The Marian Academy

Stabroek News
November 9, 2000

Private education has once again become a recognised part of the educational system in Guyana. Mae's was the pioneer and there are now several well recognised schools including the School of Nations and the Marian Academy

The attempt at complete state control of the educational system introduced in the l970s which had led to the taking over of the then existing private schools, many of them owned and run by churches, was not a success. The state could not or did not make the necessary investment to keep the system going and after a while there was a shortage of text books, a shortage of teachers due to emigration, a shortage of chairs and desks and the buildings began to fall apart. The long term effect on the educational system, that could once have held its own in the region and further afield, was calamitous.

Dual control, that is a system which embraces state and private schools, which existed before, is clearly the best solution. Parents who can afford to or are willing to make the sacrifice to pay school fees and to have their children privately educated should have the right to do so. The private schools have some freedom in the way they run their affairs but must comply with the basic curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education and their pupils must sit the recognised exams. A state monopoly does not work well and under the old system private lessons, which sought to make up for the deficiencies of the system, had become the norm, effectively reintroducing a form of private education.

The Marian Academy run by the Ursuline Nuns represents the return of the Catholic church to the educational system, a role it had traditionally played in Guyanese history together with other churches. The school offers nursery, primary and secondary education. It has at present about 440 pupils and this will increase by about l00 with each intake of new students at the beginning of the school year in September. Students will take the common entrance exam in April and fourth formers have begun the CXC programme and will take the CXC exam in 2002. It is at present constructing a substantial new building on Carifesta avenue (it now operates in temporary quarters opposite in rented premises) and it is hoped to open this new building in time for the January term.

The private schools can help generally to recreate the educational standards Guyana once enjoyed, partly by paying better salaries to teachers. Much of the decline over the years was attributable to the widespread emigration of trained teachers which regrettably continues. The immediate impact on the state system could be slightly detrimental in that teachers may be recruited from state schools but the private schools will bring new administrative and teaching skills into the system and in the short to medium term should have a beneficial effect on the entire system, partly by restoring the status of teachers which had been compromised.

There is one other perhaps unrecognised advantage of the return of private schools. One of the major causes of emigration in the last thirty years of the Guyanese diaspora has been the fear of parents that their children will not get a sound education here. If they can now be persuaded that that is no longer the case it can help to stem the outflow which is still affecting businesses and other institutions on a daily basis.

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