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The President made the remark yesterday while delivering the feature address at the rededication ceremony of Queen's College auditorium and administration block.
He explained that about 20% of the recurrent budget or about $15B is allocated to the education sector, up from about 5% a decade ago, but this is still inadequate because of the small size of Guyana's economy, adding that the high external debt which a few years ago took up 94% of revenue was a major constraint in placing more financial resources to the education sector. He noted too that Guyana's education standard was once comparable to that of its Caribbean counterparts, but because resources had to be diverted to service debts very little was available for the education sector, resulting in a decline of standards.
Whilst reform of the education sector would bring improvements, it is essential that there is reform of the economy as well so that greater resources can be allocated to sustain significant improvement, the President said.
He said Guyana has been able to garner about US$100M in loans and grants from international financial institutions for the education sector. This, he said, will not significantly increase the foreign debt as they are on soft terms with a repayment period of forty years.
Training of teachers is of prime importance, the President emphasized, pointing that the quality of students largely depends on the quality of teachers.
The President stressed the importance of universal secondary education, which in the context of today's world is essential for employment, as well as the pursuit of higher education.
He also underscored the need to catch up with the rest of the world as regards Information Technology (IT), pointing out that in Singapore one of the tests high school students are given prior to their graduation is that they must design a website page of their own. He conceded that Guyana is lagging behind, but made an appeal for schools to take the initiative in implementing IT training and not to only depend on Government.
The President observed also that there is need to utilize IT in a modernized way other than just for the traditional uses.
He commended the schools Board of Management for accomplishing the task of rebuilding the auditorium and administration block and urged that they continue the partnership with the Government.
Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, indicated that the vision for the education sector is to develop a citizen to live a good life in harmony with the environment, eradicating illiteracy and to have greater community participation in the education system.
He disclosed that in recent years over US$200M has been invested in the education sector but more is needed. However, he contended that despite the limited resources with improved school management it is possible to improve the delivery of education. Of critical importance, he stressed, is the maintenance of school property.
He extended congratulations to this year's top performer at the CXC examination, Daniel Ram of Queen's College who obtained eleven grade ones and three grade twos. He also commended Ram's teachers, parents and supporters for their contribution to his success.
The minister urged the administrators and teachers of the school to maintain its traditional high standards and to seek to achieve even greater heights.
Chairman of the Board of Management, Ronald Ali recalled that as a result of the fire in November 1997 which destroyed a substantial section of the school building classrooms had to be converted for use by teachers while some students had to be housed at another location for about a year but returned for classes in march 1998. However, because of the limited accommodation there was overcrowding.
He disclosed that in 2000 the Government allocated $50M for the rebuilding project with the Board agreeing to raise remaining sum and on July 26 of that year the contract was signed for the designs and subsequent rebuilding of the auditorium and administration block. He commended the business community for their support towards the project.
The new auditorium, Ali said has over 20,000 square feet of floor space and is a multi-purpose facility, and plans are in train to build facilities for a canteen and bookstore among others.
He added that during recent years over $25M has been invested into equipping the science laboratories to a high standard, but needed that IT facilities need to be upgraded.
President of the Parent Teachers Association pledged on behalf of all parents to continue to provide support to the institution in order to improve facilities at the nation's premier secondary school.