Ministry of Education, Guyana

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 11:16

Guyana's Drop Out Rates Have Been Remarkably Reduced

- even as the Caribbean records a 20% higher drop out rate than the LAC region.

Even as the Caribbean is recording a worrying 20% higher drop - out rate than other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region, Guyana has been pleasantly and consistently over the last few years been recording a remarkable reduction in the number and proportion of students who drop out.

In a study published by the Inter- American Development bank (IDB ) titled “At Risk Youth- An urgent Challenge for the Caribbean" it was noted that "School dropout rates in the Caribbean are up to 20% higher than the average in LAC….Alcohol and drug abuse, early and/or unprotected sex, low academic performance, school desertion, crime, delinquency and violence are all examples of what is known today as risky behavior. Even though these issues are prevalent across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), data suggest that some Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and Barbados, require particular attention….Factors that contribute to this behavior are known as risk factors and include poverty, lack of opportunities, no significant bonds with adults, lack of a connection with educational institutions, and the presence of cultural values that encourage and reinforce risky behavior. Factors that may reduce the onset of risky behavior, which are protective factors, include close emotional ties with at least one adult, a sense of safety and belonging to an educational institution, strong social skills, ability to solve problems, and a sense of purpose and independence.”

Another IDB study from 2012 titled “Why Students Drop Out” pointed out that "….In recent years, access to education has improved significantly in Latin America. Primary education is 
virtually universal throughout the region. However, nearly half of the students in Latin America do not finish secondary school…” The salient points of that study showed:

  • “ In every single Latin American country, the gap between rich and poor students persists.
  • Over half of youth in rural areas do not complete 9 years of school.
  • More than 40 percent of indigenous youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are not in school.
  • It is estimated that only 20 percent to 30 percent of all children and youth with disabilities in the region attend school; most of them never finish high school.”

In this prevailing world and regional environment, Guyana has been not only holding her own in terms of keeping students in school but has actually been both attracting as well as keeping more students in school than in the history of the country. A far smaller proportion of students drop out here than the Caribbean average and a far smaller proportion drop out now than before. The numbers and proportion of students dropping out have been on a pleasing and consistent decline and the Ministry of Education is very happy, although not contented with, the success the country has enjoyed so far in reducing the drop out rate.

The realities on the ground which are recorded in the Education Ministry’s yearly digest, which is available on the world wide web, bears out the fact that a smaller proportion of students are dropping out and points happily to that fact that more boys are being retained in the formal education system, resulting in more of our young people than ever before having the opportunity to be prepared to be productive, successful adults.

In fact, the table below shows this clearly. It shows that in the last 20 years Guyana has reduced the proportion of children dropping out at the general secondary level by more than seventy five percent. What is even more remarkable and of note is that this drop out rate decreased even as the number of students enrolling in General Secondary Schools increased by more than 30,000. What is yet even more remarkable is that this increase in enrollment in secondary education is happening at a time when our school aged population is declining, as we believe the latest census will show. Similar good news is true for the children who are not in general secondary schools but who are in the secondary departments of primary schools. Understanding that discreet secondary schools is a more conducive learning environment, we have more than halved the number of children in secondary departments of primary schools and we have significantly lowered the proportion of children dropping out at this level.

So what has Guyana been doing that has made this remarkable reduction in drop out rate possible?
The Ministry credits a number of factors that contributed to this notable progress.
Education officials are of the strong view that Guyana has in many regards significantly reduced, and in some cases completely removed, the risk factors that lead to the risky behaviors which the studies show lead to students dropping out. The below mentioned are some of the factors that have contributed to the remarkable reduction of the proportion of children dropping out of secondary school.

