All schools to be hooked to Internet
- President projects

by Sharon Lall
Guyana Chronicle
October 11, 2000

ALL schools will be provided with computers and computer education to aid with the teaching and learning process, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced yesterday, stressing that students have to be prepared to meet emerging demands.

He said he would also like to see all schools hooked to the Internet.

Guyanese students are narrowing the educational gap that existed between themselves and their regional counterparts, Mr Jagdeo also noted.

"We have come a long way in terms of education enhancement. There is evidence to suggest that our students are doing much better today than in the past...

"I am confident that with determination we will achieve our goal of having a highly educated and trained populace ready to face the challenges of this new millennium," he told the 52 young awardees at the Fourth National Awards Ceremony sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

The event, to honour outstanding students at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE), was hosted at the National Cultural Centre, Georgetown. It is among activities organised for Education Month 2000.

This year, Alexina Haynes, Ghiliyia Permaul and Sarah Williams outshone all other CXC candidates in the country.

Amrita Singh, Raj Persaud and Lise Rodrigues were the top achievers at the SSEE level.

Abdool Sattaur, the Queen's College student who achieved four passes at the last GCE A level exams. Locals have been stealing the spotlight in the region, having won, at the CXC level, the distinction of the overall best twice in three years.

Amlata Persaud was outstanding as the overall best in the Caribbean in 1999 and in 1997 Mohalani Chatterdeo was adjudged the overall best student at the CXC examinations.

Congratulating the students on their achievements, President Jagdeo said that though the best were being singled out, recognition must be given to students, in general, who have been performing better with each passing year.

"As we bask in the glory of our top performers, we must not overlook the fact that thousands in Community High Schools and Primary Tops cannot write CXC.

"It is a sad reflection of the entire education system that at such an early stage these students are condemned to limited opportunities as a result of not doing well at a single examination: the Secondary School Entrance Examination," President Jagdeo noted.

He said this was a "serious impediment" in terms of empowering young people and providing opportunities for them to develop their full potential.

Over the last eight years, as a result of a number of policy initiatives, the government has succeeded in increasing the intake from the primary level to secondary schools from 35 to 62 per cent, he said.

And within the next three years, it is committed to providing every child leaving primary school with an opportunity to sit the CXC/GCE exams, President Jagdeo pledged.

This year, more than 6,000 students from 70 secondary schools in the country sat examinations. The number of subject entries rose dramatically to more than 32,000 owing to government subsidy given to parents, especially those from low-income categories.

"Interestingly, we have noticed that the success rate is spread throughout the country which means that the system as a whole is reacting positively to recent policy changes," the President observed.

He said the government is committed to providing quality education that allows for the total development of the human personality.

"The education we provide to our children must be relevant to the developmental aspirations of the individual and by extension to the nation, as a whole.

"Emphasis can no longer be on...reading, writing and arithmetic, important as these are. The imperatives of our time now require a new set of skills and competencies if we are to cope with, and face up to the challenges of the knowledge-based society," the President said.

He added: "It is for this reason that I have taken a decision to push the acquisition of information technology skills in a much more aggressive way. We live in a new era, one characterised by a massive generation, dissemination and application of information and knowledge.

"The extent to which we adapt to this new environment will depend in large measure on our ability to use this new technology for the development of our country."

Mahendra Orilall, of Queen's College, got four GCE A level passes. To achieve this goal, the President said his administration will provide every school with computers and computer education to aid with the teaching and learning process.

"I would like to see each and every school in this country hooked to the Internet...It is my intention to make it possible for thousands of homes to be connected to the Internet in five years.

"The use of this technology must no longer be seen as tools only for the privileged but for all, especially young people," the Head of State added.

"...We have to prepare our young people to have an appreciation for diversity and pluralism. This is particularly relevant in multi-cultural societies such as ours.

"We have to inculcate desirable social characteristics such as love for one's country, respect for authority, tolerance and adherence to the principles of democracy and respect for others," the President remarked.

He said he was pleased with the introduction of Health and Family Life Education, and the teaching of social and sensitive issues on the school's curriculum.

"My government's recognition of the importance of providing quality education is reflected in its budgetary allocation to the sector.

"This year, the education sector received $9.3 billion - approximately 15 per cent of the national budget. These resources are intended to improve critical areas such as teacher training, curriculum development, the acquisition of textbooks and other educational supplies," the President said.

He reported that almost 3,000 teachers were added to the education system over the past seven years mainly because of an expansion and decentralisation of teacher training centres in Regions Two, Three, Four, Six and Ten.

Teachers upgrading programmes have also commenced in Regions One, Eight and Nine.

In the area of civil works, the President said more than 700 schools have been rehabilitated, extended or built anew.

Six out of 10 students are now learning in more conducive environments. And, new secondary schools have been

established for the first time in interior areas such as Waramadong, Paramakatoi, Aishalton and Annai, catering for Amerindian children.

President Jagdeo said substantial work is taking place in the area of curriculum development and in "testing and measurement".

He said the strategy of the government is to increase wealth in the society and create jobs for persons, especially those leaving the education system.

"...The education system is the key to preparing a pool of skills and students have to take into consideration this new direction in which our country is moving when choosing a career."

"We are now training almost three times the number of teachers than in the past. This year, alone, 509 teachers graduated from the Cyril Potter College of Education and some 1,000 teachers participated in refresher courses in `pedagogy' at NCERD (National Centre for Education Research and Development)," the President said.

"I want to encourage all our students to take full advantage of the expanding opportunities being made available to (them).

"Students must take their work seriously and put in the necessary hours of hard work to be successful. Your future lies in your hand, but my government will be there to support you all the way," President Jagdeo assured the gathering.

Among those at the awards function were Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr Hydar Ally; Chief Education Officer, Mr Ed Caesar and representatives from the University of Guyana.

Awards were given for best performers in the SSEE and CXC exams, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced level and the Guyana Technical Education Examination.

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