Minister of Education Anthony Garcia called on Catholic school boards, principals and teachers to work harder to ensure that Catholic schools are once more at the forefront of the education system in the country.
Minister Garcia made the call as Catholic educators gathered November 17 at the 65th Annual Convention of the Catholic Teachers’ Association (CTA) of Trinidad and Tobago. Archbishop Joseph Harris, CTA President Neil Bynoe, Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) Chairman Dr Roland Baptiste, CEO Sharon Mangroo and vicariate managers joined the teachers at the St Charles Borromeo RC Church, Tunapuna. Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada was the main celebrant at the opening Mass, replacing Archbishop Harris who had to attend a funeral.
Invited to bring greetings, Minister Garcia acknowledged when he was president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) he always took pleasure in attending conferences like these.
He congratulated the CTA for the work the organisation was doing in ensuring that Catholic teachers come together as a community in the service of education. “And that is important. It is important that conferences like these assist in building a sense of community. It is important for us as Catholic teachers and I make no apology for including myself in that….” he said.
The Minister commented that this year’s theme With delight I rejoice in the Lord, was “very fitting”. He said, “I listened very attentively to His Grace when he spoke about Catholic education. And one of the points that he has pointed out to me so many years ago is that Catholic education focuses on the poor and dispossessed and your theme really brings this out quite clearly.”
Garcia continued, “The Catholic Teachers’ Association has been paving the way in terms of religious education under the CEBM aided by the Catholic Church. Both organisations have always and continue to be consistent in providing a quality education that our children deserve. I wish to extend to you the hope that we will continue to rise as we build, so that Catholic education will continue to provide for the poor and dispossessed.”
On the other hand, Garcia revealed statistics at his Ministry with respect to the performance of children in Catholic schools, “does not look good.” He compared data from a recent function honouring the performance of the top 200 students at the 2017 SEA exam stating that there were not many persons from Catholic schools.
“My position now does not allow me to state publicly how I feel about it and what must be done. But I’ve been having discussions with His Grace and Ms Mangroo and perhaps we can work together to improve the performance of our students particularly in the primary schools.”
Describing primary schools as the “bed of our education system”, Garcia added that he wants to attend functions where Catholic schools are doing equally well at both primary and secondary levels. “And I’m sure in the not so distant future we are going to see that because of the plans we have put in place….We are going to see a rise in performance of our children,” he said.
The Education Minister concluded that the 1960 Concordat plays an important part in the education of children, one that cannot be discounted. He explained that although it is not on our law books, it has the effect of law as it outlines how the Catholic Church and the religious denominations should operate. “And the Catholic teachers, the Catholic Church, the Catholic boards of management have been doing a good job,” he said.