Finance Minister Winston Jordan said yesterday that as government strives to provide quality education, increasing the number of teachers, improving infrastructure and utilizing technology in education delivery, will be the focus in 2018.
“There is clear need for reform and innovation across all levels of education delivery – nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary. Our children must no longer be subjected to frequent teacher absenteeism, poor curriculum delivery, shortages of text books and materials, and non-submission of grades at tertiary levels”, Jordan told the National Assembly while presenting the 2018 National Budget.
He said that it was recognizing the need for a reform of the education system that Government established a Commission of Inquiry, whose report is expected to make searching recommendations to guide the innovation and reform initiatives.
Jordan told the House that improving the quality of education will not be fixed by building more schools and buying more furniture and that while non-academic standards continue to be critical to the quality of education delivery, “it is the presence of a teacher who cares enough to ensure that each child masters literacy and numeracy at the lower grades that will influence their performance in future year”. In this regard he said government will continue to add to the pool of trained teachers, which currently stands at 77 percent, in order to ensure that each child is afforded the best possible education. This year, he said, it is expected that 450 graduates will join the trained teacher workforce and 37 untrained teachers will complete the teacher upgrading programme, to prepare for the trained teachers ‘certificate programme. In 2018, it is expected that an additional 335 trained teachers will join the workforce.
According to Jordan, government intends to improve the quality of learning by providing a stimulating environment. In this regard, he said government will intensify efforts to transform the systems of education delivery via technology. “To date, 610 teachers have received basic IT training, while 162 have been trained in the use of software to facilitate those who learn at different paces. Additionally, 56 teachers are currently being trained in website building and online teaching”, he said adding that these and other initiatives are expected to continue, in 2018.
Jordan told the National Assembly that other programmes, such as the Digital Classroom Programme, are slated to commence, also. This particular programme, he said is set to benefit about 3,540 students and 170 teachers. In 2018, priority will be given to creating e-material for improved learning in classrooms.
Further, in 2018, much emphasis will be placed on early childhood education literacy programmes and, in this regard, the roll out of 200 early childhood resource kits, and the continued roll out of the ‘READ PLAY LOVE‘ mass media campaign will continue. “Passion for science technology engineering mathematics (STEM) subjects must be aroused at an early stage in a child‘s development and transitioned throughout the primary and secondary levels”, he said while adding that in this regard, the Government is implementing an Inquiry Science Education approach, which is being piloted in 10 primary schools. In addition, 250 mathematics kits, to facilitate better learning outcomes, have already been distributed to secondary schools, he said.
According to Jordan, technical vocational education and training is one of the pathways students can choose, in order to develop skills and trade that will allow them to become gainfully employed. To this end, Government will support the construction of practical instruction departments at secondary schools in Mabaruma, Bartica, Mahdia, and St. Ignatius, and practical instruction centres in Fellowship, Beterverwagting and Hopetown.
The upgrade and expansion of these centres, he said will create an enhanced learning environment necessary to equip students with marketable skills. “By 2021, we envisage a total of 42 workshops being constructed and/or refurbished to cater for over 2,900 students. Training will be conducted in the fields of joinery, masonry, cookery, garment production and motor vehicle repairs, amongst others”, he said adding that Government will support the construction of a technical and vocational centre at Bina Hill.
Government, he reminded has boosted the School Feeding Programme, to provide wider access to a larger cohort of students. The community-based hot meal programme, he informed has been expanded from 110 schools to 172 schools. The programme, he said now includes schools in the riverain communities of Region 2, in addition to Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9, which are located in the hinterland.
In the area of capital improvements to the education infrastructure, Jordan said that government has budgeted over $4.7 billion on the construction, rehabilitation, extension and maintenance of educational facilities throughout Guyana. New secondary schools, he informed will be constructed at Good Hope and Parfaite Harmonie, while St. Rose‘s High and the Wismar/Christianburg Secondary School will be re-constructed.
The University of Guyana will receive a subvention of over $2.4 billion, in 2018, he said adding that it is expected that the skill sets within the leadership of the University will ably manage these resources in a “fiscally-responsible manner”.