Primary schools $30M information
technology pilot gets underway

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
May 15, 2001

Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, has formally launched a $30 million information technology (IT) pilot project targeting four primary schools for an introduction to the use of computer software and the internet.

The launching ceremony took place yesterday at one of the pilot schools -- Rama Krishna Primary, also known as `Kitty' Primary School, in Middleton Street, Georgetown. The project is being funded under the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP).

The other three schools involved in the pilot phase are Anna Regina Primary in Region Two, St Aloysius Primary in Region Six, and St Aidan's Primary in Region Ten.

The training is being executed through CCS (Guyana) Inc in conjunction with CCS (Barbados) Inc which also piloted information technology programmes in the Barbados and Jamaica primary education systems.

Barbadian Education Consultant with CCS (Barbados) Inc, Stephen Boyce is currently conducting training of teachers at Rama Krishna along with Information Technology Consultant attached to CCS (Guyana) Inc, Denis De Cruz.

According to information technology consultant, Dr Clifford Block, the programme aims to supply the human resources for expanded use of computers in the education system; develop the procedures for the most effective educational use of computers; teach how computers may best be used to enhance basic literacy and numeracy; and explore software to enrich the character of learning and teaching in science, the environment and other areas.

In a brief overview of the project, PEIP Director Ragoonandan Persaud noted that the pilot was not meant to only introduce IT to the students but it was also meant to be used as a training ground for teachers.

In each of the schools selected, Persaud said, two rooms have been identified for the programme - one for a computer laboratory and the other for a library.

Each school is equipped with 15 computers, including a server for the system, one mobile computer, and a number of small, battery-operated children's computers.

Dr Block said that among the equipment are literacy and numeracy software for guided, individualised practice, known as CCC `SuccessMaker'; a wide array of software in science, social studies, the environment and other areas, and CD-ROM library resources such as atlases and encyclopedia.

Based on the findings of the project, the ministry will be able to model or remodel the information technology programme for the schools.

Dr Block said that currently three teachers each from the four pilot schools are undergoing a three-week training programme with local and Barbados-based CCS consultants.

Persaud urged them to share their knowledge gained with other teachers in the schools' catchment area.

The teachers will be exposed to hands-on training, use of the internet for education, introduction of Microsoft Office tools in teaching word processing; spreadsheets, databases; trouble shooting; and guiding students as they use the `SuccessMaker' literacy and numeracy software.

The training programme for teachers will run into November and includes technical training in software maintenance for information technology support personnel; training of teachers and curriculum officers in the integration of software into classroom teaching; on site support and training by computer education experts.

Other supporting agencies within the ministry which are involved in the project are the National Centre for Educational Resource Development, the Management Information Systems Unit of the Planning Office and the Cyril Potter College of Education. The United Nations Development Programme and the IDB are also cooperating agencies.

In launching the project, Dr Jeffrey said it was a "signal day" for the country - it is the first computer system that is being put in place in a primary school.

He noted that under the Secondary Schools Reform Project the objective is to put computers in the 12 pilot schools and two more computer systems in schools that fall under the Guyana Education Access Project. "In everything we do at this time", he said, "we will attempt to ... make people computer literate."

He said that the ministry was committed to providing computers for every school as President Bharrat Jagdeo indicated in the run-up to the March 19 general elections and subsequently. While the President has given himself three years to do it, it may take a little longer but "it is a hope, an aspiration, we have. We are working towards it," Dr Jeffrey noted.

He also urged the teachers not to see themselves as attempting to teach only the basics. While it was their job to teach, he said, they must have a notion of the needs of the country and what was going on in the wider world.