Basic Education Project to help curb teacher exodus

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
November 2, 1999

THE Guyana Basic Education Teacher Training Project (GBET) should help limit the continuing `brain drain' in the learning sector, a Canadian specialist said yesterday.

"We are hoping, through this project, to look at the education system to help teachers feel more comfortable and competent with their role...and therefore to stay here (in Guyana) where they are sorely needed," Ms Susan Sproule told the Chronicle at the commissioning of the GBET Secretariat in the Administration building of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) complex, Turkeyen.

Sproule is attached to TECSULT, the Canadian firm executing the GBET initiative under the auspices of the Canadian Agency for International Development Agency (CIDA), with funding approved to the tune of some Cdn$4.5M.

Under the plan, the knowledge content of 1,000 hinterland teachers will be enhanced in the four core subjects - English Language, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies - to CXC standards.

Participants will then pursue the two-year certification programme offered at CPCE.

Recently, the school system lost scores of highly qualified and trained educators to Botswana, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and other foreign countries.

CPCE, and the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD), the two principal teacher-training institutions in the country, have lost specialists in the ongoing exodus.

School administrators, education supervisors, and teacher-training specialists at CPCE, the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE), and NCERD, are also targeted under the GBET initiative, CPCE Principal Mrs Savitri Balbahadur told the Chronicle.

And Ms Sproule said the TECSULT team was upbeat about the prospects of the GBET venture, as the outfit has undertaken similar programmes internationally and has just completed a comparable one in South East Asia.

At yesterday's ceremony, Mr Hydar Ally, Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, underscored the nexus between a solid education system and national development.

"No nation can advance beyond the level of its teachers," Ally asserted.

He said the Canadian-backed project "fits comfortably" in the Education policy of the Ministry to guarantee quality learning to students.

Officially opening the Secretariat, Ally said GBET "touches on the...issue of equity," and will help to build capacity now in short supply at all levels of the learning sector.

The Permanent Secretary, in his address, hinted at a possible dovetailing of the various education enterprises undertaken in the sector to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Among these are the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP), the Secondary School Reform Programme (SSRP) and the Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP).

Provision of resource materials will form one key component of the assistance, Balbahadur said.

She explained that the project is the initiative of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, who lobbied the Canadian Government for help for the local learning system while there on a visit in 1996.

The CPCE Principal said the Canadian administration wanted to back a "more sustainable programme" in the sector, and after evaluating the National Development Strategy (NDS) and the sector's five-year Education Policy statement, developed the GBET programme.

GBET was launched early last month in Regions One (Barima/Waini), and Eight (Potaro/Siparuni), and 220 untrained teachers began their "journey to become trained teachers," a document said.

The programme will be expanded to provide training opportunities for untrained and unqualified teachers in Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) in the next four years.

Meanwhile, the GBET Project Advisory Committee met yesterday at its Turkeyen location and officials were expected to come up with concrete proposals to push the five-year blueprint.

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