While the public education system might not have collapsed to the point of complete ruin, the country is far too close to it for comfort, Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine says.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday on President David Granger’s speech at the opening of Parliament on June 10, Roopnaraine said “let me be clear that we are not in a situation wherein the system is suffering from a lack of capacity for planning, or paucity of human resources at the administrative level or student level. We’ve consistently had a series of well-crafted education policies constructed by qualified professionals, and remarkable individual showings by individual students at exams, yet our delivery of education services remains unsustainable and uncompetitive”.
He said that the baseline for future planning on education has to be significant reform of the system.
“Certain problems are clear-cut, as are their solutions. Our teachers, it must be said, are underpaid and under valued, so we need to pay our teachers more, and value them more. There is poor enforcement of existing rules and guidelines, so we need to place more emphasis on accountability within the system. We have the lion’s share of resources concentrated in schools and educational institutions in the capital and on the coast, so we need to ensure that resources are equitably spread, including the establishment of technical and vocational institutes in hinterland communities”, he said.
He identified a number of fundamental areas that required major attention including Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
He contended that between 2010 and 2014, the country saw hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into various ICT projects in the education system, added to the billions of dollars sunk into the Fibre Optic Cable project as well as the One Laptop per Family Programme (OLPF) initiative.
“Yet, for all that expenditure, we have yet to come up with one single effective ICT plan either in isolation, as a component of a workable ICT or Education strategy.
Our first task therefore will be to establish precisely where we are in terms of the level of ICT incorporation into education delivery, with respect to both infrastructure and curriculum. Simultaneously we will examine best practices from developing countries, like several in the region, who are further along in integrating ICT into the classroom. When that is done, we can design a long-term policy that sees partnerships with the private sector, the donor community and NGOs to craft the sort of learning environment that can equip our young people for full participation in the digital age.”, the Minister added.