Streaming in schools has not served Guyana well

Dear Editor,

Some weeks ago I was attracted by the headline: ‘Ministry mulls implementing streaming in schools’ (KN, July 22).  After reading the report, I could not help but wonder whether the Ministry of Education is oblivious to the challenge that we have a nation and a democracy to build. Streaming in a school system characterized by a paucity of quality resources will serve only to compound social inequalities, and will, ultimately, result in an increase in a variety of antisocial behaviours both at school and in the wider society.

The report is cleverly written almost to the extent of being disingenuous. While it is useful to be aware of educational practices elsewhere, and that the research of James and Chen Lin Kulik in America suggests some improvement in scholastic achievement of higher ability groups, other researchers (HJ Braathe, J Ireson, S Hallisan) indicate that the research literature gives little support for the practice of streaming.  I invite anyone who has access to a computer to Google ‘Streaming in Schools Education Research,’ and to judge for themselves. The observer would see articles as recent as May 2013, advocating the abolition of streaming in parts of England and New Zealand.

With the exception of some developing societies, the practice of streaming occurred in societies that had already evolved from statehood to nationhood. Guyana is still very much a state, and has a very far way to go before nationhood is attained. I am unaware of any state that has streamed itself to nationhood.  Even in the building of the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), on its way to becoming a superpower after World War II, secondary school students followed a general curriculum for most of the day, after which the gifted would attend special schools (mathematics, fine arts, etc).

Streaming in schools has not served Guyana well, and will be inimical to Guyana’s present and future needs. Over the past decades an overwhelming majority (in excess of 90%) of our higher ability students who were allocated the better resources, taught by the better teachers, and performed well at their examinations have emigrated, and are now contributing to the development of other countries. For the most part the development of Guyana was left to those who were sacrificed along the way in order to give the best available to the high flyers.

Again I am compelled to ask what purposes must schooling in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana serve?  Is it just to satisfy the needs of certain individuals to pass GCEs and CSECs? Should the needs of state and society be jettisoned just to be able to claim higher pass rates per subject entries? I think not.

In addition to fulfilling the needs of the individual, what about providing for the needs of the Guyanese state and society? The use of the words ‘Guyanese state’ as opposed to ‘Guyanese nation’ is deliberate. We are not only a very divided society ethnically, but we are divided even further by ever increasing inequalities along every social dimension, be it education, employment, or health care. We are yet to evolve as a nation with any sense of a common purpose.

Maybe Mr Clive Lloyd should be asked how he moulded the West Indian cricket team into world-beaters.  As far as I was made to understand, there were no prima donnas in his team.  All monetary prizes were thrown into the pot, and divided equally at the end of the tournament.  They were ‘one for all, and all for one.’ The West Indies cricket team captained by Mr Clive Llyod was a team in the truest sense of the word.

Is the ministry committed to building a nation of one people with a common destiny?  Then a primary aim of all educational policies must be to develop and cement the virtues, morals, and attitudes to life that would create a healthy national ethos and a sense of common purpose. This is the only way a ‘Guyanese nation’ will ever become a reality.

Finally, I fully endorse the call for a Commission of Inquiry into the practice of education in Guyana. It has been long overdue.


Yours faithfully,
Clarence O Perry

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