Education Ministry issues five-year strategic plan
Decentralised management, increasing stakeholders' participation envisaged
Stabroek News
January 14, 2002

The Education Ministry has released the draft version of its Strategic Plan for the period 2002 to 2006, and among its goals are strengthening coverage of primary education and expanding to universal access in secondary education; improving quality in educational delivery; addressing matters of equity, and increasing participation of all stakeholders.

The draft plan, distributed at a brunch held at the National Library recently, follows the Ministry of Education Policy Document of 1995.

An overview of the plans states that it has been developed from the strategic issues that the ministry has to face in the period, stresses feasibility and flexibility to accommodate the changes in the environment and the opportunities, threats, weaknesses and strengths that might evolve in the course of the next five years.

The plan's strategic objectives include obtaining government and societal support for the Education Ministry at the central and regional levels; securing adequate financial resources; improving the managerial capabilities of the ministry; decentralising the management of the system; and increasing the stakeholders' level of participation and commitment.

Other strategic issues dealt with include defining standards or inputs, processes and outcomes; improving infrastructure and equipment; improving the quality of education in the hinterland regions; accelerating the mainstreaming/inclusion of persons with special needs into the educational system; obtaining universal access to education; increasing the level of respect and tolerance for diversity; producing competent teachers for the system and giving them better support, and reducing the loss of valuable human resources in the system.

The plan also focuses on being able to provide better early childhood education; having a more relevant curriculum at all levels of the educational system; making tertiary education more relevant and capable of contributing to the development of Guyana; and obtaining significantly better levels of literacy and numeracy among students.

The introduction to the draft said that in March 2000 an evaluation of the 1995 policy document showed that some significant improvements were achieved. The report detailed successes and failures, but overall showed an educational system committed to improving and ensuring a better future for the younger generations.

Continuing the efforts, another consultant was commissioned to support the development of a strategic plan covering the period from 2002 to 2006. In order to undertake this critical task, a team headed by the Chief Planning Officer, Evelyn Hamilton was formed. Twelve members of the ministry, senior officers included, assumed the task of developing a plan that will direct the ministry during this period.

According to the introduction, the consultation process that took place as part of the planning process has been extensive. One or two trips to each of the country's administrative regions were completed and a number of experts and members of civil society were called upon to take part in different meetings with the task teams. According to the historical overview of education in the country, the goal of equity in education is to provide all citizens of Guyana and especially the young ones of school age, with an educational experience of comparable quality. "This is not an easy task and the results of recent efforts are not as encouraging as they are in the matter of coverage."

Because of the history of the country, most of the population, the services and resources, have been concentrated on the coastland, particularly in the Georgetown area. In Guyana, the hinterland and riverain regions are the least advantaged. The education and other services they get are clearly below national standards.

In terms of equity, the education of children with special needs is an issue that demands urgent attention. Although there have been policy proposals, there are no clear directions and the effort to provide services are far from being adequate.

The issue of quality is also another area of concern and there are "very worrisome evaluations of the quality of education in Guyana and the reasons for the poor educational services are many."

According to the overview, a prolonged period of financial constraints and budget cuts have had many adverse results. Widespread lack of motivation and maybe even the development of a certain culture of acceptance of the prevailing conditions have contributed to the development of undesirable conditions in classrooms and schools.

Some of the constraints are unqualified and unmotivated teachers, insufficient textbooks and learning materials, under-staffing of the support institutions, such as the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) and the absence of established performance norms.

According to the McRae review of the ministry's five-year plan, the publication of the ministry's plans for 1990 to 1995 and the 1995 to 2000 plans, is evidence of the effort from the ministry to have a planned and organised approach to the improvement of education. They created the necessary platform to develop a culture of planning in the ministry and effective terms of reference for officials in the ministry to execute and evaluate the plans.