'We must emphasise reading in Education Month' Viewpoint
By Mr. Hydar Ally, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education
Guyana Chronicle
September 14, 2002

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It is no secret that a significant number of children leaving the school system are unable to read and write properly.
THIS month is designated Education Month.
The theme for this year's Education Month is "Learn to Read: Read to Learn". Quite a number of activities are planned by the ministry in observance of this month including an awards ceremony to recognise our top performers at local and overseas examinations.

The emphasis on reading is understandable. It is no secret that a significant number of children leaving the school system are unable to read and write properly.

The advent of television is a major contributory factor and has resulted in a situation in which children spend an inordinate amount of time watching television at the expense of reading. The lack of reading skills is reflected in an inability to write and to express oneself, which is an important life skill in this information and communication society in which we now live.

This is why there is need for parents and guardians to exercise some control over the amount of time children spend watching television and the kinds of programme they watch as well. The same is true of computers, which can be a useful learning tool if properly managed.

The easy access to information is both good and bad, depending on the use to which such information is put.

The importance of education in terms of human development cannot be overemphasised. Education is generally regarded as the single most important factor in terms of human development. This is particularly so in this knowledge society.

This is why the Government has been putting so much emphasis on the education sector.

The share of the national budget that is allocated to education has been increasing steadily over the years.

The upgrading of hinterland education has been given high priority.

In this regard, much emphasis is being placed on the upgrading of the teaching force in the interior and the enhancement of managerial capabilities.

Because of the scattered nature of communities, it is not always possible to have teachers for every grade, which means that some teachers are required to teach more than one level of students.

This obviously requires a particular level of teaching skill, multigrade teaching which is now being emphasised at the teacher training institutions.

The key to development of any society lies in its human resources.

The development of human capital is now seen as the single most important factor in the development process.

It is simply not possible to talk of sustainable development unless we have a critical mass of brainpower to drive the development process. This is particularly true of the underdeveloped in the regions where the loss of critical skills can be extremely costly.

This is why poor countries such as ours must be concerned with the loss of skilled personnel to the more developed countries, especially when such skills are being lured away by the offer of incentives that often prove difficult to resist.

The recruitment of teachers, nurses and other professionals is a case in point. Such depletion of skills have tremendous implications in terms of institutional capacity and can serve to negate whatever development assistance may be had from the richer countries.

Guyana as a developing nation is not without its share of problems when it comes to outward migration of critical development skills due to what is described as "pirating" on the part of the developed world.

The good thing in our case is the fact that we have our own training institutions such as the University of Guyana and the teacher training colleges which to a large extent have been able to replenish skills which otherwise would have been difficult to replace.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend all those Guyanese who have resisted the temptation to sell their services to foreign countries.

It is this critical core of dedicated professionals that has been largely responsible for the progress we have made over the years. There can be no greater service and no greater satisfaction than to put one's service to the good of one's society.

There will always be the temptation to go to greener pastures although for many this has turned out to be a mirage.

This month, as we all know, is also Amerindian Heritage Month.

I would also like to take the opportunity of this Viewpoint to congratulate our Amerindian brothers and sisters on the occasion of Amerindian Month.

Congratulations are extended to our students who excelled in the recent CXC/GCE examinations and to the hardworking teachers of Guyana.