Education plan seeks to align nursery to primary curriculum
--- nursery enrollment at 90% by Ruel Johnson
Guyana Chronicle
June 3, 2004

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THE University of Guyana School of Education and Humanities, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, yesterday held a Conference on Early Childhood Education, at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, UG's Turkeyen campus.

Speaking on behalf of the University of Guyana was Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Al Creighton. Mr. Creighton said that in light of the criticisms in some quarters concerning the level and impact of research undertaken by faculty members of the University of Guyana, the conference was a welcome opportunity for the institution's staff to present their papers on a subject of concern to the society at large.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey welcomed the initiative by the University and the support given to it by UNICEF. Minister Jeffrey said that though improvements can be made in certain areas, Guyana has an enviable nursery education system with gross enrollment estimated at around 90%.

He said that as part of his ministry's 2003-2007 Plan of Action was a closer alignment of the nursery curriculum to that of the first two grades of the primary education programme; as well to enhance teacher training in early childhood education. He stated that his ministry views investment in early childhood education, despite the high cost, as money well spent.

Mr. Lajpatroy Samaroo, Operations Manager for UNICEF said that his organization was pleased to be associated with the conference since it is an issue that is close to their hearts. He said that we must recognize that a child's development more than just a need, but it is a right. He challenged the University to move from a focus on early childhood education to an integrated system of early childhood development.

Mr. Samaroo said that unless children receive minimum social competence by the age if six years, plus or minus six months, they are doomed to be left behind socially; he said that UNICEF strongly believed that the University of Guyana, as the premier research institute in the country, has a strong role to play in guaranteeing that the children of Guyana have a good start in life.

Patron of the event, First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo, said that early childhood education has a great impact on social skills, intellectual capacity and character building. She said that, "For children to meet their true potential, they need continuous mental and physical stimulation."

In his keynote address, Professor Jaipaul Roopnarine, a Guyanese-born child development specialist attached to the University of Syracuse, New York, gave a brief history of early childhood education in Guyana - from the bottom house and denominational schools phenomena to the 1975 introduction of free education for children ages 3 to 9. He then went on explore various facets of early childhood education, including participatory learning and cultural sensitivity in teaching.

The conference's programme of activities included presentations by several University personnel including Dr. Desrey Caesar-Fox, Mr. Peter Wintz, and Professor Joycelynne Loncke.