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James Dauris

British Ambassador, Panama

23rd April 2024 Panama

Good English – A Key to Panama’s Future Success

Speech delivered on April 23, 2024 at the Launch of National Teachers Network & Training of Trainers Programme 

It’s a pleasure to be with you at this launch of the National Teachers Network & Training of Trainers Program. Congratulations to everyone involved in getting this exciting initiative to this point, and to everyone who is here committing to its future success. To all of you involved with the Panama Bilingue program, to representatives of the Ministry of Education and of CAF, to teachers and school leaders, to those of you here with Pearson.

It seems rather appropriate that this launch is taking place today, 23rd April, because today is William Shakespeare’s birthday. Shakespeare has done more to shape the English language we speak than anyone else who has lived. Which is quite remarkable, given that were he still alive, he would be 460 years old today.

Charles I, King of Spain, is famous for various things, among them his comment, made just a few years before Shakespeare was born, on the importance of languages: “I speak in Spanish with God”, he said, “in French with women, in Italian with my friends and in German with my horse”. Being multi-lingual has always had its advantages!

If, as a young Panamanian growing up now, you can begin your adult journey with a fluent command not only of Spanish, but of English too, you will already have two keys to success, whatever you decide to do. And that is as true whether you head off to see the world and find work in distant continents, or whether you opt to stay here in Panama.

Panama, with its strategic geographical position and its pivotal role in global commerce, lies at a crossroads of continents and oceans, cultures and economies. For a young person in Panama thinking about their future, the ability to communicate with confidence in good English is more than an academic achievement. It’s an essential skill that will fit you to take up opportunities in the world of international business, in academia, in research, in IT. The King of Spain noted five hundred years ago that languages build bridges. And that is just as true today – bridges between countries and companies and cultures.

As well as being in individuals’ own best interests, it is equally clearly in Panama’s national interest that its schools and universities should be equipping young people with good English. Panama needs bridges. It needs business leaders who can work with customers from around the globe. It needs diplomats and politicians who can speak up for its international interests.

Success depends, of course, on the country having good teachers, lots of good teachers. Their role, your role, is absolutely central to success. Education is a people business. Without enough people – good people – it cannot and will not function. Panama needs good leaders and teachers in its schools in every part of the country, and especially in those areas where standards are low.

The National Teachers Network & Training of Trainers Program that we are launching today is intended to equip and empower thousands of teachers with the tools they need to help their students to excel. It will help them to learn from one another and share experiences.

To paraphrase the English writer and playwright Oscar Wilde, there’s no point having prejudices unless you talk about them. One of my personal prejudices is that languages matter and, probably more than any other language, around the world, English matters. Long before I became a diplomat, I spent time teaching English language and literature in India. I enjoyed it so much the first time that I went back to India some years later to teach a second time. I did so because I believed then, and I believe just as passionately all these years later, that equipping children to speak English well matters.

Today being Shakespeare’s birthday, I feel I should end with a quotation from one of his plays. In “As You Like It” Shakespeare writes, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts’. Good English, taught well in schools across Panama, by teachers with the enthusiasm and the training they need, will equip this country’s young women and young men to play their many parts, and to play them well.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the beginning, to all of you present today, well done. I wish you every success with the program.

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About James Dauris

James Dauris is the British Chargé d'Affaires in Panama, an appointment he took up in February 2024. James joined the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in 1995 and served as…

James Dauris is the British Chargé d'Affaires in Panama, an appointment he took up in February 2024.

James joined the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in 1995 and served as Head of the Latin American Department (2019 to 2023). Before this he was British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and to Maldives (2015 to 2019), Ambassador to Peru (2010 to 2014), and has also worked as Deputy Head of Mission in Colombia (2005 to 2009) and in the British Embassy in Moscow (1998 to 2002). He has had various roles at the Foreign Office in London covering European Union, South Asian and maritime policy.

James has a degree in law from the University of Cambridge and worked as a solicitor in the City of London before joining the Foreign Office.