Why maritime educators matter so much

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Maritime educators carry fearsome responsibilities and play a key role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of the ships in which their students serve. Issue 29 of the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin Alert! focuses on the work of the maritime educator and the huge contribution they make to the promotion of best practice. It also examines the additional skills they require in educating the ‘next generation’ of professional seafarers.

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The sort of education maritime professionals receive is closely connected with the human element in that educators do so much more than simply impart knowledge and information. They will also often be thought of as role models in terms of attitude, leadership qualities and motivation. Maritime educators, emphasises Alert! are required to be rather special people.

The STCW Convention spells out the need for ‘appropriate qualifications’ for educators and instructors. This, suggests Alert! goes rather further than paper qualifications and encompasses a whole range of knowledge, skills and attributes. Today’s educators need to be a gifted communicator with the right sort of personalities, fully up to date with the latest technology and ship operations and aware of the interaction between humans, machines and systems. As such they can be hugely influential in the development of competent seafarers.

This issue of Alert! provides encouragement for maritime educators, but also challenges them and their employers. Contributions from senior educators highlight the additional skills that educators need over and above their professional experience. The importance of the best specialist training for trainers is stressed, the need for subject knowledge, communication and teaching skills, integrity, cultural awareness and patience are emphasised, together with dedication to professional teaching practice and an ability to encourage a deeper understanding among those being taught.

Alert! also emphasises the need for continuing education, the benefits of embracing new teaching technologies and the importance of involving students in the whole process. There is more to maritime education than ensuring students pass their exams in the shortest possible time. Carried out properly, it offers the potential for considerable direct response and feedback between educator and student along with the possibility of genuine personal development.

The industry needs the very best educators to inspire real professionalism at every level and it is a major challenge to ensure that such people with the right motivation and abilities are attracted into this vital maritime speciality. The quality of the teaching delivered and ultimately the safety of future ships depends upon it.

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