National Reading Centre should be established

Guyana Chronicle
June 30, 2001

READING Consultant Dr. Jean Bovell has made a recommendation to the Ministry of Education for the continuation of a reading project by the establishment of a National Reading Centre.

The Consultant presented the recommendation while delivering brief remarks at the closing exercise and exhibition of the Teachers Training Capacity in Reading, held at the North Georgetown Primary School this week.

"In pursuance of the preparation of certified teachers of reading, it was suggested that the Ministry give consideration to the continuation of this project," she stated.

Dr. Bovell also recommended that a panel of certified reading teachers become responsible for reading at various levels at the primary schools supervised by a reading specialist. This expert will be a member of the staff of the National Centre for Education and Resource Development (NCERD).

The theme of the PEIP's project was "Strengthening NCERD 's Teachers Training Capacity In Reading".

The programme offered a distinctive approach to teaching, learning and assessment based on a careful study of the requirements of reading, Dr Bovell pointed out.

The training course comprised lectures on techniques that can be used and other decision-making activities required to manage the programme. Much of the time was spent in structured decisions in which all participants were involved, she added.

Participants were able to pursue specialists' interests through appropriately designed reading and project works supported by individual home assignments.

Practical activities involved demonstration lessons, videotapes, preparation of lesson plans and the making of learning and teaching aids,

According to the Consultant, the teachers have 180 hours in course work on-the-spot apart from what is done at home.

Chief Education Officer (CEO) Mr. Ed Caesar, the guest speaker said, "If we find three pupils in a primary school unable to read, it means we have three too many pupils who cannot read."

He informed the participants that the 180 hours spent demonstrate how important is their task.

"To whom much is given, much is expected," the CEO told the teachers, calling on them to be the catalyst to bring about the necessary change.

He issued a call for reading to be on every timetable in every school and for teachers to identify children with reading difficulties.

"You are empowered to ensure that such workshops are held in your Regions. You must cause each Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to plan and promote reading among parents," the CEO instructed the teachers.

Mr. Caesar also called for a return to reading clubs, elocution and debating competitions and community libraries.

"Put systems in place for students to participate in activities that can improve their reading skills," he suggested.

A reading co-ordinator, a reading corner in each classroom and competitions with attractive incentives such as a trip to the famous Kaieteur Falls for the ten best readers and their parents, were among ideas he suggested.

The CEO recalled an incident which served to llustrate the disadvantage of someone not being able to read.

During his boyhood days he received a visit from a neighbour who requested his help, urgently. The neighbour related that he was having problems with his cows. Mr. Caesar recalled that to his dismay, the drug Tripox used externally for ridding animals of fleas and ticks, was given to the cows as a worm medicine.

"He could not read," the CEO declared, adding, "He lost about 12 animals with a total value of over $500,000.

Commenting on the efforts to make all Guyanese functionally literate, Mr Caesar said, "We are not going to stop with our students. We are going further afield."

"Parents must be encouraged to provide reading materials and reading stimulation. They must start reading to their children from the crib, he added.

The participants were informed of the need to instruct parents and identify for them the relevant reading materials for the childhood stage, between one year and eight years.

He also urged the graduating members to be good examples by ensuring that their own children can read.

The CEO said the Ministry of Education has identified three areas to be emphasised for the next five years. They are early childhood care and development, management and supervision and literacy and numeracy with emphasis on reading. He noted that it is the Ministry's intention that every teacher and every parent give these three areas extraordinary attention.

Congratulating the organisers of the workshop, the Caesar described the effort as "a good indirect strategy, a job well done".

He questioned the wisdom of allowing a person who cannot write "decent English" to gain a grade A in any subject and noted the need to change such a system.

"Some will have A in Industrial Arts, A in Agriculture but cannot express themselves. We have caused people to believe that they can do without language and reading , he said, adding that the problem is not only in Guyana but across the Caribbean.

The CEO emphasised that he had no objection to the passing of persons poor in English Language but felt that they should not get a distinction.

"We have to cause our people in whatever subject area, whatever discipline to recognise the importance of good speech, the ability to write, and the ability to communicate effectively. If not we will continue to have a problem," he warned.

He also observed there are many recommendations for books only available outside of Guyana when there are resource persons in Guyana capable of producing such materials.

The CEO issued a challenge for educators to start writing.

Four five-day and 40one-day workshops were held held for teaches in all of the ten administrative Regions in the country.

PEIP 's Director R.B. Persaud said , "We hope also that teachers will go back to their schools and disseminate what they have learnt. We expect a chain reaction from the workshops.

In addition to reading, the consultantcies dealt with mathematics, multi-grade teaching, test measurement and evaluation. (GUYANA INFORMATION SERVICES)