Education Ministry urges early establishment of National Accreditation Council

By Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
June 23, 2001

PRIVATE and public tertiary institutions in Guyana will have to be accredited to improve the level of quality of programmes offered to students which can be recognised locally, regionally and internationally, a senior official said yesterday.

Deputy Chief Education Officer for Development, Mrs. Genevieve Whyte-Nedd told a news conference the legal draft for the establishment of a National Accreditation Council has been presented to Cabinet.

She hoped it is implemented into law soon because the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has set a deadline for the councils to be established by July this year.

Suriname and The Bahamas are also in the process of setting up similar councils.

Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Kitts-Nevis already have accreditation boards.

"We urge those in authority to facilitate the process to have the document approved...", Whyte-Nedd told reporters at the briefing at the Distance, Education and Information Centre at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston, Georgetown.

CARICOM is working towards ensuring all tertiary institutions in the region are accredited, she said.

Dr. Ethley London, Executive Director of the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) is in Guyana as part of that mission to provide technical support to advise and assist with the accreditation process.

She has also visited other CARICOM countries on a similar project.

"...all of this has to do with the free movement of trade in the region (and the) Single Market and Economy.

"It is necessary for each region to assure quality of its products so that it can move across the region. (On) that basis we can have mutual recognition of each other's qualifications", she pointed out.

She said the accreditation body will be the primary institutions to pronounce on the quality of education.

London visited Guyana in 1999 on "a fact finding" mission to ascertain the level of quality education delivered by these institutions.

As a result of her visit, a comprehensive report was submitted to the Ministry of Education which contained a situational analysis, recommendations and an implementation plan for the council, Whyte-Nedd stated.

"Subsequently, the Ministry (of Education) saw it fit to set up a steering committee to examine the recommendations and implementation plan and to decide on what we could have dealt (with) and see as priority", she told reporters.

The key stakeholders were invited to that meeting and were part of the steering committee set up, she added.

Last Monday, CARICOM hosted a two-day meeting with local and regional representatives that provided guidelines, which according to the Deputy Chief Education Officer, encouraged "persons to return and set something in motion so that the councils could be established".

So far, an action plan has been developed. Representatives were encouraged to work on legislation and to ensure "we have approval in this area since that would be a catalyst for ensuring that the council can be established", Whyte-Nedd noted.

She said some work has been done here in this area.

The legal draft document was also submitted to the relevant unit of the Ministry of Education and eventually there will be consultations with the key stakeholders so that they could have an idea of what will be enacted in the law.

"In the interim, since it is not approved, someone will be identified to ensure that the baseline data will be set up, such as the compilation of documentation on institutions and some of the courses offered."

Under the action plan, it is imperative that training sessions are held for the providers of tertiary education, an opportunity for them to upgrade their services, the officer said.

"In terms of training, we would like to concentrate on more professional attachments. In some case persons may be identified to be attached to UCJ and in other cases, we are recommending that we be affiliated to UCJ and on occasion two or three officers of UCJ could be with our team to help us along the accreditation process", she indicated.

An orientation session was held Thursday with the key stakeholders involved.

Whyte-Nedd reported that the workshop was very enriching, and the response from the participants was overwhelming.

Preparations are on stream for next year's budget to cater for the operationalisation of the National Accreditation Council, she said.

Chief Education Officer, Mr. Ed Caesar said that with the emergence of various types of programmes, very often people query the relevance of certification from these institutions.

He pointed out that the ministry still has its own draft bill and regulations and hope these are addressed early, "because it relates to many things that are happening in society we need to enforce".

"So, we need to have that bearing in mind the number of programmes that are spurring up in the country."

The value of accreditation to institutions is:

* To demonstrate commitment to quality education.

* To ensure or enhance the employability of graduates.

* To provide international mobility.

* To permit transportability of qualifications and partial qualifications.

* To permit international credit accumulation.

* To gain exemption from other forms of accreditation.

* To attract students.