Education plan in line with global trends
- President says at opening of new school

by Amanda Wilson
Guyana Chronicle
September 23, 2000

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday outlined his government's four-pronged vision for the education sector which he said is consistent with current global trends.

In the keynote address while commissioning the Stewartville Secondary School on the West Demerara, one of the 700-odd schools either built or refurbished in the last eight years, Mr Jagdeo said the education strategy is knowledge-based which is a prerequisite for economic sustainability and development.

"The world has changed radically, it has witnessed significant changes occasioned by the development of science and technology", he noted.

"Most importantly the development in micro-electronics, information and bio-technology - these three have almost revolutionised the world", he pointed out.

The four prongs he listed are

** universality in the education sector;

** universal secondary education;

** modern life skills;

** multicultural skills.

The President said the government plans to focus on achieving universality in the education sector by eliminating regional disparities and making available the same quality of education in every region.

"In some of the hinterland regions children never had secondary education but now in all those four hinterland areas we have secondary schools with dorms", he said.

There are also plans to implement universal secondary education by making secondary education available to every Guyanese child, he said.

"When we assumed office (in October 1992) 35 per cent of the children writing the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE) had access to secondary schools. The others had to go to `tops' of primary schools or community high schools", the President noted.

He said that more than 60 per cent of the nation's children now have access to secondary education and the administration is hoping that that level of education is available to every child within the next three years.

Mr Jagdeo said the effectiveness of teaching instructions has to be improved by training more teachers.

"We have opened up new training schools across the country but more importantly, we have to focus on the curriculum reform at various levels of the school systems."

He stated that in some schools children are being taught things that will not be needed in a modern environment.

According to the President, the government was working on reforming the school curriculum which will cater for all the levels from pre-school.

"No one must be left out of the network. We have to make sure our education system captures all the groups including dropouts", he added.

The President said the education sector will not be completely reformed unless the nation's children are equipped with modern life skills.

He noted that his government is pushing to have computers in every school and several computer centres built across the country.

"If we give them these modern life skills and a sound education then they will be successful in the future. I don't believe in the gradual approach, we have to make a quantum leap", the President declared.

Highlighting that creative economy, the economy of the future, will be propelled by knowledge and ideas, Mr Jagdeo said his government has recognised that knowledge is very important in the new world and had set aside $9.3B for education in the national budget.

Students, he said, must also be taught multicultural skills which will help them become more rounded persons.

"We live in a multicultural society. We have to give our children skills that will enhance national pride and allow them to resolve conflicts through dialogue and not fighting", he stressed.

President Jagdeo also toured the nearby Leonora Primary School and spoke with the headmaster, Mr Mohamed Fazil Khan and teachers.

Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr Jacques Crete said the construction of the new Stewartvile school was a step in the right direction since investment in education today promises significant future gain to any country.

He stated that investment in education is an important goal in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) programme. The school was built with assistance from the Canadian agency.

Regional Chairman of Region Three, (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands), Mr Pariag Sukhai said more than 70 schools have been constructed or repaired in that region under the government's education thrust.

He noted that 12,877 students have graduated from secondary schools in Region Three over the last four years.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr Hydar Ally said some $698M was spent on constructing new schools and repairing and extending others in Region Three over the last two years.

He noted that 720 schools have been built, renovated or extended across the country.

Twelve more secondary schools are under construction and another 20 will be fixed in a few months, he said.

"It is quite a remarkable experience when one considers the state of these buildings a few years back", Ally said while noting that some $827M has been set aside to repair 20 schools.

Stressing that the emphasis was not only on constructing and repairing schools, Ally said teachers training programmes have been intensified and a record number of 2,773 trained teachers have been added into the system over the last five years.

"This came about because of an expansion of a number of teacher training centres in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Region Three, Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice), Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) and Region Ten (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice)", Ally noted.

He said teachers upgrading programmes are also in progress in Region One (Barima/Waini), Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

These programmes are aimed at providing all teachers with the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications by distance education and face-to-face interaction, Ally said.

He also said that students are performing well at both the SSEE and the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and even overseas.

"It shows that in the right environment our students can do as well as any. The improved performance of our students is the result of hard and sustained efforts on the part of our teachers and our education managers at the various levels", he said.

The Stewartville Secondary School was built at a cost of $85M under the Central Government programme.

The building has 18 classrooms and can accommodate some 720 children.

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