Psychologists needed to identify children with learning disabilities
- Dr Hunte

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 2, 2000

The Ministry of Education needs to engage trained psychologists to assist with identifying students with learning difficulties, Secondary Schools Reform Project Director, Dr Kenneth Hunte says. These psychologists, he says, will recommend levels of support which will help prepare such students for the world of work and adulthood.

Dr Hunte also feels that there is a great need for specially trained teachers to effectively deliver a specialist secondary curriculum to the level of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations (general proficiency level). These teachers will function as pastoral/guidance tutors.

In a presentation at the opening ceremony of a Ministry of Education-sponsored National Conference on Quality Secondary Education held at the Ocean View Hotel and Convention Centre on Friday, Dr Hunte made a number of recommendations, which he felt the Ministry of Education needed to consider for quality secondary education. Apart from educators, there were a number of students, from the pilot schools involved in the SSRP as well as students from the country's sixth form schools who took part in the workshops and discussions.

Dr Hunte proposed that an inspectorate unit of subject specialists for each of the areas of learning in secondary schools be set up. This unit will enable the ministry to provide guarantees for the stakeholders about the quality of, and accountability for the secondary education provided.

Dr Hunte urged that physical facilities, consistent with the 'Standards for the Design and Development of Secondary-age Schools', be provided. Instead of rectangular, classrooms should be square in design. So far two primary schools, Golden Grove and Beterverwagting, for which contracts were awarded under the Primary Education Improvement Programme are being built using the square classroom design.

He also advocated a computerised School Information System, which would provide accurate information about the educational needs of students so as to facilitate access to, as well as enable individual students to successfully complete their secondary education programme; and a criterion-referenced Secondary Schools Entrance Examination with student performance recorded in terms of a level of attainment (LOA) for each subject tested. Coming out of the SSRP is a School Improvement Plan, which he feels the ministry should make compulsory in all schools.

Dr Hunte also feels that the ministry should set up a national assessment framework which provides opportunities for students of all abilities and interests to be able to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do throughout their period of secondary schooling.

Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, who also made a presentation at the forum, in response to Dr Hunte's recommendations, said that some of them were already on stream or were being piloted by the SSRP, which Dr Hunte heads. This included a common national curriculum which defines the skill, knowledge, understanding and attitudes which should be taught at each level.