Education Ministry to focus on early childhood learning
-Standard One test to be implemented

Stabroek News
January 6, 2000

The Ministry of Education will be focusing much of its attention this year on early childhood education in an attempt to provide a solid grounding in the core subjects.

Ed Caesar, Chief Education Officer, described the nursery school programme as "the first building block for young children" and stressed the need for more emphasis on preparing children for a smooth transition to primary school by avoiding gaps in their education, as he addressed the media at a year end review on Friday.

Other initiatives for this year include a national standard one test and a third form examination, both designed to diagnose weaknesses of students and correct these before students cope with regional examinations.

The Chief Education Officer listed a number of last year's challenges, including the public servant's strike, the exodus of senior teachers, and a fire at the Ministry of Education, but said that significant progress had still been made in the education sector.

The ranks of supervisors have been increased and early last year 34 field officers took a course in information technology as the first step in a programme to expose children to computers at an early age. Additionally, there are plans to standardise the nursery school curriculum so that children who may change schools will adjust easily.

Caesar confirmed that by September 2001 all primary school students will be learning Spanish. At present there is a pilot programme underway in four primary schools with secondary and primary school teachers collaborating to make the course a success. A standard one test will also be implemented to help the Ministry identify areas of concern and rectify them before the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE), commonly known as the Common Entrance examination.

The focus in the secondary schools will be on increasing students' access to traditional secondary education so that more children can work towards the CXC examinations. Caesar said that this will require intense teacher training as part of the Secondary Schools Reform Programme (SSRP) so that the curriculum can be delivered effectively.

The Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP) will involve the Linden and New Amsterdam communities in the development of the secondary schools in the areas.

And a national third form examination will replace the fourth form one which is considered as coming too late to enable children to improve before the CXC examinations. In the year 2000 this exam will be in mathematics and English language but should by 2001 cover all subjects.

The ministry is also looking at the various technical schools with an eye to emphasizing craftsman programmes in masonry, carpentry, and craft production. A surveying course is also to be reintroduced into the curriculum.

Caesar has recommended a manpower review of the economy to ascertain what particular skills will be necessary for the country in the next five years.

The Organisational Capacity Assessment conducted by an American consultancy group was handed over to the Ministry last November and Caesar said that this broad survey has reinforced the opinions of the Ministry regarding the direction the education sector should take. He said that the main thrust of the report was on teacher training. Whether there is an adequate number of personnel at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) was now under scrutiny, in light of the report, he said. Caesar said he was pleased with the 15 per cent increase in the number of students attending the Cyril Potter College of Education in 1999 and the record number of 419 graduates. He was also gratified that many of those taking courses from the CPCE are from the hinterland (Regions One and Eight) as part of the Distance Education Programme.

Referring to the numbers of teachers leaving to teach abroad, Caesar said that the Ministry is working with the union to realise some benefits in the area of secondments and transfers to encourage teachers to remain within the system but he expressed the opinion that this may not be enough to keep them here. "All of us would like to see teachers better paid," he added.

The issue of extra lessons will be addressed in February but the ministry is moving towards a policy that puts emphasis on the needs and concerns of the parents through the parent teachers associations (PTAs).

Caesar opined that too often only a couple of persons benefit from the extra lessons instead of the school and no concern is shown for those parents who cannot afford to pay.

A student body at a recent UNICEF workshop had called for the banning of corporal punishment in schools. Caesar said that there would be no change in the policy that allows the headteacher, or a senior teacher in the presence of the head teacher, to "apply" the punishment. However, he was directing schools to use this as a last resort after other forms of discipline and the involvement of the child's parents.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples