The introduction of Information Technology in the educational system needs careful planning
Stabroek News
September 1, 2001

Dear Editor,

As part of its manifesto going into the last elections,the PPP/C stated as its purpose the intention to introduce computers and the teaching of Information Technology in the educational system. This is unquestionably a laudable objective. Considering the realities which are current in the structure of education, however, it might be a target which has been prematurely set, without due consideration for its ultimate viability as a programme.

Currently, we have many brand new and newly refurbished school houses. They look good, but within those structures there are serious problems pertaining to staffing and curriculum delivery.

There is a shortage of both general format as well as specialist subject teachers. There are shortages of basic equipment and furniture in about ninety per cent of all educational institutions and about an equivalent amount do not have electrical power.

Above all, it is self evident that there are serious deficits in the transmission of basic disciplines. One only has to review the work of primary and secondary level pupils, or listen as they literally struggle to decipher the quite routine complexities of simple text, written in what is supposed to be their mother tongue to conclude that we do not have acceptable levels of language and numerical skills at any tier of the academic ladder.

In view of the above, it must be asked, whither the concept of Information Technology Education?

1. There is a dearth of trained tutors in this discipline.

2. Most of the school structures lack the security features necessary for the protection of the costly equipment.

3. Most of the school buildings lack either power or telephone linkages.

4. Most students at levels of the academic tree are severely limited and deficient in terms of the basic disciplines, which are necessary for the successful inclusion of I.T. knowledge.

5. While all educational institutions suffer from infrastructural and human resource deficits, some can presently accommodate at least skeletal programmes in I.T. tuition. But will those not ultimately result in the further skewering of an already unbalanced Education Delivery System?

6. After the initial loan has been exhausted, from what source will funds be obtained for the purpose of updating and repairing equipment?

Might it not be more strategically cost effective and provide a better platform for a more successful launching of such a programme, was some money to be spent on doing certain urgently essential things, necessary for the upgrading of the General Education Delivery System?

For instance:

1. By devising a supplementary or incentive programme to entice teachers who have left the profession, to return, even if only on a part-time basis. This would effect a deepening as well as a broadening of the human resource pool.

2. Conduct intensive training in the core subjects, supplementary to classroom contact work, in order to expedite the upgrading of student abilities.

3. Introduce Information Technology programmes at central points, in the same manner as the Practical Instruction Centres are organised within school districts. Those centres will cater for students who are adjudged as being able to benefit from exposure to I.T. almost immediately.

No doubt, as more students come through the intensive upgrading programme, the pool of those entering the I.T. stream will inevitably increase.

4. Enhance both the security and utilities committed to schools, e.g. power and telephone connections.

5. Introduce an independent school transport system for students, as an aid to the stimulation and maintenance of attendance regularity. This will also serve to ease the financial stringency which confronts most parents with school aged children.

6. The creation of a trust fund, to be supported through subventions from the national treasury, contributions from private sector organisations and individuals, non-governmental entities as well as from the sale of bonds to the public.

This will ensure the availability of resources to finance the continuation of the programme, long after loan monies have become exhausted.

The foregoing proposals represent a massive undertaking which has the ability to impact, either positively or negatively upon the very core of the National Development Thrust.

Information Technology training and promotion should be the responsibility of a national, non-partisan commission, created and governed by special legislation.

This new discipline should be gradually introduced into the education system in conjunction with those other activities which should be intended to create and develop a more enabling environment for its successful insertion into the curriculum.

The project to conduct this exercise should be wholly divorced from the bureaucratic morass which presently engulfs the education ministry.

Successful implementation requires not only financing, but a clear and incisive focus, geared to achieve decisive action and a rapid and coherent strategy intended to ensure its viability.

Yours faithfully,

CRB Edwards