Favourable political climate also crucial for education improvement
- planners conclude
Guyana Chronicle
January 4, 2002

PLANNERS looking at long-term improvements in education say the political climate is among factors that can affect its development.

The point is made in the draft Strategic Plan for the next five years that was released last week.

The document notes that the Education Ministry has been working assiduously for some time to improve the delivery of education to students, but it was found that there are many obstacles that prevent effective delivery.

It says there is need for a favourable political environment for improvement in education.

The draft notes that the Government has declared its willingness to allocate increasing amounts of the national budget to education under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative that Guyana is to benefit from.

The National Development Strategy also puts a strong emphasis on education as a major component of the future national effort, it says and points out that the private sector is willing to work with the Ministry of Education to develop policies, implement programmes and in other areas.

It says that while many initiatives are encouraging, there are also reasons to seek changes.

"The availability of international support, in itself an opportunity, could become a threat", the plan warns.

"International agencies very often have strong feelings on policies and the types of programmes countries need. These can often be forced on developing countries, such as Guyana, when there is no real desire for them or without a true understanding of the issue", it observes.

As a result, the participation of these agencies could, to some extent, change the country's planning process, leading to possible managerial confusion created with the presence of too many donors and initiatives to improve the sector.

The draft strategy, drawn up by a special team from the ministry, adds that the demand for trained teachers in the Caribbean region and in other countries threatens the availability of well-trained teachers and other professionals.

The rapid growth of private education could also become a source of competition for the public sector in the recruitment of qualified teachers, it found and notes that as a consequence, the establishment of private schools can also contribute to the shortage of qualified teachers in the school system.

The level of overall deterioration of the educational infrastructure is caused by the existing differences in priorities between the Regional Democratic Councils, the Regional Education Departments and the Ministry of Education itself, that can lead to problems in planning and budgeting, the draft says.

Other constraints include the lack of support from the local communities to protect schools; the geography of the country which makes it difficult to travel and communicate with relatively isolated communities in the interior; and other Government sectors not fully on par with the views of the Ministry of Education concerning educational development and innovation.

The 2002-2006 plan is intended to generate the necessary concepts, evaluations and reflect concerns to build the foundation of a better future for education in Guyana.

Officials said the plan is a continuation of an education policy document produced in 1995, which outlined several options to improve schools and the learning that took place in the country.

In March last year, an evaluation of the results of this plan showed that some significant improvements were achieved.

"The report detailed successes and failures, but overall showed a government and an educational system committed to improve and to ensure a better future for the younger generations", the Strategic Plan states.

The team that came up with the draft was headed by the Chief Planning Officer and 12 members of the ministry, senior officers included, "assumed the task of developing a plan that will furnish the direction that the Ministry of Education will undertake next during this period", the document says.

There was an extensive consultation process; trips were made to each of the regions and a number of experts and members of civil society participated in different meetings and task teams.

"The process in itself must be considered a great achievement", the document adds.

Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey last week told reporters that many areas of the plan call for various aspects of stakeholder participation.

"...we know that (this year) we are going to have to play an important part in our drive to get the public to understand what it is we are trying to do and what we have here in this draft plan", he said. (STACEY DAVIDSON)