Tech -Voc education key for 21st century
-- President Jagdeo

by Clifford Stanley
Guyana Chronicle
December 1, 1999

TECHNICAL Vocational education popularly known a Tech-Voc education, will have a prominent place in Government's programme for equipping Guyanese with the skills they will need to survive in the new century.

President Bharrat Jagdeo made the revelation while speaking on Government's education sector strategy during the annual graduation and prize-giving exercises of the Rosignol Secondary school on Friday.

Giving the feature address at the West Bank Berbice institution, President Jagdeo said that Government considered Tech-Voc training to be as equally important as academic education.

"For those who do not wish to continue with academics, those who are good with their hands, they must be given a skill," the President said.

He noted that facilities for Tech-Voc education are in place and that the teachers were doing an excellent job, but he emphasised that there was need for not only raising levels in this aspect of education but also making it available to more people.

During his address, President Jagdeo identified four other major elements of a "comprehensive review" of the education sector as follows:

* Curricula reform at nursery, primary, and secondary levels

* Universal secondary education

* Intensification of teacher training and decentralisation of teacher training with greater emphasis on In-service training

* Closer attention to tertiary education with a deliberate policy of decentralisation of its provision

* Continuation of the upgrading of physical facilities for education delivery countrywide.

The President said that major sections of the school curricula are totally irrelevant.

"The new century will be driven by knowledge and information technology. If we are preparing children for the future the school curricula has to be relevant so that we can help them not only to get jobs but to survive as individuals and to be good citizens," he stressed.

President Jagdeo also disclosed that the Government will be moving to abolish the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations.

"With that system," he lamented, "we found that because you only had space for 55 per cent of the primary school children to move on to secondary schools, 45 per cent of the kids were forced either to remain at the top of primary schools or go to heavily stigmatized Community High Schools."

"We were very disturbed by this because you are condemning children at age nine to a very uncertain future. Those who do not get into secondary schools, their parents see them as failures, they see themselves as failures."

"We are resting their whole futures on the outcome of one examination."

"These are babies," he said "they should have hundreds of opportunities to grow and develop. They should not have to go through the trauma of either passing or failing the secondary school examinations. All our kids should have the opportunity to attend secondary schools."

"We have to make provision for those who are inherently brilliant but, who, for some reason or the other, are late developers," he stressed.

The President mentioned two pilot projects towards this end, initiated by Government. One project is in Berbice and the other one is in Linden.

He said that the pilot projects should provide the information needed to concretise arrangements for universal secondary education for all.

With respect to teacher training, the President revealed that Government had carried out a deliberate policy of significantly widening the gap between the salaries of trained and untrained teachers so as to give untrained teachers the incentive to enlist for training.

Government had also deliberately channelled more resources to the teacher's training institution, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) while simultaneously decentralising In-service training along the Coast and as far south as the Rupununi.

President Jagdeo disclosed that plans to establish a University of Guyana Campus in Berbice were also in keeping with this policy of making educational opportunities easily available for all Guyanese regardless of which part of the country they reside.

With respect to improvement of the physical aspects of education delivery, President Jagdeo referred to the billions of dollars already spent in this area.

Drawing a comparison with the jargon of information technology, the President said, "I think of the modernised physical infrastructure as the hardware. The hardware is already in place. Government has ensured that. We now have to concentrate on the software, the people whose educational levels will be so vital for our survival as a nation in the 21st Century."

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples