Over the past decade, Guyana has seen a proliferation in the establishment of private educational institutions at all levels, most notably at the post secondary and tertiary levels. With the oil and gas industry now in its embryonic state, and an anxious Guyanese population eager to get on board and ride the wave of highly anticipated opportunities generated, both directly and indirectly by this new development, no doubt there will be rapid additions to this list of learning institutions.
Now maybe a good time for all the enthusiastic and ambitious Guyanese, who are thinking of pursuing training at these recently established or soon- to-be established learning centres, to exercise some caution before signing up for courses . Enquiries with the National Accreditation Council – Guyana (NAC) may save potential students valuable time and hard-earned money.
The NAC, a department of the Ministry of Education, was established by the Act of Parliament number 12, 2004, and according to its website, it is “the principal body in Guyana for conducting and advising on the accreditation and recognition of educational and training institutions, providers, programmes and awards, whether foreign or national, and for the promotion of the quality and standards of education and training in Guyana.
One of the main functions of the Council is the registration of institutions within and outside of Guyana which offer courses in Guyana that have met the minimum tertiary educational standards with respect to student enrolment. Among the standards the NAC examines are the adequacy and suitability of physical facilities, the scope, appropriateness and educational value of institutional courses and experiences, the qualification and competence of staff, the adequacy of resources, e.g. library, computers, laboratories to support the programmes, and other operational factors.
The NAC provides accreditation for degree and specialized programmes by establishing and applying criteria for the accreditation of tertiary/higher educational programmes and courses of study, assisting registered institutions in the improvement of their educational programmes, and, most importantly encouraging and facilitating programmes related to national needs.
The Council is charged with establishing relationships with national and external accreditation and quality assurance bodies, and to keep under review, their systems of accreditation procedures and practices. It also has to determine the equivalency of, and facilitate, the recognition of foreign qualifications, in accordance with the framework established by the Caribbean Community.
In addition to assuring the quality of programmes being offered in Guyana by foreign institutions, the Council must protect the interest of students and provide appropriate public information about the Institutions and programmes registered and accredited by the Council.
The NAC is responsible for the promotion of the free movement of skills and knowledge within the Caribbean Community, and has the authority to withdraw or cancel approval, recognition or title granted to or conferred on any institution or provider for good and sufficient cause in the opinion of the Council.
The areas of assessment for registration of these learning institutions by the NAC include legal, policy and regulatory requirements, governance and administration, resource management and the teaching/learning process employed.
The rigorous seven step process of accreditation to the Council begins with registration which “provides an institution with the opportunity to establish a formal publicly recognized relationship with the NAC,” which serves as a pre-accreditation status.
The process of accreditation by a body begins with an application to the NAC and the conduct of a self-study. In the latter instance, the applying institution is required to carefully examine itself by means of a thorough evaluation in which it assesses its strengths and weaknesses, albeit to assist in institutional planning and development. The completed self-study, along with supplementary information such as syllabi, examination papers, sample projects, etc. are then submitted for processing.
Upon review of the application, the council will determine if the candidate is worthy of accreditation, and if so, an evaluation team is put together of professional educators and practicing professionals in the relevant field, for a site visit and an evaluation of the programme. The site visit serves as a fact finding mission and includes a series of interviews with the administration, students, employers of graduates and other relevant stakeholders, an examination of the institution’s facilities, and even observation of classes in-session.
Following the evaluation report and the institution’s response to its comments and recommendations, the NAC will review the application and determine the outcome of the application. Accredited institutions are informed of the terms and conditions under which the accreditation was granted. Initial accreditation is normally for a period of four years during which annual reports must be submitted. Re-accreditation is not automatic and institutions must submit applications three months before accreditation expires and must satisfy the council they can still meet the required standards of performance.
We now live in age where we are subjected to an overload of information and quite often vital information is lost in the deluge. Aspiring students should make it their duty to visit the comprehensive website of the NAC, before they consider applying to any of the post-secondary institutions operating here in Guyana. They might be pleasantly surprised at what they find and what they don’t find.
On its Approved Programmes’ page, there is a list of approved institutions, the approved programmes along with the corresponding international bodies, and the dates of approval and expiration of the courses. If one has any further doubts, one can call or pay a visit to the office of the NAC to verify that their chosen centre of study meets the required standards and is accredited. The heartache will be less if you find out now that the certificate you might wish to pursue is not worth the piece of paper that it is printed on.
A visit to the NAC website is free of cost.