Education ministry hires legal draughtsman for legislation to establish national accreditation council
Stabroek News
July 30, 2001

The Education Ministry is moving closer to the establishment of a National Accreditation Council (NAC) for tertiary institutions by engaging a legal draughtsman to fine-tune the draft legislation which will make provision for the NAC's establishment.

The rules and regulations for the functioning of the NAC and guidelines for its establishment have been approved in principle by cabinet, but the draft legislation is yet to be completed and taken to parliament for approval.

The establishment of the council is in keeping with a mandate by Heads of Government of Caricom countries to have accreditation councils established in all territories for the delivery of standard and quality education across the region. Recognition of the quality of education offered would mean that it would be easier to share human resources and exchange expertise, Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar said.

Caesar told Stabroek News on Thursday that the NAC had to be in place by year end. Provision had not been made in this year's budget for the operationalisation of a National Advisory Council but next year's budget was expected to cater for its functioning, Caesar said.

He noted that while Guyana would not be able to meet the July 31 deadline for the establishment of all councils as mandated by Caricom, the country was nevertheless way ahead in its planning and implementation compared to some other Caricom territories.

The establishment of a local accreditation council would demonstrate a commitment to quality education; ensure the employability of graduates; provide international mobility; permit transportability of qualifications and partial qualifications; permit international credit accumulations; make possible exemption from other forms of accreditation and attract students.

Giving a background to the establishment of accreditation councils in the region, the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) Executive Director, Dr Ethley London last month at a seminar at the Ocean View Hotel Liliendaal said that apart from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, other countries which had just set up bodies were St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and The Bahamas. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Suriname had reached some stage in the planning and implementation process.

Jamaica has had an accreditation council for 12 years, while Trinidad and Tobago followed suit a few years ago. Barbados is currently ahead of Guyana and most other countries in its implementation programme, she said.

Dr London said that their plans made it a must that training sessions be held for providers of tertiary education to make them aware of the services they will be expected to provide. This, she said, would furnish them with an opportunity to upgrade their services.

Dr London, who has been lending technical support to the process in Guyana was also here in 1999 to ascertain the level of quality education delivered by the tertiary institutions. She submitted a report to the ministry on the situational analysis as well as made a number of recommendations accompanied by an implementation plan, which is currently being followed.

Based on this report the ministry set up a committee, which met last month to examine the recommendations and implementation plan and decide on what was priority.

This body consists of representatives from the University of Guyana, the Private Sector Commission, the Ministry of Education, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, the Guyana Teachers' Unions, Guyana Bar Association, The Guyana Nurses Association, Public Service Management, the Board of Industrial Training, the Cyril Potter College of Education, the Government Technical Institute and the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

According to Caesar the recommendations had been agreed in principle by cabinet but they had to be formulated using the appropriate legal terminology, which was what was now being looked at. The council will cover both public and private institutions.

Caricom is working towards ensuring that all post secondary and tertiary educational institutions in the region are accredited and become the authority to pronounce on the quality of education being offered.

Dr London said that the accreditation councils were important to the free movement of trade in the region within the Caricom Single Market and Economy. She said it was necessary for each country to assure the quality of its products so that it can move across the region and on that basis there can be mutual recognition of each other's qualifications.

In a presentation to the local steering committee last month, Dr London said that quality issues dominate the higher education debate. Four factors, she continued, explained the increased attention to quality issue worldwide -- concern about the level of public expenditure; the expansion of higher education systems; the greater openness in many sectors of present-day societies; and the international viability of students, teachers, and researchers together with the internationalisation of the labour market.

The educational paradigm, she noted is shifting and new models and linkages are challenging the Caribbean to move beyond the confines of a national perspective toward regional and international issues.

Despite differences in the size and stage of development of their higher education sectors, many governments have decided that traditional academic controls are inadequate to today's challenges. They feel that more explicit assurances about quality are needed. (Miranda La Rose)