Ministry of Education, Guyana

Friday, 12 February 2016 13:57

2016 National Budget Presentation, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Honourable Minister of Education

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Hon. Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine Minister of Education1



2016 National Budget Presentation
Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Honourable Minister of Education

INTRODUCTION

As we in the Ministry of Education under the APNU+AFC government embarks upon its first full calendar year of operations, it inevitably continues to be partially in diagnostic mode as we “go ahead with what works and discard what does not”, as I promised we would in my 2015 budget speech.

As we forge ahead, we remain cognizant of the immediate past state of the education system, the course of which we must change for the good of the nation. We remain cognizant of, to list some critical shortcomings of the system we inherited:

  1. the past neglect of tertiary education;
  2. the significant appropriations, the returns on which were often far from optimal;
  3. the mismatch of appropriations with the articulated plans;
  4. the gap between programme rationalizing and programme implementation;
  5. politically motivated decision-making, and coercion and intimidation of professionals; and
  6. the hyping of the stellar performance of a few in contrast to and arguably to disguise generally poor and declining results overall.

PROMISE OF A GOOD LIFE

Mr. Speaker, this is not a system we intend to perpetuate. In its Manifesto, the APNU+AFC coalition clearly identified the creation of “a united, peaceful and developed Guyana” as its core objective.

That objective or any one of its component parts is not achievable in a society which has not benefitted from real education. By that, I mean, education being a state of knowing and learning that engenders the appreciation of human beings, their existence biologically and socially; education that induces rationality to their existence; and education that enables the application of knowledge to themselves and their environment, in a complex relationship of thought, desire and work as a basis for sustenance and self reproduction.

It is the achievement of that state of being, or the continuum towards its achievement, APNU/AFC refers to when it speaks about a Good Life. Education is the driving force, the locomotive engine of that good life, and our primary challenge is crafting a system that engenders education as we conceive it.

The stark reality is that our education system, under the previous administration, failed to grapple with that concern, with focus instead being placed on achievers of certificates at the expense of the education of the citizens.

We enjoin the entire nation to join us in this enterprise of enhancing the education system to address our growth and improvement society over the next fifty years and beyond; Mr. Speaker, we enjoin the Opposition in particular.

The Strategic and Programmatic Perspective
In view of APNU+AFC’s objective oriented approach to the fulfillment of its mandate to govern, and in view of its understanding of the historiography of Guyana; and in the context of its understanding of the role of education, it conceptualized an appropriate approach to education in Guyana. The approach envisaged programmes in as much as it identifies specific strategies for the achievement of its objective: a Good Life for all.

From a programmatic perspective the APNU+AFC concluded that attention to the curricula for the education system is key, since therein would be the knowledge which ought to be shared by Guyanese who would be involved in the project: Creating a Good Life for All. This also takes into consideration that curricula would inevitably address the question of the manner in which learning should occur, thus providing an opportunity for approaches to learning, and the application of knowledge to be inculcated.

APNU+AFC also recognized the plural nature of the Guyanese society and in response to that recognition determined that the University should establish research programmes to investigate the casual factor “of ethnic and racial tensions and conflict in our society” and to “make recommendations on how to address these. Clearly the APNU+AFC’s manifesto provided an unambiguous direction in relation to how the education system should be remedied as well as it identifies the central issues which required attention. These issues include: (1) meeting “the nutritional and transportation needs of primary and secondary schools; retaining and recruiting teachers; reforming the curriculum; equipping the schools for the teaching of ICT-selected subjects; ‘rescuing the University of Guyana’, implementing a national programme for technical and vocational education across the country; and creating a friendly and equitable environment for learning along with extracurricular activities that would enhance all-round development.


THE 2015 BUDGET PROJECTIONS 

Mr. Speaker, it was those core strategic concerns that would be reflected in the presentation of this administration’s inaugural budget less than a year ago.

It bears reminding that in his inaugural Budget Speech in 2015, the Minister of Finance projected that education would become both a means to, and an end of, sustainable development. He emphasized the intended vision where all of our citizens would have equal access to high quality education and learning opportunities, and where education is positioned as the key intermediary through which we lay the foundation of a robust competitive economy, as well as an inclusive and social cohesive society’

He further underlined the collaborative nature of the education enterprise and the need for a holistic and integrated approach to education, the objectives being ensuring a “seamless transition between schooling and employment. He projected that ultimately “by 2020, our children and young people must be exposed to an appropriate mix of STEM subjects, liberal arts, and sports and culture that together will ensure well rounded individuals who are capable of excelling in their chosen path.”

