Minister of Education Priya Manickchand yesterday announced that proposals have been made to introduce Portuguese as a foreign language in secondary schools as early as September 2013.
During a press conference at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development, the Minister made the disclosure and added that the construction of a curriculum for the new subject is underway.
Spanish and French have long been taught in schools in Guyana and across the Caribbean, particularly those whose examinations are governed by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). The Minister however said that Guyana is looking to pioneer the implementation of Portuguese into the secondary curriculum and eventually offer it as a subject for CXC.
Manickchand explained that the subject will initially be offered only in grades 7 and 8, (Forms 1 and 2), but said that the government hopes to have it as a CXC subject in 3-5 years.
To facilitate instruction in the subject, Manickchand said that the Government of Guyana has initiated talks with the Brazilian Government to try to organize a programme where teachers would be exchanged so as to provide proficient instructors in the language.
She said that the Ministry has already identified about six teachers who are able to teach Portuguese. She said that initially the language will only be offered in six schools due to the fact that there are a limited number of teachers proficient enough to teach it. As such, she said, these teachers will be required to move from school to school according to a timetable which will be developed.
She added that talks with the Brazilian government are ongoing, and said that if these talks are fruitful before the initiative is launched in September the Ministry will consider expanding the scope of the implementation.
The Minister also announced intentions to bring two schools in Region 5 to ‘A’ list status. Manickchand said that Mahaica/Berbice is currently the only Region without an ‘A’ list school, which has long forced students who would have acquired high marks in their Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE) and now Grade Six to travel far distances to attend a school which was commensurate with their grades.
As such she said, the Bygeval and Rosignol Secondary schools have been earmarked to receive the necessary modifications to enable them to attain this status.
An ‘A’ list school, according to Manickchand, is one which offers a higher quality education to its students. She said that to qualify for this classification a school would need to offer foreign languages as well as be in possession of science and computer labs which are sufficiently equipped to facilitate the completion of the relevant syllabi. Rosignol Secondary in particular will need to be staffed with a Spanish teacher.
She said that the costs for the necessary works have not yet been determined, but said that she is confident that the Ministry will be able to meet them.
Manickchand said that the necessary improvements will be made by the beginning of the new school term in September, just in time to benefit the new batch of National Grade Six Assessment students.
The Ministry also intends to alter the age at which children are allowed to enter nursery school.
The Minister explained that presently a child would need to be three years three months by March 31st to be eligible to enter nursery school in September. In the present system she said, children born after the 31st would need to wait until the following year even though they may be ready to start school.
As such, she said, a proposal has been made to change the requisite birth date for nursery school entry to June 30th. Manickchand said that this initiative is slated to take effect in September 2014. As such, from next year children three years, six months old will be able to begin nursery school.
The minister said that the June 30th cut-off date will be strictly enforced to prevent children from starting school before they are ready.
She said that the changing of the age requirement means that an additional 3000 or so children will be entering the school system annually and stated that over the next year the Ministry will be endeavouring to fit nursery schools with additional furniture and teachers that will most definitely be required.
As it relates to the Government of Government Scholarship Programmes, Manickchand said that an initiative where Scholarships are awarded to the two top CXC and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) students will soon be initiated.
The Government, she said, will be providing these students with scholarships to whichever tertiary institution they gain acceptance to, and shared that last year’s top performers in these categories will be the first to benefit.
She added that plans are being made to amend Section 4 (3) (C) of the Accreditation Act to allow for the accreditation of institutions by the Accreditation Council. In addition, the chambers of the Attorney General is carrying out the final review of the pending Education Bill which will enable a final draft to be completed. In the meantime, several regulations have already been drafted in preparation for when the bill is tabled.
Manickchand said that the current practice of accrediting individual programmes is taxing upon the human resources of the Council. This has been one of the leading factors behind the push for a change in the system. She said however that an institution will only be accredited after satisfying the strict standards which have been set out by the Council. Additionally, she said that an institution’s programmes will need to be of a high calibre before it is accredited since part of the process involves the evaluation of these programmes.