The knowledge society Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 17, 2004

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THE Education Ministry has announced plans to fast track its five-year Education Strategic Development Plan 2003-2007.

The Plan, developed with inputs from education stakeholders throughout the country, is aimed primarily at raising the quality of education delivery, with particular emphasis on early literacy and numeracy skills, which are important prerequisites for intellectual and cognitive development in subsequent years.

The importance of a sound education cannot ever be overemphasized. Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between economic development and the quality of the labour force. One has only to look at the tremendous strides made by countries of the Pacific Rim, the so-called Asian Tigers, to get an idea of the transforming power of education in propelling economic and social development.

Regrettably, under the previous administration, the quality of education was allowed to progressively decline, resulting in a situation where, according to a 1993 survey, some 90 per cent of out of school youths were found to be functionally illiterate!

This is a serious indictment against those who were in the seat of power during that period. Guyana declined from one of the best in terms of student performance at local and overseas examinations to one of the worst in the Caribbean by the 1980s and the early 1990s.

It is to be credit of the ruling PPP/Civic administration that it was able to arrest the decline in education standards in just under a decade.

True enough, the country may not be at this time at the top of the ladder in terms of CXC/GCE passes. The extent of the neglect of the sector would require a significant injection of resources and sustained efforts on the part of all stakeholders.

One thing, however, that cannot be challenged is the commitment of the current administration to make education a top national priority, as evidenced from the increasing share of the national budget that is put into the education sector.

The performance deficit between our Guyanese students and their regional counterparts is getting narrower with every passing year.

In fact, Guyanese students have won the top spot at the CXC examination on three occasions since the coming to office of the PPP/C administration in October of 1992, a feat never achieved since the examination was introduced some 30 years ago.

The initiatives by the Education Ministry to fast track the implementation of the Education Strategic Development Plan are welcome news for all Guyanese.

We are living now in what is referred to as the knowledge society, one in which success in life is largely dependent on the extent to which we have command over the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for successful living.

There can be no doubt that the massive investment in the education sector is beginning to pay dividends, as is reflected in better student performance and enhanced learning environment.

Much more remains to be done if we are to regain the status we enjoyed in the 1960s as the best in the region in terms of education attainment.

The Education Strategic Development Plan is one of the mechanisms that can take us up to that level.