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Part II: Analytic Section

PROGRESS TOWARDS GOALS AND TARGETS

Definition of basic education

In the context of Guyana, basic education includes early childhood education (day care, playgroups, nursery), six years of primary education and education up to the compulsory three years in a secondary school environment. At the present time children are legally expected to be in full time schooling from 3 years and 9 months up to 14 years and 6 months. However, there are moves afoot to see the upper age legally extended to 16 years

The analysis on the different stages of basic education, which follows, is based on data from 1990 to 1998. It will be noted that the data from 1993 are badly skewed. This was a particularly bad year for statistical returns from schools but what data was available has been presented.

Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities

Access

In Guyana, Early Childhood Care includes day-care, playgroups and nursery education although the Ministry of Education does not have responsibility before the nursery level.

Playgroup and day care services are for the most part offered by the various municipalities around the country. The Georgetown municipality offers training for day care and playgroup providers at its purpose-built centre funded by UNICEF. The training is run over a 9-month period from April to December and involves 2 days full time training per week. Parent workshops are also held and these are of one-day’s duration. There is also training for Supervisors to emphasise policy goals and objectives. In 1990, there were about 25 playgroups catering for about 1900 children. At the present time, there are 50 groups allowing over 3000 children to be exposed to structured socialization. The day care centres take babies from as young as 3 months while the playgroups cater for children from 2 years. Unfortunately there is no systematic data gathering at this level so statistics given are for Georgetown and are very tentative.

NURSERY EDUCATION

The Ministry of Education has responsibility for nursery education, which marks the beginning of formal education in Guyana.

Prior to 1976, all nursery schools were non-government and few children had access to this type of education. In 1976, the Government of Guyana (GOG) took over all educational institutions from nursery to university and enrolment at the nursery level made a quantum leap.

By 1991 Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) (at the nursery level) was about 81% and the GER has remained high throughout the decade at an average of about 88%. (See Chart 2, Indicator 1) It is also noteworthy that a very high proportion of Grade 1 entrants have attended an early childhood development programme. (Over 86% in most years) See Chart 3.

But in looking at the individual tables (pgs. T8 – T14), the regional figures illustrate wide disparities. Regions 1 and 9, two deep hinterland regions reflect figures that show that these 2 regions are still inadequately served by nursery schools or classes. The Ministry of Education will need to address this problem seriously if these percentages are to improve.

PERCENTAGE OF GRADE 1 STUDENTS WHO ATTENDED NURSERY SCHOOLS

YEAR

NATIONAL

REGION 1

REGION 9

1990

88.0

35.2

20.5

1991

92.0

36.5

39.3

1992

90.1

25.6

21.0

1993

86.4

23.7

22.8

1994

91.0

31.9

33.1

1995

90.8

28.7

31.2

1996

91.5

42.4

28.7

Generally speaking the proportion of males enrolled at nursery level was somewhat higher than the proportion of females. This no doubt reflects the fact that in Guyana there are more male than female births.

During the period under review there has been significant improvement in the facilities housing nursery students. In 1990, less than thirty percent of nursery schools were in purpose built structures, whereas at the present time nearly seventy-percent of nursery schools are in such structures. There are now clearly defined norms for building these schools including access for handicapped students.

These improvements have been facilitated by donations of land from private individuals and from local authorities, through provisions in the national budget as well as funding from poverty alleviation programmes such as the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP), Futures Fund (of Canada), Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) of the Caribbean Development Bank and the Sector Programme of the European Community.

Between 1976 and 1992, there were no private nursery schools, but a relaxation of the rules in 1992 has led to the existence of a growing number of such schools (about four in Georgetown at this time).

Quality of Teaching Staff

A perusal of the data in the Ministry of Education’s statistical digests reveals that just over thirty percent of nursery school teachers are trained. Sustained efforts have been made to continue this training. Not only does the CPCE offer a two-year programme in nursery teacher training but the University of Guyana also offers a B.Ed. in Early Childhood Education.

The Ministry of Education also identified teachers to be trained as Nursery Field Officers (usually the Heads of nursery schools) and weekly workshops were initiated. To date there have been four (4) batches of Nursery Field Officers trained and the nursery level boasts eighty-five (85) Field Officers spread throughout the Regions. These Nursery Field Officers in turn carry out workshops within their own Regions to upgrade the skills of their colleagues.

In spite of these increased training opportunities, the percentage of trained teachers has not shown significant improvement. Once trained, some are lost to the primary level where promotional opportunities may be seen to be better and some to the private sector.

Curriculum Renewal

There has been a regional trend to work collaboratively both within and among Caricom countries at the ECCD level. A Regional Conference in 1997 has helped to provide a better sense of direction to the programme.

At the national level a four-day conference of Early Childhood caregivers was held in 1998 with a follow-up/repeat conference scheduled for September 1999. From the initial Conference a National Association of Early Childhood Care Educators and Developers was formed and a constitution produced. A Directory of Early Childhood Personnel and Professionals was also compiled.

A preliminary report on the status of early childhood education was produced. From this a Regional Action Plan was formulated in 1997 and later so was a National Action Plan.

UNICEF is one of the major sources of funding in the area of early childhood development. UNICEF was also instrumental in the design and introduction of the cumulative record cards, which will now move with children from the nursery level to the primary level. Wall pictures for reading and language development, curriculum guides and teachers’ manuals were also printed and are now in all the schools. This has led to the introduction of a standardized timetable for nursery schools throughout the country.

PRIMARY EDUCATION

Primary education in Guyana is a six-year programme with six grades (Preparatory A and B & Standards 1 to 4). Many primary schools (2/3) also have secondary departments but the analysis of these is treated at secondary level.

Access

The data in Table 4 (pgs. T15 – T21) reveal that Guyana has virtually achieved universal primary education. Net enrolment ratios (NER) have been over 90% during the last decade. The major issue at the primary level is equality of access. There are many small rural hinterland schools with less than 100 students. The physical facilities are less than desirable for many of these schools. In particular, the absence or disrepair of teachers’ houses results in a reluctance of trained staff to take up positions in these areas.

In addition there are major logistical difficulties because of the physical features of Guyana’s hinterland. Access to many hinterland schools is by rough trails or by rivers that have many rapids. In the rainy season movement becomes very restricted and this may account for the lower rates (about 10 to 15% less than the national average) of attendance in these regions. Although these regions only account for about 7% of the student population, they are the regions with the highest concentrations of indigenous communities. Problems in these areas are compounded by the somewhat nomadic characteristic of some communities who may move from place to place for economic reasons with the result that the schools also need to be moved.

In the coastal regions the problem is of a slightly different nature. Primary schools perceived as "good" schools i.e. schools where students have a chance of performing well at the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE) are badly overcrowded, while other schools are under-utilised. A major School Mapping Exercise was carried out over a three-year period and the results of this exercise are being used to inform decisions of expansion, merger and closure of schools.

The Magnet School Programme

The Magnet School Programme came into being because of the desire of most parents in the Georgetown area to have their primary school age children admitted to one of the seven so-called top schools while shunning places offered to their children in other primary schools. It was felt that if something could be done to improve some of these other schools, children would then be placed more equitably.

In May 1997, the former headmistress of one of the seven schools was given responsibility for formulating a programme. Three schools were identified to participate in this project. Before anything was done, research was conducted to try to identify those problem areas that could be

addressed in the initial phase of the project. A Ministry think tank comprising  senior officials along with a representative of the Teachers’ Union formed a magnet schools team. They decided to tackle the problems of irregular attendance of students and teachers, parental attitudes, parental involvement in school activities and the upgrading of teacher skills. A Counsellor was appointed to each school. He/she was the person visiting homes of chronic absentees and, in general being a liaison person between the home and the school. Many of the children in these schools are from squatting areas where there is a distinct lack of privacy, there is little if any space where a child can read (indeed there are no books in the homes) or do homework, food may be scarce, and running water non-existent.

One of the three schools is fortunate to have a feeding programme, which covers about half of the pupils. Another has a smaller programme where fifty children get a meal three times a week. The magnet supervisors visit each school twice per month to conduct staff development sessions; and, to date, two parent seminars have been held. It was anticipated that 18 parents from each of the schools would attend. However, at the first seminar, the attendance was about 46 and the second one had fewer participants. The seminars were each of two days duration. At the second seminar, parents were shown how to prepare low-cost meals, something that was greatly appreciated. Some other topics covered were how to discipline your child, responsible parenthood and child abuse.

For the present school year, the emphasis will be on teacher motivation and the improvement of reading skills. A Teacher of the Month award is one of the ways planned to help motivate teachers to be both regular and punctual. Two VSOs are to be attached to the unit for two years, one to work with parents and teachers on reading and one in the area of primary science. A Physical Education specialist is also to be assigned and, hopefully, parents can get involved in this activity. Library skills are also to be emphasised. This will bolster the reading initiative.

Another aspect of the programme has been the twinning of three of the seven top schools with the three pilot schools. This has led to an exchange of teachers at all grade levels once per term. The two supervisors monitor these exchange sessions.

As a consequence of this initiative, one of the three schools has in the past two years doubled its intake at the Prep A level and attendance is up at all three schools. While this programme still has a long way to go and more time is needed to properly evaluate it, the other Regions as well as other schools in the Georgetown area are expressing an interest in participating in this initiative.

QUALITY OF EDUCATION

  1. Teacher Qualification
  2. The percentage of trained teachers has been steadily declining from 58% in 1991 to under 50% in 1997. This trend is observed even as the Teacher Training institution is enrolling an increasing number of teacher trainees. No formal tracer study has been done, but indications are that teachers are being lost to other Caricom territories, to the private sector, both in and out of education, and simply through migration to the more developed countries. What is of concern is that the trained teachers are unevenly distributed across regions with urban areas where more than 60% are certified to teach, as against rural areas where only 48% are certified. An even greater disparity is apparent when hinterland regions are considered (Regions 1,7,8,9) where the population of trained teachers is 30% or less, see table 6 (pgs T22 – T28).

    EFA core indicators on the number of trained teachers at the primary level reveal that while the percentage of teachers with academic qualifications has increased and the percentage of unqualified has decreased, the number of teachers certified to teach has also decreased.  The efficiency of the system is considered in Tables 6 and 9.

    INDICATORS 9, 10

    YEAR

    TOTAL

    AQ

    CTT

    UNQ

    % AQ

    %CTT

    %UNQ

    1990

    3509

    2316

    1940

    1193

    66.0

    55.3

    34.0

    1991

    3657

    2429

    2121

    1228

    66.4

    58.0

    33.6

    1992

    4062

    2555

    2203

    1507

    62.9

    54.2

    37.1

    1993

    3805

    2228

    1993

    1577

    58.6

    52.4

    41.4

    1994

    3642

    2238

    1875

    1404

    61.4

    51.5

    38.6

    1995

    3345

    2201

    1787

    1144

    65.8

    53.4

    34.2

    1996

    3461

    2351

    1844

    1110

    67.9

    53.3

    32.1

    Chart 6 illustrates that pupil teacher ratios in Guyana are within acceptable norms. However, when only certified teachers are counted, the ratios rise dramatically.

  3. Curriculum Renewal

There have been no major changes in the content of the curriculum at the primary level (except perhaps in Science) but significant work has been done in improving the methodology by which this content is delivered.

Several programmes have been designed by the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of education at the primary level, and a brief description of the major ones is given below.

Smooth Transition Programme

Based on Ministry of Education’s data, repetition rates were alarmingly high both at the transition from nursery to primary as well as from primary to secondary. Apart from the social and economic factors which families encountered that might lead to this, it was felt that much more could be done within the classroom situation. The aim was therefore to try to promote child-centred learning in attractive stimulating classrooms. When the children are in nursery school, the surroundings are brightly coloured, there is lots of space and they work in groups. On moving over to the primary level, they are often met by a teacher with cane in hand, drab furniture, drab surroundings, few if any teaching aids; and this sudden drastic change affects the way children respond in the primary school. The result is a high repetition rate at the end of the first grade of Primary School. A programme was therefore designed with assistance from UNICEF, which focussed on how the Ministry could transfer those aspects of the nursery situation that enhanced learning to the first level of the primary school. The main component of the programme was thus the training of 100 Infant Field Officers (IFOs) in classroom management, learning about the rights of a child, communication skills, making classroom aids   and  items for supplementing reading skills. The training was done in three batches and people were drawn from all the administrative Regions in the country as well as Georgetown. After the training, the participants were responsible for going back to their schools and conducting staff development sessions, not only within their school, but also within the cluster of schools in their communities to achieve a multiplier effect. This project is now to be evaluated to measure the impact of the programme.

Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP)

In addition to the emphasis placed on smoothing the transition from nursery to primary school, the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP) came on stream during the period under review. Initially designed as a 5 year project, a loan of 46.4M$US was negotiated with the Inter-American Development Bank to provide

(i) Improved human resource and development training

(ii) Textbook production and distribution

(iii) Construction and rehabilitation of primary schools

(i) Improved human resource and development training

This area involved physical improvements to the buildings housing the Cyril Potter College of Education, the National College for the training of teachers and the National Centre for Educational Resource Development. It also emphasised training for educational administrators as well as teachers. Many areas of training were identified and twenty-nine persons benefited from overseas training in areas, inter alia,

(i) Educational Measurement and Evaluation

(ii) Text Book Writing

(iii) Clinical Supervision

(iv) Multigrade Teaching

(v) Teaching of Reading

(vi) Writing Computer Programmes for Education

(vii) Curriculum Development

    1. Information Technology

These courses were designed to strengthen the educational capacity of staff at NCERD and CPCE as well as the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Education. Because of some savings on the physical works, other Human Resource components dealing with institutional strengthening of Central Ministry and Regional departments have been added to the programme. It is anticipated that there will be training in Strategic Planning, Human Resource Development, and Management of Information Systems.

(ii) Textbook production and distribution

The project involved using the skills acquired in the previous area to produce textbooks for all six primary levels in the four core subject areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Sciences and Science as well as Reading. Accompanying teacher manuals and curriculum guides were also prepared. These texts were produced in the number required to equip all primary schools in the country with enough books for every child in the relevant subject areas. Twenty thousand books at each level were produced. Textbook writing teachers were trained by a Consultant and subject committees formed. Workshops for all 6 primary levels were held in each Region with follow-up workshops conducted in all Regions for participants from each school. The response was very encouraging since books were almost non-existent in most schools. The books are expected to last three years. Regrettably, the writing groups were disbanded, but the Ministry has been able to call on their services from time to time e.g. to rewrite the Science curricula.

(iii) Construction and Rehabilitation of Schools

This component of the PEIP is the most capital intensive. Through renegotiations of the original loan and mandate, the thrust of providing 27 new primary and rehabilitating three existing primary schools was changed to building 19 new and rehabilitating 36 existing schools. Because of savings achieved, a further 16 new schools are to be built with 28 more being rehabilitated. These schools are completely furnished, including equipment for canteens, games, agriculture, audio-visual studies and first-aid.

MANAGING SOCIAL AND SENSITIVE ISSUES IN THE TEACHING/LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Many people would like to believe that the issues of race, culture, class and religion do not impact on children in the classroom but it is clear that they do. This project is aimed at addressing these issues. Initially it aims to help children develop a tolerance for each other by helping them first of all to have a high sense of self-worth. It also focuses on problem solving and decision-making. Gender issues are also highlighted in this project. The project started with training the trainers at the national level with people from the Central Ministry and all the Regions attending the initial workshop. However, certain Regions embraced this project and made it their own. These Regions became the pilot Regions. There was also the added advantage of getting children involved in their learning via the monitor and prefect system and a system of student government. Learning about democracy is now not something children encounter for the first time when they are teenagers. Children are now responsible for conducting school assembly, helping in their libraries, with agriculture   and with school   sanitation so that leadership and responsibility skills are inculcated and confidence built. Regions 2, 6 and 9 are the pilot Regions. Sessions for parents are also necessary and schools work with parents either through PTA’s or in special sessions set up by the schools themselves. All of these measures try to bring about a closer relationship between the school and the community.

PARENT EDUCATION PARTICIPATION PROJECT

This is designed to involve parents in fully understanding the child’s development and how they can be involved both in the child’s growth and education. Region 8, a hinterland region, was chosen for this project since it is a farming community with difficult terrain. Many children do not attend school regularly since they often have to go to the farm with their parents. Some of the issues tackled are what do I do with my child at the farm or on the way to the farm? How do I ensure a healthy environment for the child? This Region has a history of water-borne diseases so the programme included a health component as well as a nutritional component. The project had a full-time Co-ordinator for two years whose background was in agriculture so organic gardening was also included. With the El Niņo situation, this gardening component became even more important within that community.

THE ESCUELA NUEVA PROJECT

Introduced in Guyana in January 1998, this primary education model has been imported from Colombia and is being piloted in Regions 1 and 9, two hinterland areas that tend to lag behind the other regions in areas such as access to nursery education and with a very high percentage of unqualified teachers. It features innovative strategies and methodologies aimed at improving learning and the quality of education to schools with limited resources, particularly those forced to adopt multigrade strategies in rural, poor urban and hinterland areas. The programme is designed to relate the educational content to community life and is flexible in terms of promotion and the learning process.

Interactive learning guides allow the students to be positively involved in learning activities. Work is project-oriented based on continuous assessment. So for example, if a student is away from school for a month because he/she has to help in the family farm, on a return to school he continues with his project and is not one month behind the rest of the class. Promotion to a higher grade occurs when the relevant project units have been completed.

The programme starts from Standard 1 and helps to develop co-operative group learning, community alliances, and student government. Library facilities are essential and learning corners used. All projects are community related.

This model does not need many trained teachers as unqualified teachers are trained in the programmes essential elements ‘in situ’. So far, both project co-ordinators and participants are excited about its progress and funds have already been identified from DFID to include 5 more communities in the year 2000.

PERFORMANCE NORMS

Despite all these projects in the pipeline, the Ministry of Education is still not satisfied with the quality of output from the primary level. An analysis of the results of the summative examination taken at the end of primary school (SSEE) indicates that fewer than1/3 of the students scored 50% of the total marks in the various subject areas of Mathematics, English, Science and Social Studies.

Table showing the percentage of students at the SSEE scoring more than 50% of the marks in each subject area.

Social Studies Mathematics Science English
Year >50% >50% >50% >50%

1992

17%

4%

21%

8%

1993

14%

8%

22%

9%

1994

16%

11%

30%

14%

1995

14%

22%

27%

21%

1996

20%

12%

29%

21%

1997

33%

19%

34%

34%

1999

40%

20%

47%

27%

Further diagnostic testing in the first form of secondary schools revealed that many students are reading well below their chronological age.

Components in a re-formulated PEIP place heavy emphasis on teaching/learning strategies, improvement in the teaching methodologies on Reading, Mathematics and Science and design and production of suitable learning aids. The Ministry of Education has worked on defining performance norms at each grade level in the system and proposes in the near future to administer grade level tests, the first being at the Standard 1 level to assess children’s achievements against the established norms.

SECONDARY EDUCATION

Secondary schools offer two programmes in three types of schools. The general secondary programme is offered either in Senior Secondary/7 year schools or Junior Secondary/5 year schools. The community high programme is offered in Community High Schools and the Secondary Department of primary schools, both 4-year institutions.

Access

In theory, there is no failure at the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE). All students are placed in a Secondary environment depending on their results at the SSEE.

Every year, approximately 15000 children write the SSEE examination. Roughly 40% of these children go on to the general secondary schools while the remaining 60% attend community high schools or the top grades of primary schools. However, the SSEE examination is merely a placement exam as every year, it is the number of places available in the general secondary schools along with the highest mark attained that year, that determines what kind of school a primary student attends. In fact, after places at the 7 year schools have been filled, the situation can arise where two students achieve the same mark at the SSEE exam with the student from Georgetown being placed at a Community High School while the other from, for example, Region 6, can attend a general secondary school.

While the senior and junior secondary schools offer candidates for the CXC examinations and the senior secondary schools, candidates for the GCE ‘A’ levels and now the CAPE exams, the Community Highs and primary tops write a Secondary Schools Proficiency Examination 1(SSPE I) after three years and an SSPE II if they stay on for a fourth year. If students do well at these exams they can transfer to a General Secondary school and continue studies to write the CXC. However, the SSPE I and II are not recognised by many employers. This helps to account for the high dropout rate from these schools, as many students see no economic benefit from finishing their education.

Quality

  1. Teacher Qualification
  2. About 56% of teachers at secondary level are trained, but this general indicator hides a number of disparities e.g. about 58% of general secondary teachers are trained as against 50% in the secondary department of primary schools. Similarly nearly 49% of the trained graduates at this level work in the capital, Georgetown, leaving the ten regions to share the other 51%.

    There is some concern that the proportion of trained teachers, in particular trained graduates, may fall in the future. Teachers’ salaries and working conditions are not competitive with those offered by the private sector or by opportunities outside of Guyana and in the last two decades the education sector has lost many teachers by way of migration. The number leaving had slowed considerably in the early years of the decade, but have increased again as opportunities have opened in Africa and other parts of the Caribbean. What is of greatest concern is the fact that it is the most experienced teachers who are leaving. In general the Guyanese teaching force is now very young with an average age of about 33 years.

  3. Curriculum

On the basis of the SSEE about half of Guyana’s eleven-year olds are shunted off to what are perceived as academically inferior programmes, which are of shorter duration, allow graduates access only to specialized lower level post secondary programmes and do not provide credentials that are recognised in the labour market. The most disadvantaged are the children who continue in the secondary departments of primary schools and who leave these institutions ill-prepared for either further training or the world of work. Even more disadvantaged are the children of hinterland areas who have little or no access to General Secondary Schools or even Community High Schools.

Pre-vocational education is an area of limited success in all three secondary programmes. This is due to a combination of factors: unavailability of usable equipment, absence of support facilities, and lack of effective instruction.

The evaluation process which monitors how well the teaching/learning programmes are proceeding, is deficient, despite the strong emphasis on testing in Guyana. Student performance at the CXC examinations is poorer than that of other CARICOM countries as the 1992 World Bank report shows.

The Ministry of Education digests of educational statistics from 1994 to 1997 reveal average dropout rates of 15% for Primary Tops, 5% for Community High Schools and 6% for General Secondary Schools at the form 1 level. (Clearly students and/or their parents feel badly served by the system and opt for ‘business’ life on the streets) Certainly this dropout rate for the secondary departments of primary schools is unacceptable. These figures represent first form rates. As we look at the higher levels the dropout rate rises dramatically to almost 50% by the third year.

The 1995 policy document put out by the Ministry of Education in relation to secondary education outlines among others, the following policy goals:

Strategies suggested for achieving these goals included:

SECONDARY SCHOOL REFORM PROJECT

In an attempt to address this problem, what we now know as the Secondary School Reform Project (SSRP) was born. A team of educators visited Jamaica in 1995 to assess a similar project, the Rose Project and the SSRP started in 1996.

The SSRP is designed to improve equity, quality and efficiency in secondary education in Guyana.

The three major components of the programme are: -

(i) The Education Programme Quality component designed to:

(ii) The School Environment component designed to:

(iii) The National and Regional Institutional Strengthening component designed to:

Since the main thrust of this programme is aimed at the first three years of secondary education, it comes within the ambit of the EFA guidelines for basic education. The project is in its first phase, which is of five years duration. The total cost is estimated at US$19.3M and is funded by a credit agreement between the Government of Guyana and the International Development Association (IDA), and came on stream in 1996.

A common curriculum in the four (4) core subjects of Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science as well as Reading has been developed and is in force in all types of secondary schools in the country. Curriculum Guides for the first three levels of secondary schools have been produced and are in schools. Teachers’

Guides for Level 7 or Form 1 have also been produced. Teachers’ Guides for Level 8 or Form 2 should be ready by September 1999 and hopefully by early 2000, the Teachers’ Guides for Level 9 or Form 3 will be ready. A core of practising teachers, tutors from NCERD, UG and CPCE, prepared the guides.

Writing in The Reformer (The SSRP in-house magazine) of June 1999, our Minister of Education, Dr. Dale Bisnauth states "When the full effects of the SSRP would have begun to be felt across Guyana, the fierce competition for places in the ‘better’ secondary schools (and the "extra-lessons syndrome" that it has bred) would cease. This, in turn, will have a salutary effect on the style and quality of the curriculum delivery in Primary Schools".

Another initiative at the secondary level is the Guyana Education Access Project (GEAP), which seeks to provide enough school places at the secondary level for all primary school graduates. This project is identical to the SSRP but is limited to Corriverton in Region 6 and Linden in Region 10. It is funded by a grant from DFID.

BASIC EDUCATION AT THE NON-FORMAL LEVEL

Literacy

Human Development Indices for Guyana as defined by the UNDP Human Development Reports show high rates of literacy according to the basic definition of literacy. But, despite what the international databases tell us, there is a literacy problem in the Commonwealth Caribbean when considered in terms of functional literacy. Illiteracy in the Guyanese society is a more serious problem than has hitherto been imagined. In Guyana, the skills in literacy and numeracy in which out-of-school youth were most deficient, were also weak areas in secondary school students when a local survey was carried out. The results revealed that many youngsters at the end of four years in reasonably good secondary schools still cannot follow instructions and have many deficiencies in their written expression.

NGO’s involved in literacy programmes

A number of groups have started programmes designed to help their own members or members of the community become literate. NACOSA, DAYSPRING and THE BAHA’I FAITH are three such, with the BAHA’I programme On Wings of Words being the largest.

NACOSA is the organisation of Muslim women who work within their religious community to increase literacy levels of their members. They also run a playgroup and, in 1999 will start a nursery school. They also receive help from another NGO, the Building Community Capacity Project for training in project planning. They receive solid support from their men folk in the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana.

Having the madarsa or Saturday school increases their links with their community but they still want to improve leadership qualities in, and mobilise participation of, their members.

DAYSPRING is a non-profit organisation started in 1994 working to help disadvantaged youth realise their potential. Their programme initially targeted fourth year female students for a remedial reading programme. However, as the programme progressed, the leaders found it necessary to include counselling and moral education sessions. By the end of the first year, there was measurable improvement in the reading skills of the target group. To extend the programme further, the leadership launched Training of Trainers sessions targeting teachers, parents and community workers. They were able to access funding from Futures Fund for this. A similar but greatly expanded set of sessions was held as recently as March 1999. Another NGO, the Guyana Book Foundation is helping with books in order to facilitate the establishment of a mini-library for participants.

ON WINGS OF WORDS is the reading programme initiated by the Baha’i Faith.

This programme aims to train people interested in working with communities to improve literacy. Participation in this programme, followed by working with a group for a year, entitles the trainer to a certificate from the Institute of Distance

and Continuing Education. Up to June 1998, it has trained 1000 facilitators and contributed to the literacy of 3000 students. Each facilitator attends a briefing meeting for an overview of the program and a specific guide as to what they will be called upon to give to it. They then have an assignment to get community support, promote the program, find a venue and recruit participants, and plan strategies to sustain a program. They are then ready for the five-day training program, usually held in school holidays. There are quarterly look back, step ahead meetings to review progress, and also further training in such things as book making, reading aloud, story writing and mounting puppet workshops.

Minister of Education, Dr. Dale Bisnauth has said "On Wings of Words - is not about the best - it definitely is the best organized response we’ve had in the nation to the literacy problem".

Many concerned citizens were worried by the problem of students leaving primary schools and still being unable to read. They got together and began working with both young and adult illiterates within communities. To be able to access funding to accelerate these programmes, THE GUYANA BOOK FOUNDATION was legally established in 1990. Its aim is to promote reading skills, and to establish libraries within communities as well as to train community personnel to run the libraries.

It was able to access funding and support from the Canadian Organisation for Development through Education (CODE). It received two containers per year with roughly 40000 books to be distributed as supplementary readers to schools and the 28 libraries started by the Guyana Book Foundation. Money was allocated to buy Caribbean books and to publish books locally. Untrained nursery teachers were targeted and trained for a week in Reading Readiness.

However, the UNDP Human Development Report for 1998 said Guyana’s literacy rate was 97.7%. This has led to the withdrawal of CODE’s support, a move that is deeply regretted. The EFA technical guidelines suggest that the international standard of basic literacy is the ability of persons to read, and write with understanding a short simple statement on their everyday life. Perhaps this definition accounts for the high rate in the UNDP report but is not supported by experience at the local levels with respect to functional literacy.

Continuing Education

This is a department of the University of Guyana, which over the last ten years introduced a number of programmes for adults and out-of-school youths. Because of the problems in the school system, it provided remedial work programmes for CXC or GCE exams. The academic upgrading program is of one year’s duration. There are courses in Basic English from which students can progress through other phases until the CXC Standard is reached. Participants can then write either the internal IDCE exam or CXC/GCE exams in English Language or Mathematics.

Another project designed to help the youths is Parents as teachers at home. This is designed to help parents at home upgrade their own skills and then in turn to help their children and was conducted in specific communities.

A number of distance education programs are being conducted to bring people in remote areas up to the pre-university level. The courses are in English, Maths and Supervisory Management. Participants are sent modules, which they study on their own, then they meet with a tutor once a month to clarify any problem areas. Modules are designed in an inter-active conversational style, with questions and answers contained in the material. They include assignments, which have to be sent in for marking. Where qualified tutors are found in the Regions, these persons are utilised. Where no tutors are found, the central office has to send in tutors. When this programme was funded, tutors went in to outlying areas on a regular basis. Now that it is no longer funded, they do not go as regularly as they should because of cost considerations.

IDCE is now conducting the Pan-Commonwealth diploma for youth workers by distance education. This is training for youth workers to work with youth in the communities. 16 universities in the Commonwealth are conducting this programme. The local programme started in December 1998 and the students study 13 modules on youth and development. This initial group of trainees includes teachers, nurses, national service personnel, public servants and other voluntary workers in communities. Since this is a pilot programme, there are 21 trainees in this batch. The course is designed to last for a period of 18 months. This initial batch of students is funded by the Commonwealth Youth Program and they pay a registration fee of G$500. IDCE is in fact absorbing a portion of the real registration fee since funded students at UWI pay a fee of US$200.

IDCE is pursuing links with Mount Royal College in Canada by developing a proposal for funding for a National Literacy training programme in all the regions of Guyana. This project has been approved by CIDA and should come on stream shortly.

CONCLUSION

Guyana is one of those Caribbean countries that have adopted a project-driven path to improving its educational system in which interventions are specifically directed to particular levels.

But by and large, the strategies adopted are aimed at -

These projects were sound but in some instances, the time frames for the implementation were not met. This was partly due to a change in Government during the period. Other factors, which militated against deriving optimum benefit from the implementation of the projects, were, for example, in the PEIP projects where the Human Resource component was successfully completed but maximum benefits were not achieved in that not all trainees were placed in positions that utilised their new skills.

Major changes have had to be made in the school rehabilitation component where substandard works incurred delays and necessitated the inclusion of a maintenance module. Within this project, the physical extensions to teacher training institutions had to be utilised differently after a fire destroyed Ministry of Education premises.

The provision of textbooks in primary schools was a very successful part of the PEIP project. More important however, are the provisions made for the sustainability of this project by the Ministry of Education. Already a reprinting order for a further 10000 texts have been placed by the Ministry of Education using its own funds.

The SSRP’s emphasis on curriculum reform and a common curriculum for the first three grades should help with the phasing out of the SSEE and the automatic promotion into the secondary environment of all primary school students. A national exam at the end of the third year is envisaged. Although this project is only in the pilot stage, many schools, which were not identified as pilot schools, are expressing keen interest in participating.

Support for basic education is strong but much more use can be made of the media to sensitise the public to many of the reforms taking place. Unless people live in an area that has a ‘pilot’ school or in a Region earmarked for a ‘pilot’ project, the community is very often unaware of what is going on. The proposal for strengthening the parent/school partnership in urban communities has one major drawback in that many children attend schools away from the areas in which they live. Building a community relationship thus becomes more difficult.

The principal achievements in EFA since 1990 have been the implementation of the PEIP and SSRP programmes and, to a lesser but equally important extent, the new initiatives aimed at increasing the number of trained teachers in the hinterland Regions.

For the new millennium, Guyana will need to -

The strength of the Ministry of Education in Guyana, however is, the dedication of its senior officers. This ensures that notwithstanding events which occur and which can dampen their willingness and enthusiasm in attempting to conceptualise and implement programmes and projects, which will redound to the benefit of the education system, they continue to give of their best.

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