— reduced classroom size, rotation system for efficiency

Grade Five and Six teachers countrywide have joined in calling for the resumption of some amount of face-to-face learning and the rescheduling of the 2021 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) to July or August instead of April next year, due to the severe impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the education Sector.

Earlier today, the Minister of Education, Hon. Priya Manickchand, engaged teachers of Grade Five and Six, Headmasters/Headmistresses, Regional Education Officers (REDOs) and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, on the digital platform, Zoom.

Minister Manickchand noted that the time to plan for the 2021 exams is now.

“In addition to the issue of the pandemic and how we delivered in the last five months or six months, we have to deal with something that will seem as if it is far off in our future. But we need to plan [that] for now and that’s why we’re here,” the Education Minister stated.

The webinar drew over one thousand persons from public and private schools across the country, who were able to discuss their issues.

A teacher from Annex Primary in Region Three stated that the resumption of face-to-face learning would be necessary, especially for Math and Science, which are two practical subjects. She suggested that the Ministry consider reduced class sizes and rotations for students, as well as, the introduction of transportation to take students to and from home and school.

“There seems to be a language barrier here that we’re faced with, including Spanish, Portuguese and our local dialect…If worksheets are going to be prepared and handed out, we would need face-to-face interaction with the children, to break down some of the instructions and techniques,” added Arlene D’Aguiar, a teacher from Arapaima Primary School, Region Nine.

Teachers pointed out that since the closure of schools, most students have been disengaged and online learning has benefited some, while others were disadvantaged due to poor or no internet connections and limited access to devices.

Other educators recalled gaining less than 50 percent attendance from students in online classrooms. Limited access to the Guyana Learning Channel was also reported.

Minister Manickchand said that the Learning Channel is expected to play a major role in disseminating information and work is being done to have the channel broadcast programmes in more regions. Additionally, print packages will also be distributed to facilitate learning as well.

Several calls for curriculum review were also made, as teachers noted a loss of teaching time due to the pandemic.

While teachers in Region Four reported that they completed their curriculum amid the pandemic, teachers from other regions stated that the barriers prevented them from completing the third term of the 2019-2020 academic year.

For the teachers, the multi-stakeholder meeting is a ray of hope for sustainable solutions. Education Minister, Hon. Priya Manickchand, assured that their concerns would all be considered in the decision-making process.

The Zoom meeting is expected to continue throughout the day as teachers continue to give their input on the way forward.