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324 national scholarships

By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, September 3 2010

CABINET yesterday approved an increase in the number of scholarships for Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) graduates to 324 amidst a series of new fiscal measures to bolster education such as increased grants to support schools for “special needs” students.

Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh announced the increase in CAPE scholarships, which represents a 22 percent expansion from last year’s grants, at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Coco Beach Resort and Spa, Store Bay in Tobago. He said the awards would now cost an estimated $27 million annually.

“There will be no reduction of scholarships compared to what was given in 2009,” Gopeesingh said. “A number of students satisfy the criteria for the award of scholarships, criteria which have been decided by the CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) coordinating body which covers the CAPE examinations in the Caribbean.”

Gopeesingh said there will be 54 “open” scholarships (for students to study in any university of their choice both at home and abroad) and 270 “additional” scholarships (for study at local tertiary institutions). One open scholarship is estimated to cost approximately $250,000, while an additional scholarship costs about $52,000, Gopeesingh said.

The bulk of the open scholarships will go to the sciences with 29 expected to be awarded in that category. The State will also grant nine open scholarships in mathematics; three open scholarships in business studies; three in environmental studies; three in language arts; three in modern studies; two in technological studies; and two in visual and performing arts. There will be 270 additional scholarships, also divided into these categories.

In 2009 there was a total of 266 scholarships and in 2008 there were 261 scholarships, the minister said. The Minister of Education also announced a bolstering of financial support for private schools supporting differently-abled students, which are registered with the ministry, to a tune of approximately $21 million annually over the next five years.

The ministry will now also engage in “urgent stakeholder consultation” on the needs of students with disabilities throughout the education system. Gopeesingh estimated the number of students which special needs in the education system as 30,000 but lamented that the State currently does not cater for even a quarter of this number.

“We provide (support for) close to 2,000 so that is way under at the moment,” he said. Students from indigent families will also receive support on the basis of means testing. There was still no word on the President’s Medal winner(s), given normally to the best performer(s) at the CAPE examinations. The winner of the President’s Medal normally receives a State-funded scholarship right up to the PhD level. Gopeesingh said an announcement on this issue could come “most likely next week”, as the State awaits further information from CXC.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar also announced the proposed start of construction, in 2010/2011, of an “integrated tertiary education” facility, to host the University of Trinidad and Tobago, University of the West Indies and the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT).

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