Parliament approves bill to broaden general education
Guyana Chronicle
July 23, 2004

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THE National Assembly yesterday approved the National Accreditation Council and Technical and Vocational Education and Training bills in the absence of the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) which boycotted the sitting.

Representing the Opposition were the two members from the Working People's Alliance/Guyana Action Party (WPA/GAP), Mrs. Sheila Holder and Ms. Shirley Melville.

Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, who piloted both bills, contended that as economic, social and technological changes gain pace, education policy must ensure that students develop knowledge, skills and life-learning attitudes that will help them enjoy meaningful lives in a rapidly changing environment, in which acquisition and manipulation are crucial.

He recalled that the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bill was in a "gestation period" of nearly 15 years and had seen many changes.

Using recommendations by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) he defined technical and vocational education for the 21st century as a “comprehensive term” referring to those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life.

Jeffrey said that while there was general agreement that the basic subjects of the traditional curriculum are essential, the feeling is that the concept of a general education must now be broadened to include technical and vocational subjects.

The demand today is for employees to have been exposed to a broad range of subjects, the minister stressed.

A National Council on Technical/Vocational Education and Training is to be set up to push the new programme.

The bill also provides the opportunity for the private sector to make a more meaningful contribution to the further development of technical and vocational education and training nationally.

Ms. Melville, who supported the bill, urged that technical and vocational education and training be extended to the hinterland communities.

Jeffrey assured the House that hinterland students will be provided with the opportunity to pursue technical education, announcing that funding from the Japanese Government to the tune of US$10M is being sought to improve facilities within the technical education sector. He added that about half this sum would be used to provide dormitories for hinterland students to study at the already established educational technical institutions.

He further explained that the policy is that existing facilities must be fully utilised before venturing into building new ones.

To further boost capacity in the delivery of technical education, a US$10M loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will be used to improve staff training, provide equipment and computers and repair infrastructure, he said.

Supporting the National Accreditation Council Bill, Jeffrey said that in today's world socio/economic survival depends largely upon the capacity to add the least expensive quality value, and accreditation is an integral part of quality assurance.

He added that developments in technology and communications mean that each day national systems must confront and make decisions about qualifications.

With the emerging Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) which will allow for the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, there is urgent need to rationalise and develop the regional tertiary education sector, he said.

The National Accreditation Bill is intended to provide for the establishment of the National Accreditation Council which would be vested with the power to grant recognition to awards (degree, diploma, certificate other evidence of competence) in Guyana and elsewhere, and to determine the equivalence of all awards for the purpose of establishing acceptable standards within the Caribbean region.

Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Dale Bisnauth also supported and complemented the arguments of his colleague. (CHAMANLALL NAIPAUL)