The Ministry of Education (MoE) plans to revive and strengthen Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and student councils across the country in order to foster a community alliance that it hopes will help to improve the quality of education offered, especially in the hinterland.
This is according to the ministry’s Chief Planning Officer Evelyn Hamilton, who made the disclosure during an interactive session with Indigenous leaders and other participants at the recently-concluded National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference.
“What the ministry wants to do in a sense is to have our stakeholders, parents, Toshaos and other community leaders being able to look at the school and to be able to say to the ministry what might be going wrong with the physical facilities, what might be going wrong with teachers’ attendance, with children’s attendance…and to suggest ways in which for each individual school there could be an improvement in performance,” Hamilton said.
Further, she noted that with an estimated 28,000 students, less than 1,200 teachers and 366 schools in the hinterland, there is a need for more community alliance if the quality of education is to improve.
“We would do better as a community if we foster community alliance and this why we are here today and this is why in the future, we will be here to hear from you,” Hamilton told the participants.
On this note, she alluded to the ministry’s plans to increase the number of schools with fully functioning PTAs and student councils.
Offering some insight, Hamilton stated that the ministry has already engaged a PTA coordinator, who is set to begin work soon. Further, in improving the capacity of school PTAs, Hamilton noted that steps would be taken to monitor and observe the different aspects of the school and to prepare school improvement plans.
In the meantime, the ministry has also laid groundwork for a system of national and school report cards, the former of which she said would be used to present an annual report to the nation. On the other hand, the school report card would be a tool than can be used to track the academic performance of schools across the country over a period of time.
“Why is it that two schools that have the same facilities, the same quality of teachers and one does very well and the other does not do very well…? These report cards may bring this kind of issue to the floor and the MoE and all regional departments can make decisions based on that,” Hamilton explained.
And recognising the concern of leaders with regards to the physical facilities of schools in the hinterland, Hamilton underscored the importance of such facilities being able to meet the specific standards set by the ministry. This being said, she alluded to the ministry’s plan to conduct a survey of all schools as a way of reviewing and revising the physical features of such facilities. She went on to say that MoE has already shortlisted some firms that might be given the contract to start doing reviews of schools throughout Guyana.
Further, Hamilton explained that based on the findings of such reviews, it is the ministry’s hope that the regional budgets would then be able to reflect the upgrading needs that are identified.
She noted, however, that while it would give the regions an opportunity to develop a programme based on results of the survey, indicating their plans to improve the physical facilities of schools in their region, things will take some time.
Gap still exists
Meanwhile, Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, in his remarks, encouraged the Indigenous leaders and participants to share their thoughts and concerns for the benefit of the ministry.
“We have and we believe that we need to hear from teachers, parents and students of their sense of the education sector, so we can address these issues in a very specific way and so that we can craft the necessary laws and systems to address these issues,” he said.
He further acknowledged the many challenges faced by those who pursue their education in the hinterland, saying, “The problem gets more difficult and more profound when we leave the coast. Frankly, we are very unhappy that the gap still exists between the hinterland and the coast but we know that if we think we have problems here on the coast, the problems are multiplied infinitely when we get to the hinterland for a number of reasons.”
Yet, the minister expressed the belief that it is in the hinterland that we have the capacity and the resources to bring a kind of strength and inspiration to the education sector.
“It is you we need to hear from because it is impossible for us to sit at the Ministry of Education and devise programmes and craft strategies for you out there without hearing from you; these strategies that we need to craft for the hinterland really must come from you,” he reiterated.
Alluding to the reforms made by the ministry since he became Minister of Education, Roopnaraine noted that more should be done to expand current teaching curricula so as to place more focus on the arts, sports and culture.
“I have a feeling that I want the education that a child is absorbing at a young age from the school to be much more widely based and experience not only the books and learning and knowledge but also experience the culture and experience the sport and the music of the curricula… These are some of the things we are hoping to implement, many of which are discussed at the Commission of Inquiry for the education system in Guyana,” he said.
Commenting on the plans to establish a new PTA Secretariat, the Minister stated that it would ensure a line of communication through which the concerns of the PTAs can be channelled to the ministry for action
Roopnaraine said, “I believe that for us to move this whole education train along we must get the active collaboration of teachers and parents. Teachers have the children in school for a few hours; the parents have them the rest of the time. We cannot have teachers doing one thing in the classroom, and when they get home, parents doing another.”
“We need to ensure that the collaboration between our teachers and our parents is very strong. To that end we are planning to establish at the Ministry of Education a national PTA secretariat, where we are going to monitor much more carefully than we were able to do, the state, the conditions of the PTAs across the country,” he added.