Panama, UWI link up

Hundreds of Panamanian students and teachers could soon be enrolled at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus seeking to improve their language skills.

President of the Republic of Panama Juan Carlos Varela gave overwhelming endorsement to the university’s English as a Second Language (ESL) programme and said he looked forward to sending the first cohort of his Spanish-speaking citizens to the university from next January to learn English or upgrade their proficiency in the language.

Principal of the University of the West Indies Eudine Barriteau greets president of Panama Juan Carlos Varela.
Principal of the University of the West Indies Eudine Barriteau greets president of Panama Juan Carlos Varela.

He believes this development would significantly enhance his country’s educational and tourism sectors, and also bring widespread benefit to general areas of commercial activity throughout Panama.

Hours after arriving in Barbados last Friday, as a special invitee to the just-ended 36th Caricom Heads of Government Summit, President Varela led a delegation that included his ministers of Education, Commerce and Industry, Public Security and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, on a visit to Cave Hill campus.

He met with campus principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Eudine Barriteau and senior officers of her academic and administrative staff to discuss ways in which the university could provide training for Panamanian teachers and pre-university students. In addition to training in English, the parties discussed plans for the Panamanian teachers to receive instruction in enhancing their teaching skills, educational leadership, tourism studies and other areas of pedagogical need.

President Varela disclosed that Panama was seeking to send abroad 2,000 teachers each year for the next four years, and about 1,300 students annually to learn English.

“Sending students to the Caribbean will help us to send the message that we want to have much closer ties with the region,” the President said.

Professor Barriteau welcomed the proposal revealing that Cave Hill had accomplished an admirable record of achievement in this endeavour. She noted that since 2008, the campus’s ESL programme has graduated hundreds of Venezuelan middle managers employed in the oil industry. Other South American nations, such as Chile and Colombia, and Caribbean countries, such as Martinique, have also benefited from the programme. Plans are in train to extend the programme to Brazil and Ecuador.

“We enjoy a demonstrated, proven capacity to deliver English as a Second Language,” Professor Barriteau told the delegation.

“I am eagerly looking forward to the graduation of the first cohort of Panamian teachers, public servants and other citizens from our training programme in English.

“We are working closely with the Government of Barbados whose interest in the higher educational sector as an export industry, intersects with our vision to develop the Cave Hill campus’ expansion of internationalization. We look forward to welcoming Panamanians to our campus, not as academic tourists, but as desired members of the Cave Hill and Barbadian community.”

The Panamanian delegation’s visit to Cave Hill also encompassed a tour of the campus’ grounds and facilities, including its state-of-the-art ESL language lab, the panoramic vista offered from the terrace at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination and a stop at the soon-to-be completed Nelson Mandela Park.

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