In enjoining the Minister Jordan on that occasion, I first of all intimated the intention to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the Education System with a view of locating “precisely where our journey begins” This approach is also informed by the intention to formulate “ evidenced based policies” and ‘system-based reform’. In consonance with this approach, I highlighted the need for the establishment of the National Advisory Council as a stakeholder forum that would guide the process of constructing and implementing an evidenced based strategy built on core tenets including:

  1. “A broad, multi phased strategy framework for national education reform and development.”
  2. “Contextualization within the CARICOM Regional Education and HR Development Strategy 2030”.
  3. “Particular focus on the use of technology in education sector management.”
  4. “Particular focus on Hinterland Education Reform”.

In that regard, I mentioned some specific initiatives that were to be outlined.; among those initiatives were:

  1. A review of the Education Cash Grant programme, which seemed not to be serving the intended purpose.
  2. The expansion of the warm meals and general school feeding programmes.
  3. The revamping of School Boards and Parent Teachers Association and the reestablishment of Regional Education committees.
  4. Better service delivery to the disabled and a more enlightened approach, by the population, to persons with disabilities.
  5. The strategic integration of ICT education as opposed to an OLPF that proved not only ill-conceived but also fraught with corruption and wastage.
  6. Provision of teachers with both equipment and training.

The 2020 outcome that I envisaged was the production of a competent Guyanese citizen and provision of our youth a voice and a role in shaping their destiny.

Mr. Speaker, the reality of 2015 was that it was a severely truncated year. The Government was installed in May of 2015 but a budget only became available in September of 2015. Having embarked in September much was done to commence the realization of that which had been articulated in the Manifesto and which found itself into the proposals for the 2015 budget and subsequent presidential and ministerial pronouncements.


POLICY INITIATIVES

Even against this backdrop, in keeping with the Ministry’s Action Plan and with a view to the actual state of the sector, a number of policies were formulated and initiated. The most notable of such initiatives are:

  1. The use of the grade two and four assessments purely for diagnostic purposes and the attendant follow-up; and the use of the grade six assessment, solely, for the determination of placement in post primary schools.
  2. The lowering of the entry age for nursery schools from 3 years, 9 months to 3 years, 6 months.
  3. The raising of the age for qualification to write Grade Six Assessment from 12 to 13 years, thus eliminating the need for unwarranted acceleration solely for the purpose of writing the SSCE examination even though the pupil might not be preferred.
  4. The engagement of the Caribbean Examinations Council to develop and administrate grades 2, 4 and 6 assessments while simultaneously building NCERD’s capacity in that area with the intention of restoring the function to NCERD in the medium term.
  5. Development of the mechanism to ensure that the CSEC SBAs are submitted by January 31st, each year.
  6. The review of the status of Parent-Teachers Associations countrywide, with a view to ensuring that they are established and functioning.
  7. Review of the student reports system and parent-teachers conference arrangements with the intent of ensuring that reports are provided in a timely manner and parents are actively involved in their children’ welfare.
  8. The drafting of a universal prayer for schools and a consultative process to achieve consensus on the prayer in recognition of the plural nature of Guyanese society.
  9. The crafting of a sports and physical education survey instrument which is to be used to determine what steps should be taken to ensure that sports and physical education find their rightful place in the school system.
  10. The induction of a cohort of Education Cadet Officers. This programme is intended to improve the quality of administrators in, and administration of, the education system.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Mr. Speaker, the operational areas of education delivery are Early Childhood; Primary; Secondary; Technical and Vocational; and Tertiary Education, each capably supported by several units within the Ministry. In the area of Early Childhood Education we have had the following achievements:

  1. Four new Nursery schools were commissioned in 2015: Good Hope Nursery (Region 4), #77 Nursery (Region 6), Kairuni Nursery (Region 4) and Cummings Park Nursery (Georgetown).
  2. The newly developed Nursery Diagnostic Assessments were administered as well as the revamped Literacy and Numeracy Assessments for Nursery years 1 and 2.
  3. The Roraima Readers Series which was piloted in 2013 was rolled out nationally.
  4. Nursery Field Officers received further training and are expected to support the monitoring and supervision being done at this level.
  5. The Guyana Early Childhood Education Project is being rolled out in the hinterland Regions to improve ECE delivery and output.

PRIMARY EDUCATION

In the area of Primary Education:

  1. The primary grades diagnostic assessments were administered system-wide with specific emphasis placed on teachers planning based on the demonstrated needs of pupils.
  2. Greater emphasis is being placed on the early-grades literacy and numeracy preparation of pupils to ensure mastery is attained. To that end, all schools are now required to prepare action plans based on the needs of pupils as demonstrated by assessments and to report on the progress made at the end of every term.
  3. Continuous professional development of teachers at the primary level has been expanded to all regions with specific emphasis on education delivery in the core subject areas.
  4. Music instruction has been improved with the training of primary teachers to facilitate the formation and sustainability of school choirs. The expansion to include the use of instruments such as recorders and steel bands will be attained through further training of teachers. This is keeping with our objective of significantly enhancing arts education within the school system.

