So, now that all schools in Guyana have officially ended their academic programmes for the year 2009-2010, that means that the Education sector’s initiatives and programmes have ended theirs too, right? Wrong. In fact, now that the summer vacation has kicked into full gear, the Ministry of Education, through its various stakeholders and partners, will be launching several initiatives that will seek to augment other programmes which were started by the ministry over the past couple of years. In no other time in Guyana’s history has there been such determination and concern from any government for the education sector, to introduce new and improve, tried and tested initiatives that speak volumes to the mission of the Ministry of Education in Guyana.
During the past school year, which began in September and ended on Friday last, there was a hive of programmes which were given a head start by the Ministry of Education. The national school feeding programme saw the reintroduction of biscuits and added a healthy twist to the initiative by the introduction of juices for all nursery and Grades 1 and 2 students countrywide. This, for a fact, has increased attendance rates in schools and also has put something very nutritional and wholesome in the hands and mouths of children, many of whom do not have a good breakfast or even lunch. The textbook programme was felt even in Berbice, after several millions of dollars were allocated at the beginning of the year for acquisition of school textbooks. The Vryman’s Erven Secondary School received hundreds of textbooks from Central Ministry and also from the Department of Education in New Amsterdam. The books ranged from the core subject areas as well as Literature and literacy, all in class-sets.
Furniture was also delivered to several schools during the past school year. Benches, desks, teachers’ tables and chairs, and quite a few chalkboards were received up to a few weeks ago at the Vryman’s Secondary. Similar ventures were undertaken at other schools. The Ministry also advertised in the daily newspapers, a few months ago, for contractors to do repair works and painting at several named schools. The entire buildings of several schools were repainted and minor repair works were carried out where needed and to the extent needed.
The education sector continues to train and equip teachers with valuable skills recognizing that effective education delivery hinges not only on spanking new school buildings, fancy textbook handouts and school feeding programmes. The sector now has over 5,000 trained teachers in the system, and intends to add 2,000 more in the next couple of years. The introduction of the Associate Degree at the teachers’ training college, which begins from September, will see teacher- trainees spending half the time at training college and the other spent, hopefully, at the University of Guyana to read for their Bachelor’s Degree in Education. The previous year, the ministry, through the teachers’ training college introduced, for the first time ever, an In- Service Distance Education training programme for Secondary School teachers. The ministry is aiming for 100% trained teachers in the system in a certain time frame. Just last Thursday evening saw the integration of 364 teachers in the system—freshly trained teachers from the Cyril Potter College of Education. The college produces hundreds of Grade 1 Class 1 teachers specializing in various subject areas each year, even though this goes sometimes unnoticed both in public circles and the media. CPCE continues to function under its teacher training initiatives in collaboration with the Ministry of Education under severe constraints. It has held on strong, training thousands of the nation’s teachers in its nearly 100 years of existence in Guyana.
The introduction of the Non- Graduate Course by the National Centre for Educational Research and Development (NCERD) in 2007 saw the influx of over 50 teachers with enhanced training in English and Mathematics last month in the various secondary schools across the regions of Guyana. More professional and academic courses in fields such as ethics and Physics will be launched shortly, according to a brief discussion with Director of NCERD at the NCERD Graduation in June. There are a number of teachers who enrolled for the new batch of trainees in the two-year Distance mode programme. There is also a monetary incentive, a certificate and promotional points for teachers successfully completing the programme.
During this week, thousands of children across the board will receive school uniform vouchers. This would assist parents a great deal with expenses for the upcoming school term.
Also in 2009, the ministry introduced a six-year secondary programme beginning from Grade 7, where low achievers entering the secondary school system would be taught remedial subjects in a highly structured and specially designed curriculum, for one year. Afterward, they would be placed into a Grade 7 class. This is to enhance their literacy skills before they are introduced to academic studies in the secondary system.
In its quest to help low achieving students, the Secondary Competency Certificate Programme (SSCP) was launched recently at the Grade 10 level— the level just before CXC class. At the end of this programme, students would be issued with a certificate of competency, and would be emboldened with valuable academic skills in several non- traditional curriculum areas. This programme, too, is highly structured by curriculum planners and specialists at Central Ministry and NCERD in Georgetown.
In the latter part of 2009, the Ministry of Education, through a circular, informed all Head teachers and teachers that no child should repeat a grade for another academic year; that is, every child must be promoted to a higher level or grade after completing one year in that level. Teachers, then, had to promote students whether or not they passed their annual exams last week. This initiative is partially known in the USA as ‘No Child Left Behind’. In so doing, the ministry has implemented, beginning this week, a remedial vacation programme for all secondary school students who are low achievers in Mathematics and English. In a circular signed by the Assistant Chief Education Officer (Secondary), the programme runs from July 12- August 20, 2010 from 09:00hrs -12:00hrs. Snacks would be provided for each student enrolled in the programme.
Several manuals and teaching materials were forwarded to schools to kick-start the programme this week. The programme is currently in full swing.
Several advertisements have appeared in the newspapers over the past months for School Welfare Officers, Counselors and Cadet Officers. These, hopefully, would be placed in various schools, especially those which are hot-spots for indiscipline and violence, from September.
I could go on and on about more initiatives which have been put forward by the ministry. Persons out there must become familiar and acquainted with what’s happening in the education sector.
The government, without a doubt, spends quite a lot on education delivery in Guyana. Though they may not be getting value for their money at various levels, strides are being made to overcome this. Numerous school inspectorate teams have been set up over the years which visit and monitor the activities and effectiveness of schools on a regular basis. Ever so often, we hear and read negative utterances about the sector and that students are not receiving quality teaching from teachers in schools.
Let us not see education delivery and enhancement in Guyana as an issue and task only for teachers and the officials within the ministry. All, I repeat, all must become proactively involved in the dissemination of the policies and programmes of the Ministry of Education in Guyana. I believe, from all indications and all that I have discussed here, we have certainly put the right systems in place for a more effective and more enhanced education system.
All it takes now is for the ministry to deal nicely with remuneration packages for teachers, that can be just as effective, handsome and on par with the harsh cost of living they face, as well.
Leon Jameson Suseran