Ministry of Education, Guyana

Monday, 16 February 2015 00:00

President commends gains made in education sector –particularly achievements at nursery level

President Donald Ramotar has said that given the gains achieved in the education sector, he is indeed proud of what has been accomplished under the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic administration.

During his inaugural interview on the programme “At Home with the President”, aired last evening, the Head of State indicated that attaining full nursery and primary education in Guyana was just one of many goals achieved over the last two decades in office, with universal secondary education soon to follow.

Recapping the gains made in the education sector, President Ramotar noted that the achievements at the nursery level are not often highlighted. “I think it is extremely important in the competitive world that we live today, where we have science and technology, and education playing a bigger and bigger role in the country’s economic development. It seems to me that if we give our children an early start, we give them an advantage to get along in their own personal lives. And it is an investment in our country’s future as we know they will be the driving force for our development in the future,” he said.

The 85% enrollment at the nursery level is one of the best in the developing world, and not just the Caribbean, he said, adding, “We are aiming to have full literacy by Grade Four.”

There has been international recognition of government’s efforts in this regard, and among those organisations offering assistance is the Global Partnership for Education, which has given a grant to help in the sector’s development.

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s invitation for President Ramotar to sit on the UN Commission for Education was another indication of the recognition of the Guyana Government’s efforts in the sector, the president explained.

Asked what would be among his first priorities upon his re-election to office, President Ramotar said that would be to ensure that Guyana is able to achieve universal secondary education. This, he said, is in keeping with a promise made during the 2011 General Elections to reach this goal within five years. “And we were going to do it, were it not for the fact that the Opposition tried to close down the Parliament, and now forced us into General Elections.”

He added that with some 90% of primary level students going into secondary school, the aim is to ensure that, at a minimum, there is a secondary level of education, attained across the board, locally.

The fact that human capital is the most important factor for any nation’s development was reiterated by President Ramotar. “Therefore, achieving universal secondary education is extremely important for the future development of our country, as it is for the individuals”. To this end, he said, there are plans in train for three new secondary schools, one at Parfait Harmonie, West Bank Demerara to house at least 1,000 students, one at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara and another at Soesdyke for similar number of students. Others are scheduled also to be constructed in various Hinterland communities.

The $780M Kato Secondary School in Region Eight is expected to be completed shortly.

Government intends to continue its focus on training teachers, with an emphasis on specialist educators, President Ramotar added, to increase pass rates at CXC and other exams across Guyana.

There must be an emphasis on the equality for both genders, and experts have been asked to address the issue of young boys not matching their female counterparts in the school system, the president further added. He said that while the dropout rates of males has been reduced, it is a problem that affects other nations as well, hence assistance has also been sought from Caricom to address this challenge.

As part of preparing the young population for the future, President Ramotar spoke of the equipping of schools and other educational facilities with laboratories and the introduction of more “inquiry based education” at the primary levels to encourage the enthusiasm for science and technical based subjects.

Teachers will also benefit from overseas training and scholarships to boost the capacity in the aforementioned areas. The use of local resources, the president said is another area that can help to stimulate and drive the country’s scientific development and that of the Caribbean and further afield by attracting students who wish to come and study Guyana’s unique offerings.

He pointed out that with some 80% of this country’s bio-diversity still relatively intact, it is a resource that can be shared with others.

The increased spending in the educational sector will also ensure that the future generations can take advantage of new industries such as oil and gas production which is to become a reality. The Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project, it was explained, will add to the creation of an industrial manufacturing sector and an agro-industrial complex.

“Technical education will be of extreme importance; the creation of jobs for our people, not only in the city but in the countryside, like where we have agro-processing, and in the interior where we can have wood processing and different types of things that we can do.”

The creation of jobs, many of which would be high-paying would redound to the benefit of the population as a whole, the president noted.

Asked about the role of the University of Guyana in the local education system, President Ramotar said the institution is “close to his heart” since he was a former student. Explaining that UG was founded by the late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan despite opposition from political opponents, the president said that the vision that it will play a bigger role in Guyana’s development remained intact. Money has been set aside to improve the laboratories, library facilities and general infrastructure, as part of the need to lift standards to make it world class,” he stated, “therefore we have to have a stronger teaching corps, more lecturers with masters and PhDs to be lecturing.”

More research can also be done and the university needs to be on the “cutting edge” of this area. More accessibility is also another issue that will be addressed. This will be done with the use of information technology, so that potential students, who are unable to physically be present, would still have access to the various subjects. The aim, eventually, he said is to make UG a leading center for bio-diversity studies.

With regards to the current impasse and strike action, he said it is “unfortunate”, since the issue is really about the administration’s objective to “lift the quality, they are following the government in wanting to build a world class university and give our students standards too. Many of our students complain that they don’t get marks early and they have to wait for a very long time and all of these things are what the vice-chancellor and the administration are demanding from our lecturers. I hope they will be able to resolve this matter in the speediest time”.

In response to calls by some for government to become more directly involved, President Ramotar said there are procedures that have to be followed as part of the collective bargaining agreement and once this is adhered to, “they can find resolutions to these problems”.

Government’s vision for UG “continues” and in the near future, “it will be an institution that all Guyanese can very proud of,” he said in closing. (GINA)


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