Seeking consensus for lifting standards in education
December 6, 1999
WHEN esteemed academician Professor Harold Lutchman addressed the congregation at the University of Guyana's 33rd Convocation last month, he underscored some hard truths about levels of education within the hallowed halls of the institution. The most disturbing of these disclosures was the one dealing with the educational background of the freshmen and the arduous task they present to lecturers. Dr Lutchman, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, recounted also his ongoing dismay at the standard of English of some students who have to write to him on occasion.
Predictably, the Vice-Chancellor's remarks generated comments amongst some graduates. And in a reaction last week, Mr T. Anson Sancho, Principal of the Critchlow Labour College, one of the feeder institutions for the University of Guyana, argued that standards of education had fallen not only at the Critchlow, but at other schools and places of learning in the country. He also took umbrage at the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) for repeatedly running a story about the Vice-Chancellor's remarks in which the Critchlow Labour College is mentioned. Sancho expressed the view that the news story was "one-sided" and put his college in an unfair light.
We are indeed sorry that Professor Lutchman's remarks on the intellectual development of undergraduates were taken in such bad grace, and it is our hope that the issue does not develop into a mud-slinging match between the University of Guyana and the Critchlow Labour College. Such a development would be a waste of intellectual energy which could be better channelled into finding creative mechanisms for improving standards of education amongst the nation's schoolchildren and young adults.
The fact is, we are certain that there are scores of brilliant and promising youths at the University of Guyana. We also know that there are some students whose presence there must be an embarrassment for the faculty. In a different environment, those deficient students would be undergoing remedial programmes at a primary school for adults. Time and again we have pointed out in this column that some of the undergraduates and graduates of the
University of Guyana would have been woeful failures at the School Leaving Examination of 35 years ago.
Managers in both the public and private sectors are astounded when newly-recruited graduates of the University of Guyana are unable to compose a simple instruction to be faxed abroad. Their spelling is atrocious, their grammar impossible and their vocabulary limited. They are literally at the `Brighter Grammar' stage in which "A piano was sold to a lady with carved legs." Editors in the media endure hours of mental agony trying to make sense out of the clusters of words produced by some UG undergraduates and graduates. What is equally painful for the editors, is the thought that they, in their cub-reporting days, would not have dared to concoct such drivel. Their careers in newspaper would have been stillborn.
This is the quality of UG student lamented by Vice-Chancellor Lutchman. And he is not alone in his observations. A few months ago Ms Patricia Persaud, a senior lecturer in the English Department of the University, pointed out on a radio programme that 25 years ago, new students of English were shown the finer points of language. Today, however, many students have to be taught basic English.
The frightening question that must be asked is this: How educated can a graduate be if on entering UG he or she has to be taught such basics as composition and vocabulary?
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