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   Guyana
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Part I: Descriptive Section

INTRODUCTION

In 1990, a World Conference on Education funded by multilateral and bilateral agencies and involving 157 countries was held in Jomtien Thailand. The stated goals of the EFA Conference in Jomtien were -.

(i) Expansion of early childhood care and development, especially for the poor;

(ii) Universal access to and completion of primary education by the year 2000;

(iii) Improvement in learning achievement based on an agreed-upon percentage of an age group;

(iv) Reduction of the adult illiteracy rate to half its 1990 level by the year 2000, with special emphasis on female literacy;

(v) Expansion of basic education and training for youth and adults;

(vi) Improvement in dissemination of knowledge, skills and values required for better living and sustainable development.

At the end of the Conference, countries set their own education goals and developed strategies to achieve them. In The Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, which was adopted by the Conference, the need for a decade assessment of progress was foreseen as the basis for a comprehensive review of policies concerning basic education.

EFA Goals and Targets

In Guyana, the goals espoused by the EFA initiative were to a large extent already part of the national policy. State Papers on education policy issued in 1990 and 1995 both focus on the expansion of early childhood education and indeed the 1995 document sets a target of complete participation by the relevant age cohort by the year 2000. Both documents have policy objectives of increasing partnerships with parents and the community, increasing access and reforming/improving the curriculum at this level.

Primary Education has been compulsory in Guyana for well over a century and this has been retained in the subsequent policy document which specifically states that primary education will continue to be provided to all children between the ages of 5 years 6 months and 12 years at no direct cost to their parents. In general, Guyana has virtually achieved universal primary education and the vast majority of children are in school up to the age of 14.

The expansion of basic education and training for youth and adults is also addressed in the policy documents where it seeks to ensure that at the post-primary level, all students spend at least four years in a secondary environment. Current policy states that all students at this level will be introduced to pre-vocational subject areas as part of their general education and these subject areas will be offered to both males and females. Changes in the curriculum will allow for specialisation at the fourth and fifth form level with the opportunity for all students specialising in pre-vocational subject areas to be taught elementary business education to assist in the preparation for self-employment. The focus is to reform and revamp the less prestigious programmes at the secondary level i.e. those in the Community High Schools and the secondary tops of primary schools and to extend the programmes to cover 5 years.

In spite of these well-conceived and ambitious policy objectives, there is still considerable dissatisfaction with the quality of output from the system. A functional literacy survey of ‘out-of-school’ youth aged 14 to 25 years conducted by Dr. Zellynne Jennings in 1994 and 1995 indicated that 89% of our youths were operating at below or well below the accepted level of functional literacy.

Overall, therefore the focus is on improving and enhancing what exists to ensure that the quality of education provided meets the requirements of the society.

Even though Guyana experienced a change of Government within the last ten years, both Governments set similar educational goals although they may have adopted differing approaches and strategies for achieving those goals. Despite minor changes in wording throughout the period, the stated Mission of Education in Guyana is to provide equal access to all Guyanese children and young people to quality education. Education aims at enabling children to: -

This was to be achieved by focussing on -

Decision-making and Management

There is a Senior Policy Making Group (SPMG) of the Ministry of Education (MOE) convened by the Minister of Education, which is charged with setting the policy of the Ministry in relation to the Government’s national goals. The Ministry of Education and the Regional Departments of Education are then responsible for the execution of this policy under the direction of the Chief Education officer (CEO). The CEO is assisted by three Deputy Chief Education Officers (DCEOs) responsible for Administration, Development and Technical Education.

The DCEO Administration oversees the running of the schools and staffing;

The DCEO Development oversees innovations in the system including training programmes and curriculum development, and the DCEO Technical oversees technical and vocational programmes within the learning institutions.

There are also four Assistant Chief Education Officers (ACEOs) with functional responsibility for nursery, primary and secondary education and an inspectorate unit. Each ACEO functions at a national level within his/her sphere of responsibility. The ACEO Georgetown and Regional Education Officers are responsible for monitoring and supervising all educational activities within their respective education departments.

Guyana is divided into eleven administrative education districts. Ten of these education districts correspond with the administrative and geographical regions of the country, while the capital, Georgetown, is treated as a separate education district.

Each Region operates its own educational budget while Georgetown’s is controlled by the MOE. Regional Education Officers (REdO’s) are responsible for all schools in their respective Regions. They have a certain degree of autonomy in that they can transfer teachers within their Regions, grant leave, employ and dismiss teachers. Regional Education Officers meet monthly with Central Ministry officials to evaluate and monitor progress within their Regions.

In addition to the SPMG, there are other committees at a lower level such as the Education Systems Committee convened by the CEO and including representatives from DCEO’s, national ACEO’s and the Heads of the CPCE and NCERD. This committee formulates policy issues, which are discussed, and recommendations emerge for the SPMG to approve.

There is a school management committee, which includes the DCEO’s, the national ACEO’s and the REdO’s, which meets monthly. REdO’s also hold monthly meetings with Heads of schools within their Regions. Finance and Administrative committees also meet as necessary. These committees allow ideas, strategies and proposals to be disseminated and feedback received. It allows for suggestions to filter up as well as down. This structure has been found to be effective and has worked successfully in the past. The meetings among staff have been regular and meaningful although very often, ideas flow from the top down rather more easily than from the bottom up.

Guyana did not therefore appoint a national committee or an assessment coordinator for the EFA process and there was no formal concentration on the structures recommended at the Jomtien conference. However, the normal monitoring and evaluation procedures continued within the Ministry of Education. For the year 2000 review, the MOE did set up a structure to encourage consultations both within and without the Ministry and at all levels within the Ministry.

Co-operation and Investment in EFA

Financing of Education

The importance of education in relation to the national goals can be seen by the fact that the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education has increased steadily over the period under review especially during the last four years. What has been even more important has been an increase in spending on basic education (1996 to 1998 an increase of 3% or US$7 million). In spite of this upward trend however, the proportion of the budget (14%) spent on education in Guyana is still less than many developing countries including sister Caricom countries e.g. Belize spends 21.3% of total expenditure on education, St. Lucia 22.2% and Barbados 19%.

As noted before, Guyana has practically achieved Universal Primary Education, so emphasis in spending is not on increasing enrolment ratios but on providing better quality education in an enhanced physical environment. A very high proportion of capital investment is on major rehabilitation or reconstruction of schools, and this activity is also promoted under poverty alleviation programmes outside of the Ministry of Education e.g. between 1996 and 1999 the Social Impact Amelioration Fund (SIMAP) and the Basic Needs Trust Fund spent over one billion Guyana dollars on repairs to schools.

Traditionally a very high proportion of the recurrent expenditure on education has been for the payment of salaries. Even though these are still comparatively low, the priority given to trying to retain teachers resulted in fairly low sums being allocated for teaching material and for maintenance of physical facilities. With Guyana’s acceptance of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) conditionalities, this has changed considerably. An increasing proportion of GDP has been allocated to education, rising from 3.9% in 1997 to 5.6% in 1998. It is noteworthy that the 5.6% achievement was higher than the HIPC agreement for 4.9%, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to this agreement.

In addition to the overall increase, the proportion of the budget allocated for supplies and for maintenance was also increased from 2.9% to 7% for supplies and from 3% to 10% for maintenance. Unfortunately weak institutional capacity, coupled with bureaucratic bottlenecks (some outside of the Ministry of Education e.g. Central Tender Board) resulted in non-achievement of these targets. Spending on supplies increased from 2.9% to 4.5 % and maintenance remained at around 3%.

Efforts are on stream to enhance the ministry's capacity to meet these targets in the future. The ministry is commissioning an in-depth survey of all education buildings with full corrective and maintenance proposals and proposals have been made for special procurement staff. It should be noted however that because of regional administrative arrangements, which include regional autonomy from central ministry in procurement and maintenance, there might still be some problems in the future.

Major inputs in the form of loans have been received from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and The World Bank. Significant grant aid has been received from the British Department for International Development (DFID) and from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Smaller but regular inputs in the form of grants have been received from various United Nations Agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF and UNDP.


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