Guyana: Education: Primary and Secondary Education in Deep Crisis – commentary

Kaieteur News – Oct 17, 2021 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom

Let us not be fooled by the deservedly happy faces on those high-flyers of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), or what was previously referred to as the Common Entrance Examination.

Those whose names appeared in the newspapers represent the cream of the crop, the top one per cent of the students who sat these examinations. There will be another four per cent which represent the cream of the country’s top performers at that level. They will gain spots to the top schools around the country.

For the remaining 95 per cent however, the results will not be encouraging and these will be relegated to junior secondary schools, most of which do not perform creditably at the ‘O’ Level examinations.       

In short, we are dooming thousands of students to a third rate and fourth rate education because they are not likely in the schools to which they will be assigned to produce the results that would qualify them for work in the job market.

This has to be one of the great worries facing the Minister of Education who by now ought to know the gravity of the crisis facing public education but certainly does not appear to have any answers to those problems. Photo-ops cannot be substitute for the grave crisis in the country’s education system.
Certainly, the results that were announced this week should cause the government to summon a national emergency of education in Guyana. But this would reflect on the performance of the government and therefore they are more likely to pretend that the performance of the high-flyers is symptomatic of the whole system.

It has already been pointed out that a shocking number of those that sat the Common Entrance Examination failed in the critical subject areas of Mathematics and English. For a country which now needs its best brains to develop its oil industry, this represents an inflection point.

One of the often touted means of addressing poor student performance is to advocate for better supervision of teachers. But this measure results in small improvements with the system continuing to fail the overwhelming majority of students.

There has to be a comprehensive approach to dealing with this problem. I have said before that retiring teachers at age 55 is not the ideal thing to do considering the high turnover and migration rate within the teaching sector.

I have no problems with a 55-year retirement within other areas of the government but I believe that since there is a need for more trained and experienced teachers within the system, since many of our best brains are to be found teaching in the islands of the Caribbean, in Africa and in North America, we need to get back into our schools, especially rural and hinterland schools, the best teachers available whether retired or not.

The Ministry of Education should begin to recruit retired trained graduate teachers and deploy these to the rural and hinterland schools. I am sure that many of these teachers will be willing even if it is on a part-time basis on the existing salary scale to go back and work with the rural schools. This should help to boost standards of teaching within these schools.

The second pilot project that I would suggest would be to integrate the business community with some of these schools. In this regard, I am not referring to what obtained in the past where some companies adopted schools.

That model may have been applicable when there was a shortage of funds to repair schools and thus putting schools up for adoption guaranteed that they would receive some assistance from their sponsors.

What I have in mind is something much different. I would like business firms and companies to be directly engaged in promoting a mentorship programme within schools by having some of their top executives go into these schools and teach and guide the children.

Given also what the results of this year’s examinations reveal, I believe that the government should move to appoint School Boards in every school in Guyana and in cases where this may be problematic because of the lack of personnel to convert the Parent Teacher Associations into interim School Boards.

The overall strategy has to be to allow the educational stakeholders to play a greater role in the education of Guyana’s school children. This is a far better option than simply going back to the tried, tested and failed system of increasing teaching supervision.

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  • lallbachanhardeen  On 10/20/2021 at 9:35 am

    All very good suggestions for improvement. The most important has to be the “teaching staff” attitude. Most teachers, although they may have the best intentions and maybe the interest of the students at heart, may be disenchanted by the lack of proper salaries and support. Give those that impart knowledge a decent salary and hold them responsible – results matter.
    The most important thing is that kids need to get proper transportation and the Ministry may want to think about establishing some form of a “feeding program ” especially for those kids that are vulnerable. I do remember when the kids, especially the lower levels (primary schools) were given “milk and biscuits” in the mornings and afternoons. In the mornings – before the lessons started and in the afternoons – midway during the afternoon sessions. That feeding program helped all the kids, especially those that were “protein poor ” at home.

  • wally n  On 10/20/2021 at 11:16 am

    This can become a very serious problem, for the country to progress, it must be built on a strong educational system, especially at the base, if not the better positions that will start opening up, will have to be filled by “friendly”immigrants, and they are many waiting at the gates. Feed the needy students, transport them, bring the schools up to speed, pay the teachers (the good ones) This will not be a slow rising problem, the negative impact will come hard and fast, and there is a possibility Guyanese will be left behind.

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