Despite constraints... Scheme to upgrade under-qualified teachers deemed successful

Guyana Chronicle
March 14, 2003

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INCREASED allocation of financial resources to the education sector, while desirable, depends on increased economic growth and that is being hindered by a dysfunctional political process.

Education Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said so yesterday, while addressing a workshop that was reviewing the Guyana Basic Education Training (GBET) scheme at Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

Speaking at the same forum, Head of the local Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) office, Mr Murray Cam observed that GBET has been one of the more successful projects in recent years and pledged continued support for it.

GBET Project Director, Ms Susan Sproule, too, hailed the success, pointing out that, from the inception, its design was clear articulation that it would succeed.

She praised the work of the Distance Education Unit at Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), noting: "We have come a long way in four years."

GBET is a foundation training procedure to upgrade under-ualified teachers mostly in far flung communities and is a collaborative undertaking by CPCE and CIDA.

It is currently in the fourth year, with about 400 teachers enrolled from Regions One (Barima/Waini); Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam); Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni); Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

However, Minister Jeffrey lamented that his ministry is confronted with daunting problems, such as migration and inadequate financial, human and material resources, in its quest to improve the quality delivery of education.

Jeffrey said the Government, recognising the imperative role of education in economic and social development, has been continuously increasing financial flows for the purpose.

According to him, 8.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on education, translating into 20 per cent of the national budget and represents the highest proportion in any Caribbean state.

Nevertheless, Jeffrey said that percentage is far from sufficient, because, in real terms, it represents a spending of US$250 per child annually for education, compared to a range of between US$1,000 and US$1,500 in the Caribbean.
He declared that the "gross disparity" exists because Guyana is a relatively poor country, with a per capita income of US$800.

Jeffrey contended, though, that the comparatively little expenditure on education can result in some improvement of educational standards, if managed properly and once dedicated efforts are made by personnel in the field.

He emphasised that school management is a key factor for ensuring continued improvement and heads of schools are required to continually enhance their managing skills, so as to foster closer collaboration with parents and the wider society and garner and mobilise greater resources for further quality uplift.

Jeffrey said school heads are now not only tasked with carrying out traditional duties but have become managers of their respective institutions and, while the ministry will facilitate their training to manage, they should engage in self-training to keep abreast of the latest advances in the practice.

Without proper school management "we would be whistling in the wind" no matter how much money is invested, he warned.

In this context the introduction of distance education is one of the most important interventions for in-service training of all personnel, Jeffrey said, advocating its extension for universal training within the system.

Commending Regional Chairmen and other officials for being at the forum, the minister said he was happy about their presence because the implementation of educational policies and programmes is the responsibility of Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs).

He said, over the last few years, particular attempts have been made to decentralise Ministry of Education to what was intended when the regional system was organised.

"The Ministry of Education is responsible for policy formulation and monitoring, representation nationally and internationally and for trying to garner resources for the sector. But the actual day to day implementation of education is in the hands of the Regional Chairmen, through the Regional Councils and their various education departments," Jeffrey reiterated.

He also called for a revision, to simplify and expedite the process of allocating funds to training centres, saying the current methodology is tedious and causes long delays.

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