Officials peruse strategy to raise education standards By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
February 20, 2002

`...some primary school students have a better grasp of the context of some subjects than do teachers' - former Education Minister Deryck Bernard

THE Ministry of Education started discussions Monday on a Draft Strategic Plan that articulates the general directions and activities it intends to pursue between 2002-2006.

A panel consisting of Dr. Ian McDonald, former Education Minister Deryck Bernard and Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey debated the 17-point plan at the National Centre for Education Research and Development (NCERD), Kingston, Georgetown.

Minister Jeffrey said the education plan is rooted in the National Development Strategy and will contain policies that can "roll on" to another plan when the current one ends.

He added that the plan's objective is to improve the quality of education and its delivery in schools in Guyana, stressing that at the end of the five years of the project's implementation, literacy and numeracy would be improved in Guyana.

Jeffrey said the plan would go to Cabinet and then to Parliament.

In the NCERD studio taking part in the discussions were students, parents and teachers.

In his contribution, McDonald said the plan should consider mechanisms to build on the success of the early childhood programme, which everyone on the panel agreed is effective.

However, Bernard pointed out that while the kindergarten programme works tremendously well, the output of primary schools as evidenced from the results of the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination does not indicate that all is well with the primary system.

He said it is not a question of resources, but the question of directing and putting the resources to use where needed most.

Bernard said that emphasis should be placed on the academic development of teachers themselves. He said that by the time the strategic plan is complete, 30 per cent of schools should have boards that would see representation from parents.

The minister therefore called for principal attention to be placed on the primary programme, and from this he noted there can be the "knock on" effect on secondary and tertiary institutions.

McDonald also spoke of the need for better remuneration and benefits for teachers, while Bernard called for the professional capacity of the Ministry to be developed.

The Draft Strategic Plan was put together following countrywide community consultations.

Among the recommendations are for the Ministry to improve its managerial capabilities, decentralise the management of the education system, improve infrastructure and equipment, improve the quality of education in the hinterland regions, accelerate the inclusion of persons with special needs into the system, and reduce the loss of valuable human resources in the sector.