In 2020, a new educational opportunity in STEM is expected to be available for Caribbean students

Biotechnology is an important emerging industry that focuses on finding innovative ways to not only combat rare diseases from spreading but additionally increase the production of natural resources, promoting viability and safety in agricultural environments, and improving processes of engineering manufacturing. The term “biotechnology” was invented by Károly Ereky, a Hungarian agricultural engineer, to describe the technology and processes that focus on utilizing raw materials such as wheat, milk, and raw chemicals, and converting those materials into useful products such as bread, cheese, yogurt, and detergents.

Over the years from its foundation in 1919, biotechnology has been utilized to develop these products that contribute to improving our standard of living and increasing the parameters of relative wealth. Companies in the Caribbean and around the world are using biotechnology to meet current demands. Notably, a St. Lucian biotechnology company, Algas Organics, develops useful agricultural products from the considered wildlife threat of sargassum seaweed which engulfs beaches across the Caribbean. Bayer, a well-renowned German international company, is leading in biological and biotechnical therapy. The company recently invested $150 million in a Cell Culture Technology Center in the San Francisco area in the United States which will be used to benefit oncology with the production of active organisms to prevent cancer. 

Caribbean students will be able to learn about this fascinating STEM field and its applications worldwide by September 2020. This syllabus for CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam) was approved for development by the Sub-Committee of the School Examinations Committee (SUBSEC) of the Caribbean Examination Council in April 2018. The biotechnology course will be taught in two units which are divided between Biotechnology Principles, and the Application of Biotechnology and its Regulations.

An interview was conducted in June with a representative of the Caribbean Examinations Council, who was overseeing the implementation of the CAPE biotechnology course. The representative noted that the syllabus (for biotechnology) should be available for teaching in September 2020 and effective for examinations in May-June 2021. This course will allow student product development to be conceptual and within the confines of the course. 

Generally, a student would have to know the contents of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) General Proficiency courses such as agricultural science, biology, chemistry, integrated science, mathematics, and physics or the equivalent. Successful participation in the biotechnology course would also depend on good verbal and written communication skills.

Biotechnology is a welcomed extension of CAPE subjects as the CAPE Green Engineering Syllabus was released for teaching in September 2016 and first examined in May-June 2017. According to the 2018 annual report published by the Caribbean Examination Council, there was an approximate pass rate of 95% in Unit 1 and 94% in Unit 2. 

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