  • According to World Bank studies, the country has reduced poverty by half thereby, in a literal sense, empowering more parents to send their children to school, feed them, clothe them, transport them and additionally not need them to work early to help out financially at home.
  • A political commitment to developing Guyana through educating and developing her people and that commitment being matched by budgetary allocations of an average of 15% of the National Budget and approximately 5% of the country’s GDP has allowed the Ministry of Education to make many of the improvements that will be mentioned hereafter, all of which collectively worked to reduce our drop-out rate.
  • The attainment of universal primary education (MDG # 2) and the provision of 90 percent access to secondary education by actually physically constructing more schools and classrooms, building and providing dormitory facilities, providing transportation to students especially in the Hinterland and deep riverain communities, have allowed students to have more access to schools and to safely learn and feel a sense of belonging to their educational institution.
  • The strong socially conscious interventions, such as the provision of snacks or hot meals to all students from at least nursery to grade two, the provision of uniforms for all students across the country, the free provision of exercise books and text books, the provision of transportation for students to go to and from school, are all factors that contributed to the large reduction in the proportion of children leaving school without completing a full secondary education cycle.
  • The conversion to general secondary schools Community High Schools which had come to be regarded as the school for failures and which stigmatized as slow or academically weak and therefore made them feel like failures and disconnected and excluded from the education system and the amalgamation of primary tops into discreet secondary schools may also be factors are major factors responsible for the falling drop-out rate
  • The expansion of the Ministry’s Arts programmes where most secondary schools are now offering one or more subjects in Art, Sport or Physical Education has contributed to the system catering for a wide variety of interest and has resulted in more students completing their secondary education.
  • Changes in the traditional delivery of education allowing for, inter alia, more specialized interests being pursued now by students. Traditional subjects as well as technical vocational education are being offered formally in all of the nation’s high schools. Through the introduction of the Secondary Competency Certificate Programme (SCCP) in more than half of our secondary schools and the establishment of Practical Instruction Centres across the country, students are able to receive formal certification for their acquired skills, with the knowledge that they would be able to continue training and be certified in a post- secondary institution in one of the many Technical Vocation Centres established across the regions of Guyana. This, we believe, has contributed significantly to our country’s ability to retain commendably more children, and in particular boys, so that they could complete their secondary education.

There is still work to be done. As long as there is one child who leaves school without completing a full secondary cycle, we believe there is dedicated work that must happen. We are committed to doing that work and, while we invite stakeholders to partner with us, we have shown that we can be trusted to do that work with a verifiable record that shows we have been doing it for all the time that we could. However, as may have been noted in the relevant studies, the effort to keep children in school to finish a cycle of secondary education is not at all dependent only on the government or on a particular ministry. It has to be a collective societal effort. There are identified factors in the various studies that would work to prevent students dropping out. In the IDB study they were called protective factors, and they include close emotional ties with at least one adult, a sense of safety and belonging to an educational institution, strong social skills, ability to solve problems, and a sense of purpose and independence.

All of Guyana, but in particular, political parties are hereby called upon to resist the urge to use these figures and facts only for cheap, opportunistic purposes at this time or at all. We are asking them to partner with us by working with their constituencies to help to create and establish some of the protective factors. For example, political parties can work with their constituents, people who we would hope believe in those parties, to explain the importance of children developing strong emotional ties with at last one adult and the ways that those strong ties might come about and be developed and the benefits thereof. Political parties can work with the children of their constituents to help to develop in them a sense of purpose and independence and to instill in them strong social skills.

Guyana has done indisputably well. The Ministry of Education invites all of Guyana to be as proud as we are of these accomplishments.

Years

Level

Enrolment 

Drop-out % Rate 

 

 

Male

Female

Male

Female

1995-1996

 PTT

7811

6424

15

16

 Gen.Sec

17231

20292

11

9

1996-1997

 PTT

8491

6565

19

19

 Gen.Sec

22307

26002

9

8

1997-1998

 PTT

7585

5854

18

18

 Gen.Sec

22613

25991

7

7

1998-1999

 PTT

7436

5726

16

16

 Gen.Sec

22570

25521

7

7

1999-2000

 PTT

6960

5416

25

29

 Gen.Sec

23564

25976

12

12

2000-2001

 PTT

7124

5529

24

18

 Gen.Sec

23810

26032

12

15

2001-2002

 PTT

6296

4980

21

23

 Gen.Sec

25821

28074

11

15

2002-2003

 PTT

5902

4629

7

8

 Gen.Sec

25908

28152

8

8

2003-2004

 PTT

5840

4330

13

17

 Gen.Sec

25035

27219

10

10

2004-2005

 PTT

5644

4272

13

13

 Gen.Sec

26766

28709

12

12

2005-2006

 PTT

5734

4399

14

14

 Gen.Sec

26771

28734

10

9

2006-2007

 PTT

5900

4397

14

14

 Gen.Sec

26965

29911

7

7

2007-2008 

 PTT

6118

4531

8

8

 Gen.Sec

27539

29802

5

5

2008-2009 

 PTT

5999

4399

8

9

 Gen.Sec

27395

30140

7

6

2009-2010

 PTT

5085

3694

5

8

 Gen.Sec

29826

31573

6

5

2010-2011 

 PTT

4509

3409

11

11

 Gen.Sec

30633

33615

6

4

2011-2012 

 PTT

4794

3465

4

5

 Gen.Sec

32427

34430

2

2

2012-2013 

 PTT

4675

3176

6

7

 Gen.Sec

32791

34757

2

2

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