Education must match current shift in technology --
President Jagdeo

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
March 7, 2000

The delivery of education must be a priority if developing countries like Guyana are to survive in a world driven by knowledge and a digital economy, President Bharrat Jagdeo said recently.

Speaking at last Friday's re-commissioning of the Berbice Educational Institute (BEI) in New Amsterdam, the President observed that "the world environment is changing rapidly, creating turmoil and hardships in countries like Guyana even as they seek to re-adjust their economies to cope with the changes."

The 50-year-old school was renovated and expanded at a cost of some $31 million by the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) under an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded programme.

"Today we speak about an economy driven by knowledge...a digital economy in which telecommunication and information technology is the fastest growing sector which contributes most to economic growth," he declared.

According to the head of state these changes will require an adjustment in our attitude and thinking and a shifting of our resources.

"As a result," he explained, "government is now spending $7 billion annually on education today compared to $1 billion seven years ago."

Stating that the Ministry of Education has been unfairly criticised for only concentrating on new schools, President Jagdeo said that "government has a comprehensive approach towards improving education in Guyana."

The components of this policy, he stated, include new schools to improve the learning environment and curricula reform at every level. Describing this as the software of education, he noted that at the moment the curricula did not match the reality of the society in preparing our children to survive and develop in a challenging world.

Referring to another component of the government's education policy, the President said the Secondary Schools Reform Programme (SSRP) and the Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP) in collaboration with the British Government will address a major deficiency in the system.

"Sixty-five percent of our children in primary tops and in community high schools are considered failures since they cannot write the CXC examination," he told the gathering of students and educators.

"Today 58% of our school age children are in secondary schools up from 35%. However, 42% are still doomed to failure," he lamented. The two programmes are however expected to address this deficiency. "Our objective is to achieve universal access to secondary education and to focus on jobs for students when they graduate from secondary school."

Another aspect of the plan, he said, was the improvement of teachers' skills pointing out, "we have undertaken an aggressive teacher training programme." He also referred to "the need to address remuneration for teachers" and the preparation of more appropriate text books.

He then called for all political parties to support the National Development Strategy (NDS) which is expected shortly to be put before parliament for debate.