SECONDARY EDUCATION

With regard to Secondary Education:

  1. Through collaboration with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) a number of CSEC and CAPE syllabus reviews and methodology workshops were conducted for teachers across the country in various subject areas.
  2. The work to improve performance in the key areas of English Language and Mathematics is ongoing with consistent training and monitoring of teachers. In addition, the Guyana Secondary Education Improvement Project has commenced with specific emphasis on the improvement of Mathematics instruction in all secondary schools.
  3. A survey was conducted on the status of all dormitories across the country and the information compiled will be used to devise a comprehensive dormitory improvement strategy.
  4. Through collaboration with the Faculty of Education and Humanities at the University of Education, teachers of Spanish have commenced their B.A. programme.
  5. Guyana continues to benefit from the contribution of World Teach, Project Trust and Peace Corp volunteers in Secondary schools, across the country.
  6. Through collaboration with UNICEF, work has commenced to expand the scope of Health and Family Life Education in all schools as well as the Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Programme in select schools. A range of sports equipment and other resource was provided for dormitory schools.

TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

In the area of Technical and Vocational Education:

  1. Technical Institutes have collaborated with the Council for TVET to meet requirements for Guyana to be recognized to award the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications at the next COHSOD.
  2. Competency Based Education and Training courses are still being rolled out in all technical institutes.
  3. The C-EFE project at the Linden Technical Institute as well at the Government Technical Institute in the area of heavy duty equipment maintenance and automotive electronics are ongoing.
  4. The Document Retrieval Integrated Management System (DRIMS) has been developed for all technical institutes and extensive Occupational Health Environment and Safety workshops were conducted across the country.

TEACHER TRAINING

As promised we made good on our commitment to strengthening one of the core components of the system, teacher training:

  1. The Cyril Potter College of Education has had its largest intake of, approximately 751 trainees, in 2015. The technical teacher training programme has commenced in collaboration with GTI.
  2. The Mentorship and Induction programme for new teachers has been embedded in the system with widespread and consistent monitoring being done in all Regions.
  3. Teacher training has been expanded to Kwakwani, Charity and Mahdia to ensure under-qualified and untrained teachers receive the necessary capacity building. Distance education training programmes continue in Regions 1 and 9 as well as the other satellite centres across the country.
  4. The Guyana Improving Teacher Education Project came to an end in 2015 with the significant strategic objectives being attained.

THE UNIVERSITY OF GUYANA

Mr. Speaker, on the important issue of the fate of our sole national tertiary education institution, I am happy to report that a new University Council was appointed without any political manipulation of the process and a new Chancellor was appointed by the Council. The Council has since embarked on a search for a new Vice-Chancellor to replace the out-going Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jacobi Opedayi as well as the Council has embarked upon the process of establishing a Transformational Task Force to craft a strategy for the reversal of the University’s decline. The first meeting of this Task Force was convened earlier today.


ACHIEVEMENTS

As it relates to Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) assessments, performance in 2015 continued to show improvement over previous years.

CAPE
Candidates wrote Units in twenty-nine subject areas. Each Unit comprises three Modules (equivalent to 150 Credit Hours), and is separately examined and certified. Candidates from Guyana wrote fifty-six (56) units at this year’s examination. In addition, for the first time, Guyana received two Regional top awards for CAPE.

CSEC
The analysis of the 2015 CSEC results revealed that the overall pass rate at the General and Technical proficiencies for Grade One to Three was 62.72% as opposed to 60.21% in 2014.

The Grade One to Three passes in English A and Mathematics both improved over last year’s performance. The English A pass rate is 49.36%, up from 46.98% in 2014 and 45.69% in 2013. The Mathematics pass rate is 45.07%, up from 38.75% in 2014 and 28.92% in 2013.

Guyana continued to earn top Regional CSEC awards.


BOARDS AND ALLIED AGENCIES

The appointment of Boards for the various Schools was done as well as the appointment of Boards for other allied agencies, i.e. National Accreditation Council (NAC) was done.

The National Accreditation Council and the Council for Technical and Vocational Training have forged ahead with the execution of their projects under the CSME-CDB facility. NAC should be equipped to commence accreditation later this year.
The National Accreditation Council and the Ministry propose to host the Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education annual workshop and conference, 2016.


SOCIO-ECONOMIC SUPPORT PROGRAMMES

In 2015, our Hot Meals programme was expanded to include (4) schools in Region 7, namely Precious Gems Nursery, Beach View Nursery, Hill View Nursery and Future Builders Nursery. With regards to transportation, His Excellency would have strategically commissioned five (5) boats for use in Region 2, Pomeroon; Region 4, Demerara River; Region 5, Mahaicony River; and Region 10, the Berbice River. In 2016, we expect that under the 3B’s initiative, this critical gap in access to education will continue to be addressed.


PROJECTIONS FOR 2016

During the period May to December, 2015 a number of areas of concern were identified, and these will be the focus of our agenda in 2016. They include:

  1. The need for psycho-social support programmes for our schools and residential facilities – beyond the glaring fact that suicide disproportionately impacts upon our young people, there is the recognition that is only one of the unfortunate outcomes of poor psychosocial support systems in general.
  2. The need for an approach to the reintegration of teenage mothers into the school system. Young women in the twenty-first century cannot have pregnancy be a barrier to their continued education.
  3. The provision of more opportunities for continuous professional development and the widening of the scope of the Learning Channel and the Ministry’s radio broadcasts.
  4. The expansion of the Skills for Life Training programme generally, with emphasis on the hinterland areas.
  5. The need for accommodation for teachers in the hinterland.

These among other challenges will be confronted in the year 2016 as the Ministry seeks to overcome the challenges and launch new initiatives for the enhancement of the education system, which enhancement would eventually impact the ultimate goal of the system: the production of a better all-round citizen and the creation of a better society.

A number of initiatives are therefore envisaged and provided for in the 2016 Budget in response to the challenges and in pursuit of the objective, which the APNU + AFC Coalition has set for realization by 2020.

Some of the initiatives will unfold at the level of policy formulation while others would have advanced to the level of programmatic engagement.

From a programmatic perspective the Breakfast Initiative will be rolled out in four coastal schools, inclusive of Buxton and Enmore, even as its implementation continues in the Hinterland and expands to cater for 81% of the Hinterland schools with a total expenditure of 1.9B. As a consequence jobs would also be created for approximately 200 persons. Additional boats will also be acquired. Canjie in Region 6 has already been airmarked as the next recipient.

Continuing along the path of enhancing welfare, 30M has been allocated for the acquisition of footwear to be distributed, primarily, in the hinterland schools 31,500 students are slated to benefit from this programme. The introduction of more counsellors into the school system is also to be undertaken and the rotation of social workers across dorm schools introduced.

The Ministry has already embarked on the establishment of a Public Relations Unit which will better inform the public about the ongoing efforts and new initiatives of the Ministry in its quest to improve the education system and ultimately to assure Guyana of a Good Life.

The Ministry is also actively pursuing World Bank funding for a successor project for the University of Guyana. The World Bank has also intimated its preparedness to consider a new project to facilitate a complete curriculum review for the school system.

A Facilities Audit should also be undertaken in 2016. This audit should provide information on the deficits of each and every public education institution with regard to the stipulated standards for these physical facilities. In 2016, some audits were already conducted from the manpower and facilities perspective.

From the perspective of policy, the Ministry will be embarking on quite a few new initiatives. First and foremost amongst those will be a policy in relation to the reintegration of teenage mothers into the school system. Policy initiatives will also be undertaken in relation to how teachers can be recruited and retained, in the hinterland, in this regard data collection is already being done, so that an evidence based policy could be formulated. On the agenda for policy formulation is the issue of the utilization of school facilities for extracurricular activities, with a literacy programme and a technical and vocational programme being uttermost amongst them.

The development of a new appraisal instrument for the appraisal of teachers should also be completed in 2016.

As a management tool and the Ministry’s administrative support mechanism, the Ministry will continue to roll out its NEWDEA data management system, which provides for monitoring the various aspects of the sector’s work. An enhanced Education Management Information System should also come on stream in 2016.


CONCLUSION

The Ministry is committed to an inclusive approach to its work, hence much of what it proposes to do will be subjected to a consultative process with its stakeholders, foremost of whom would be the teachers, parents, students and employers.

In fact, the Inquiry which was referred to in the 2015 Budget speech should be fully operationalized and concluded in 2016. The members of the Commission have already been assembled.

Similarly, the members of the National Education Council (National Advisory Council) have also been identified. The intention is for the Council to be convened at the end of the Inquiry. The Council will then deliberate on the findings of the Inquiry and the Education Bill and provide the Ministry with their advice on the way forward.

Thereafter, the Ministry will be engaged in a review of the 2014 – 2018 Education Sector Plan. The reviewing and the tabling of the Education Sector Bill in the National Assembly will see the Ministry emerging from what I earlier described as the diagnostic phase into its full-fledged operations to improve the Education System.

Mr. Speaker, I am assured that what the Ministry has been and will be doing demonstrate its commitment to the policies and programmes outlined in its 2015 Manifesto and subsequent pronouncement of the President, the Minister of Finance and yours truly.

We will continue with that which works, discontinue what does not, as we embark on new initiatives aimed at ultimately giving the Guyanese a Good Life.

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