Redefining the quality of Guyana’s education system
Guyana’s education system is poised to see major transformation; the kind that is expected to move the nation beyond the platitude of proclaiming the centrality of education to tangibly ensuring that education indeed becomes a means to sustainable development.
According to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, education occupies a prominent role in the national development agenda. At such a level, Government is expected to work towards the realisation of a vision where all citizens have equitable access to high-quality education and learning opportunities, and where education is positioned as the key intermediary.
In Jordan’s perspective, an effective education system requires active collaboration among all sectors.
He said that Government will continue to strengthen collaboration between the education, health and social protection agencies, which is vital for ensuring a holistic approach to early childhood development.
He said that the coalition administration will strengthen the linkages among education delivery, labour administration and the private sector, so as to ensure that there is sensible, forward planning and seamless transitions between schooling and employment for youth.
“Importantly, we will foster greater multi-stakeholder involvement with parents, teachers, the private sector, NGOs and others in the development of an improved education sector. With regards to inclusive and equitable access, while we have been able to expand the provision of education, and have seen an increase in net enrolment rates, we need to determine how successful we have been in providing and expanding access to education for the most marginalised groups in the country,” expressed the Finance Minister.
He continued, “We will ensure that the system does not perpetuate inequalities by differential levels of access to certain groups, based on their geographical location and ability to take advantage of educational opportunities. We will be adopting an approach that is grounded in systems-based reforms, and evidence-based policy making, to achieve our sector’s goals.”
The Finance Minister said that when it comes to Government’s plans for this sector, initiatives to expand access to education will not hinge on reactive and broad-brush approaches, as was evident in the hastily-contrived unconditional transfer of funds to families, presumably to defray education costs.
In the absence of a well-constructed framework for such cash transfer policies, that includes rigorous monitoring and evaluation, Jordan opined that such policies represent no more than political gimmickry – creating unsustainable expectations while entrenching a dependency mentality.
He said that this administration will focus on evidence-based interventions that aim to support families in meeting the monetary and non-monetary challenges of sending their children to school.
As a start, the Finance Minister recalled that the school uniform programme was enhanced and the school feeding programme was expanded with an emphasis on the hinterland locations.
In addition to ensuring equitable and inclusive access to education in Guyana, the economist said that there is a need for Government to consider what quality of education is being provided, and how it is going to be assessing that quality.
“We cannot ignore the abysmal results for Mathematics and English in this country, where more than half of our students are unable to establish that they have general proficiency in these two foundational subjects. We will undertake a detailed and objective study of the weak links in our education system to determine at which points we are failing our children as they progress through school, and use the results to craft appropriate policy responses,” the Finance Minister stated.
He added, “To this end, we will ensure that our teachers are equipped with the appropriate technological resources to deliver the intended curricula at all levels.”
In this regard, he reminded of the decision taken by Government where most of the nearly 10,000 computers that are underway from China were pegged for distribution to teachers, educators and education officials, under a new One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) programme, a departure from the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) programme of the past regime.
He said that Government would continue to ensure that existing rules and guidelines are enforced to ensure greater accountability in the system for all those who are entrusted with delivering a quality education.