So, the challenge is to provide the apprentice with skills that he needs so that he develops self-esteem. The punitive approach to learning should fade away so that the learning process can attract young men and women of all backgrounds to an interesting and fulfilling career track. As we move to a more inclusive approach to professional development, there is a need to give to the educator his/her rightful place in the Mauritian Society. The educator has to be recognised as a pillar of our community and as an indispensable partner in the field of education. Educators deserve to be adequately sustained by all stakeholders of our society. As I talk to you, I think of my fellow citizens in the outer islands, Rodrigues, Agalega. Though that they have specific needs, it is important that in the field of education, they become more and more visible in the life of the Republic of Mauritius. The life, the history and the culture of the outer islands should not be neglected if we wish that Mauritius develops a greater sense of togetherness and belonging to each other.

In my last recommendation, I come back to the need for us to rope up in the mainstream what appears to be marginalised – the possession of wider sense of what entails to be imbued with what we call a spirit of Mauritianism – we should reflect as we develop curriculums on the need for us to network cultures that are part and parcel of our inheritance as a nation. This networking of cultures would become without any doubt an instrument for a holistic approach to learning. It is urgent to engage in an approach that could discourage the emergence of linguistic or communal ghettos. The creole language should be given a special consideration over and set on a greater footing in comparison with the other spoken languages used in our Republic. It is the national language and has the capacity to foster a sense of belonging and togetherness. So, I call on the Mauritius Institute of Education in its development of a creole curriculum to consider giving the creole language a role that will enable the Mauritian nation to grow and to be sovereign in all aspects of its attributes as a group of people sharing a common destiny.

I am convinced that our decision makers should strategically work with their partners in education to form a policy for developing an integrated and inclusive approach to learning and the requisite thinking skills within the potential work force. This will place Mauritius in the global commercial marketplace. Our students and their educators have to learn how to deal with people of different cultures, how to possess a sense of global ethics. It is an opportunity for us to position our reflection into a vision that will help us to give a new flavour to the concept of preparing our young people for discernment and ethical responsibility.

This institution, the Mauritius Institute of Education is a meeting place where extraordinary encounters can contribute towards harmony and a common destiny that we Mauritians are called to share.

So, as I congratulate you again, I wish to invite all involved in the process of educating, to be geared towards nation building.

I thank you for your kind attention.