Calling for teachers to be given the same salaries as doctors, lawyers and engineers, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad says too often teachers in T&T are treated unfairly and without respect.
Speaking at the Naparima College Founders Day at the school's auditorium on Wednesday, Seepersad said the role of teachers must never be underestimated.
"Our teachers have been taken for granted and their professional development has to be viewed as a matter of national importance," Seepersad said.
"There must be a shift in the way teachers are perceived and they should be afforded the same degree of respect and remuneration which is afforded to doctors, lawyers and engineers."
Noting that teachers had a sacred duty to mould the nation's children, Seepersad added, "This profession should be remodelled to ensure the brightest and most competent feel compelled to respond to the call to fashion the future by moulding the minds of our youth."
He also pointed out that currently, children are not being educated for the future.
"While students have continued to excel we have tethered them to knowledge and skills which were more appropriate to previous generations," Seepersad contended.
He said T&T now needed "lateral thinkers" and creativity must be encouraged. He noted that in a world of increasing artificial intelligence, students must be taught how to develop heightened levels of emotional intelligence.
"Students must see their primary and secondary school experience as one which develops wisdom as opposed to merely imparting knowledge," he said.
Seepersad also said the way success is gauged should be redefined.
"We live in an era where heroes are few and fading. Leading an ethical life is not viewed as being critical and the acquisition of material wealth appears to be the ultimate goal," he lamented.
He said this redefinition starts with the transformation of the way knowledge is imparted and therefore teachers must play a critical role.
Meanwhile, moderator of the Presbyterian Church Annabell Lalla-Ramkelawan said proper mechanisms must be put in place to help children. Making reference to a recent video where students from a secondary school in Diego Martin were seen smoking marijuana, Lalla-Ramkelawan said although marijuana has not yet been decriminalised students were already using the drug.
Saying she studied in Jamaica and could smell marijuana a mile off, Lalla-Ramkelawan said troubled students often have no help.
"What is the mechanism to help children? In the Presbyterian schools, we have the chaplain, social workers and the moderator who care about you, but some schools don't have that," she said. She said denominational schools have put structures in place to help pupils and this should be emulated in other schools.
Also attending the function were Mayor Junia Regrello and Naparima College principal Dr Micheal Dowlath.
The school celebrated 125 years having been founded by Canadian missionaries in 1894.
Reporter: Radhica De Silva