420 nursery, primary schools to feature in IDB-funded BEAMS literacy project by Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 17, 2004

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EDUCATION Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey says the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded Basic Education Access Management Support (BEAMS) project has started and is progressing well.

BEAMS comprises of two major components: Improved School Performance and Organizational and Human Resource Capacity.

The objective of the school performance component is to enable all students to achieve essential reading skills by Grade 4 and possess appropriate mathematical skills by Grade 3.

The ministry's literacy programme will provide learning packages for all children from nursery to grade 4, a new literacy programme will be in place in all 420 nursery and primary schools in years two to four of the project. There will also be a remediation packages and accelerated learning materials to support less able pupils. Five thousand teachers, education officials and local specialists will be trained in the literacy approach.

In addition a combination of radio and CD recordings will be used to benefit 58,000 students in primary grades, while five thousand teachers guides will be produced.

The use of computers will benefit 12,000 pupils in 20 schools and individualized support in the form of accelerated learning packages, which will be available in 110 schools.

Speaking at a news conference last Thursday at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD), Kingston, Dr. Jeffrey said national and international experts have been contracted to execute BEAMS, which is a major vehicle for implementing important aspects of the Education Ministry's strategic education plan. Staff of the various units within NCERD, in collaboration with the experts, have almost completed the performance norms for reading, Dr. Jeffrey reported, while work has begun on the identification of best practices in Guyana and abroad and on the identification of material to support the new methodologies.

Preparation of material for the delivery of Mathematics by Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) has begun, and the first batch of schools in two administrative regions in which these activities will be piloted has been identified, the minister said.

However, he observed that there was some slippage as regards the planned training activities for the teaching of reading due to the project starting a little later than planned.

The Ministry of Education has embarked on BEAMS as from last year in its pursuit of continuously improving the delivery of primary education.

The project seeks to improve literacy and numeracy standards, teacher preparation, supply and demand, the use of innovative technologies in education delivery, increased access to quality education in remote and disadvantaged areas and the improvement of the management of the school, regional and central levels.

BEAMS will be incorporated into the work programmes of the Ministry of Education over a seven-year period in two phases.

During the first phase teachers will be trained in the effective use of strategies for enhancing literacy and numeracy of pupils from early childhood to the end of the primary school cycle.

The use of innovative technologies including the use of computer technology, internet linkages, video tutoring and interactive radio will be an integral part of the teacher training and the learning strategies for teachers and pupils. Parents and the wider community will also play an important role in the programme for the enhancement of pupil achievement.

NCERD and regional offices will receive scanning, reproduction and analysis equipment to support the implementation of testing and assessment strategies.

Twenty teachers will receive training to become trainers for 90 literacy and numeracy advisers and 6,712 teachers across the country. The head teachers of all 431 nursery and primary schools will be trained in instructional and administrative leadership. Cluster centers will be supplied with audio and video technology to the lead school that would be networked with a larger Regional Democratic Council resource centre.

The implementation of the Organizational and Human Resource Capacity component is to enable the ministry to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation capacity and to develop an integrated Education Management Information System (EMIS), and to support asset management and instructional activities.

The Education Ministry's programme will build on the achievements of other projects such as the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP, Early Childhood Education (ECE), Guyana Basic education Teacher training (GBET) and aspects of the Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP).

The programme has been developed within the ministry's Strategic Development Plan for 2002-2007 that has emanated from the National Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, through nationwide consultations with stakeholders in 2001.

National advisers drawn from the University of Guyana, the Cyril Potter College of Education and other local sources will lead the process of training teachers and impart the expertise in school practices with assistance from provided under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan agreements.

Dr. Jeffrey said his ministry has been heartened by the improvement in performance of some rural schools in the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE), where there was a wider spread of schools from which the top ten percent of students was drawn.

He added that the system of ongoing assessments at the primary level was begun with the 2003 grade two national assessments.

During last year too, as part of the public sector reform and to better strategically locate and give the organization a clearer focus, work began on the reorganization of NCERD, the minister disclosed.

Access and enrollment have increased at the post-secondary level with the establishment of technical institutions in outlying regions and a US$8M loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will be used to improve technical/vocational infrastructure in schools and technical institutions.

A strategic plan for the technical/vocational sector is being worked on and proposed legislation for the establishment of a National Council for Technical and Vocational Education to oversee and set and maintain standards in the sector, has been completed and will be before parliament by the end of the first quarter this year.