1999 important year for education in Guyana

Guyana Chronicle
April 20, 1999

EDUCATION Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth has stated that 1999 is an important year for education in Guyana, not only because it is the last year before the new millennium, but because it is the year when "we will have to revise our policy".

The sector will also have to evaluate its five-year plan, and take on board social concerns that impinge on education, as well as cater to the demands that are becoming part of contemporary life.

"We have to keep the momentum of what we have been doing over the past few years going," he said.

According to Dr Bisnauth, the Education Ministry's focus in 1999 will be on revision and development of curricula, particularly at the secondary school level. The exercise at the Primary level has been completed, he said. The Minister listed for development: provision of text books and relevant classroom materials (laboratories and libraries to a number of schools); improvements of the condition under which teachers and education administrators work within the Ministry; improvement of classroom delivery, and proper management within the school; improvement in the teaching and learning environment; and intensification of teacher training.

Dr Bisnauth also pointed out that the school-feeding programme will continue "although we are exploring with the Ministry of Agriculture the possibility of using indigenous agricultural products in this venture, provided we could get the World Food Programme to monetise its contribution to this programme."

The Minister also noted that "examination subsides" are provided for in the Budget, but this year a greater effort will be made to ensure that the most needy benefit from this scheme. The Education Ministry expects to work closely with the Ministry of Human Services in this endeavour.

Dr Bisnauth was at the time making his contribution to the 1999 budget debate and according to him, "We have been challenged by the issues in the contemporary world to enlarge our curriculum delivery...and rightly so, since education must be relevant, as it must be anticipatory of the future."

"I am constantly bothered by the fact that people would make statements based on facts that they know nothing of... if they would only spend the time and effort (to find out) rather than to speculate," he argued.

During his presentation, he recalled a comment on the 1992 budget which was that the budget was "shallow and empty, replete with statistics that cannot stand the scrutiny of examination by an undergraduate at the University of Guyana."

Bisnauth said this "simply illustrates how the more things change, the more they remain the same. We seem to have a lack of capacity for originality both in thought and in expression," he added.

The Minister also admitted that Guyana is facing difficult economic times, but pointed out that in the history of independent Guyana this is not the first of such times, and it wouldn't be the last. He said what is important is the way budgets, or governments, have responded to these economic crises.

The Minister, during his lengthy presentation to the National Assembly, also pointed out that "one of the realisms of education is that it is not a house plant that under-controls, and manipulates conditions to blossom and flourish within a short period".

"I am looking forward to the day when the education process, which is so important for national development, will transcend parties and consideration, and utilise the best brains across the political spectrum in the development for the national good," the Minister said.

He noted that Human Resource development is now a focus of attention on its own merit. "People are both the subject and the object of development," he said

"It is now commonplace to say that unless a country such as ours with a sufficiently large enough cadre of people were equipped with the relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes, habits of thoughts, and the capacity for critical and innovative thought and action, then our place on the world's scheme of things will be marginal, and our capacity to exploit our rich and generous natural resources responsibly will remain retarded."

The Minister stressed that human resource development is very important, and technical assistance have been sought in this regard.

Bisnauth also noted that Guyana will benefit from the Organisation of American States (OAS) in "education technology".

"I approach my job as a manager to derive maximum benefits from available resources both in terms of money and persons," the Minister asserted.

He pointed out that $6.8 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Education, the highest ever allocated to the sector, some 26.2 per cent above the 1998 revised figures.

"Five point two billion dollars, or 76 per cent will be spent on current expenses, the large share of which will be for salaries - which is often between 80 and 85 per cent of current expenditures; $1.6 billion of 24 per cent of the allocation will go to Capital Expenditures; the regional allocation has also been increased to 35.4 per cent; 7 per cent of the current expenses will be spent on teaching supplies; and 11 per cent will be spent on maintenance," Bisnauth explained.

"We are at the moment working on a National Maintenance Plan for schools across the nation," Bisnauth said while pointing out that the Education Ministry is armed with a clear Mission Statement which includes a five-year work plan that clearly defines projects and programmes at various stages, in 1999.

"The fact that the Ministry of Education had been adhering strongly to programme planning in keeping with the National Development Strategy over the past four years has resulted that in 1998 we have met the HPIC conditionalities without much trouble," he noted. (GIS)