World Bank $2B loan targets math, secondary enrolment

The World Bank’s Board of Directors yesterday approved a $2 billion (US$10 million) loan for Guyana for a project which aims to increase enrolment in general secondary schools and improve standards of mathematics teaching in secondary schools.

In a statement, the World Bank said that among concrete results to be achieved by the project are the enrolment of 2,600 new students from vulnerable areas in general secondary schools, a pilot technology-assisted learning in mathematics and 600 secondary mathematics teachers trained, mathematics standards for secondary school teachers increased, and math kits distributed to 250 secondary schools.

The Bank noted that about 85 percent of young Guyanese are enrolled in secondary education and government has set an objective to achieve quality universal secondary education.

The development objectives of the Secondary Education Improvement Project for Guyana are to strengthen the capacity of secondary school mathematics teachers nationwide, and increase enrolment in general secondary schools in targeted regions. The project comprises three components namely to Strengthen the Capacity of Secondary School Mathematics Teachers Nationwide (US$1.80 million); Expansion of General Secondary School Facilities (US$7.15 million); and Strengthen Institutional Capacity and Project Management (US$1.05 million).

The first component aims to improve the content knowledge and instructional skills of secondary school mathematics teachers to enhance effectiveness in the classroom. Its three sub-components include in-service mathematics teacher training and upgrading; revising public secondary school teacher’s appraisal instruments; and technology-assisted learning in mathematics. For the latter sub-component, a pilot at eight secondary schools over three years seeks to promote innovation and providing lessons for possible future scaling up will be initiated. This will see tablets being distributed to all Grade 7 students in the eight pilot schools for both school and home use, with the capability to download and operate a range of self-paced mathematics software applications.

LCD projectors and basic servers would also be provided to each school to ensure on-line resources can be downloaded and stored at the school level and accessed off-line. After receiving training, teachers would post regular “reflection blogs” discussing their experiences and questions on a website set up for this purpose.

A more qualitative, process-focused evaluation would be conducted to gather teacher and student feedback, assess technology adoption, review on-line resources prepared by participating teachers, and compare outcomes with a set of control schools.

The second component, expansion of general secondary school facilities, will expand services in underserved areas of Regions Three and Four, through two sub-components: new school construction; and provision of furniture and equipment for new school construction. Three new General Secondary Schools – one in Region 3 and two in Region 4 – will be constructed. The three new schools would create a total of 2,600 student places.

The third component, strengthen institutional capacity and project management, seeks to strengthen the education management information system (EMIS) through design, development, and implementation of a new EMIS to increase efficiency in education sector data management and information use for planning and policymaking.

According to Bank documents, the EMIS would capitalize on the government’s e-government initiative, which has set up a large national data centre and is establishing 4G wireless connectivity covering approximately 80 percent of the population (to be operational in August 2014). “The vast majority of secondary schools, approximately 85 percent, is located within high-speed wireless areas and would have free connectivity, easy uploading of and access to education information with their tablets, and free hosting of the EMIS software and database,” it said.

The Bank yesterday also approved another US$11 million for reducing flooding risk by improving the drainage system. To boost competitiveness, it is essential to address the vulnerability to climate risks and ensure that the skills learnt in the classroom lay the foundation for future work-place success. Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean, said. The loans have a final maturity of 25 years, with a 5 year grace period.

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