New moves to upgrade education system
By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 7, 2003

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The Ministry of Education during last year made several programmatic shifts aimed at continued upgrading and improving of education standards.

Education Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey speaking at a press conference last Friday at the National Centre for Education Research and Development (NCERD), Kingston reiterated his Ministry's commitment to continue these shifts during this year.

Among the measures identified for continued implementation is the gradual phasing out of the single end of level six, Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE) with three separate examinations that pupils will take at levels two, four and six. These will reinforce the continuous assessment programmes to be conducted in all schools, Dr. Jeffrey explained.

He further stated that the conversion of Community High l Schools and Primary Tops to General Secondary Schools will be part of an ongoing programme to ensure that universal secondary education becomes a reality by 2005.

"During 2002, the process of conversion of Community High Schools and Primary Tops to General Secondary Schools began as part of an ongoing programme to ensure that all secondary age pupils receive a general secondary education by the year 2005. The teachers from 25 schools have received training in the core subjects. This training programme will intensify in 2003 and will be extended to include pre-vocational subjects," the minister said.

Dr. Jeffrey noted that there was strict enforcement of placement regulations for allocations at the nursery, primary and secondary places and this "has ensured a more equitable distribution of pupils to schools, pupils will be placed in the secondary school closest to their homes. This, it is hoped, will decrease the cost of education to parents and improve attendance and community participation."

He reported that during the past year school inspection reports were widely circulated and discussed to give parents and other stakeholders more information about the performance of schools in their communities and to promote the accountability of schools and their regional administrators for the achievement of their pupils. "The further enhancement of inspection and supervision procedures will ensure that employees in the education sector do their designated tasks," he added.

The minister observed that there has been increased emphasis on the provision of technical and vocational education in the regions as evidenced by the construction of the Essequibo and Corentyne Technical Institutes, the latter will be completed this year.

"In 2002 a US$18.5M project proposal was developed with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to fund the strengthening of the technical teacher training facilities, rehabilitate and re-equip secondary and post secondary institutions and the installation of computers and modern electronic communication equipment. This programme will begin later this year or early 2004," the minister disclosed.

A Basic Competency Based Modularised programme was developed and will be in place in 20% of secondary schools from September this year and all other secondary schools by 2004.

"Form four pupils will be given the opportunity to study vocational courses and gain the Guyana Basic Competency Certificate, an entry-level employment qualification," Dr. Jeffrey pointed out.

He also noted that the School Welfare Service conducted successful truancy campaigns in all regions. This he said helped to improve attendance rates and during this year this programme "will be enhanced and properly institutionalised within the education system."

The minister noted too, that every child will receive one textbook for each of the core subjects while supplementary textbooks will be placed in school libraries.

Touching on staffing Dr. Jeffrey reported that the situation improved last year, pointing out that the Inspectorate Division is now fully staffed and most regions have at least 80% of the required personnel. Plans are in place to restructure NCERD and a national officer with responsibility for special needs will be appointed early this year.

"More than 500 teachers graduated from the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), in 2002. Though not a complete answer, this has helped to replace those teachers who have been leaving the system, he said.

"We will continue to work with the Guyana Teachers' Union to develop a strategic partnership that will lead to the enhancement of the living and working conditions of our teachers. An important step in this direction will be the completion of negotiations of a three-year development programme for teachers," he added.

The restructuring of the University of Guyana to transform it into a modern institution, providing quality service should get underway this year, the minister said.

"This year, the radical restructuring of the University of Guyana, should begin in earnest. The idea is to transform the university into a modern research-based institution that, considering our resources and needs, can offer quality service. Already about three draft strategy papers, devised by the university and by international consultants, have been completed. We will continue to work closely with the university administration on this project," Dr. Jeffrey reiterated.

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