Tourism in the school curriculum

On behalf of the Caribbean Tourism Organization I want to commend the Caribbean Examinations Council for the launch of the five new subjects at the CAPE level, which addresses specific needs in our societies or areas where we want to develop knowledge and skills, including in the area of Tourism and I want to thank CXC for inviting the CTO to say a few words at this launch.

We at the CTO are really one of the major advocate behind the Tourism subject being launched here today having had discussions with ministers of education, ministers of tourism, chief education officers, the Caribbean Examinations Council etc. over many, many years to try to convince them of the need to introduce tourism as a subject within our school system. Some countries in the region have gone this route already without waiting for the education directorate to sanction anything. The Commonwealth of the Bahamas has developed and uses tourism education materials for all levels of its school system, the Cayman Islands have developed tourism education materials, which they actively use, Jamaica, at the primary school level invested heavily in integrating or infusing tourism into other subject areas and developing specific curricula for the same. You have just heard Minister Jespere, minister of education for St. Martin and St. Barth, speaking of their success in being able to convince the French government in France of the need to introduce tourism education in their school system. CTO went the route of developing specific tourism education materials for primary and secondary schools and some countries are using the materials to buttress their own tourism education and awareness programmes.

But why is it important to introduce the tourism subject into our schools:

It is one of the building blocks in the development of the human resources environment to support tourism.

1. Building Career Awareness in Tourism – Tourism is the lifeblood of the Caribbean at this time in our existence and will continue to be an important economic sector for our region for some time to come. We have been saying for the longest while that one in every four persons in the region either works directly or indirectly with the tourism sector. Tourism is labour intensive, which is a good thing for our small economies, and we need to attract persons to work in the sector. In fact, there is a strong likelihood that many school leavers will actually end up working in jobs in tourism or in jobs that link to tourism, whether it be in events and conference planning, public relations and marketing, research and statistics, conducting tours, working in hotels and restaurants, etc. It is a reality of our economies and we should at minimum prepare our young people to understand something about the scope and workings of the sector so that they can make intelligent choices when they begin their own career planning and forging their own career path. So building career awareness is important for the tourism sector.

Why introduce tourism in the schools:

2. Influencing Public Attitudes and Awareness to Tourism and Tourists – We need to do a better job at sensitizing our local populations about the importance of tourism to our economies and to their individual well being and to show them the positive impacts linked to job creation, foreign exchange earnings, local and foreign investment, tax collection, goods and services generated and used by the sector etc. etc. and how this all feeds in a better quality of life for all of us. I am very aware that when we are trying to publicly influence attitudes and thinking about critical areas of our lives for example: the dangers of legal and illegal drugs, protecting our environment, adopting healthy lifestyles, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS, domestic violence and child abuse, family planning, the dangers of smoking etc. etc. our social advocates say that we need to go into the schools to educate our young people so that over time we can influence their thinking and behaviours, and we have started to see positive gains from this type of education in our schools. Just think about the reduction of smoking in our young populations as an example. This campaign has worked successfully over the years and our young people have got the message. Additionally, tourism depends on a host population that is receptive and welcoming to visitors and not hostile or looking for ways to rip them off. And we believe like the African American writer, poet, artist extraodinaire Maya Angelou said “when you know better you do better.” So we have to better educate our general population so that we will safeguard and protect our visitors and by doiong so safeguard and protect our economies. We are convinced that once our people “know better” about tourism they will act and do better, and the schools are one of those building blocks to engender that those public attitudes and awareness to tourism and tourists.

3. National Commitment to Tourism. Finally we need to continue to build national commitment to tourism as one of the key pillars of our economy in our region so that the attitudes, policies and decisions of our governments towards tourism are sound and sustainable. This includes areas such as investment policies, human and financial support in areas such as destination marketing, product development, education etc. Having tourism as a subject in our schools will help our countries to expose more of our young people to what tourism entails and continue to build national commitment to tourism in the future.

So, the teaching of tourism in our schools at an early age as possible is positive for tourism, positive for our countries and positive for our region in promoting career awareness in tourism, influencing public attitudes and awareness towards tourism and tourists and continuing to build national commitment for the sector.

CTO looks forward to continuing to work with the Caribbean Examinations Council in helping with the next stage of this journey regarding supporting the teachers who will teach this subject, helping with the provision of resource materials and encouraging our young persons to choose tourism as one of the subjects they opt for at the sixth form level.

Once again, we congratulate Mr. Glenroy Cumberbatch and his team at CXC for the launch of these five subjects. Thank you.

The author, the CTO’s director of Resource Mobilization and Development, delivered the keynote address at the launch a Caribbean Rexaminations Council’s Carer Awareness forum.