In the coming months and years there will be continued support directed towards reforming the delivery of teacher education programmes, which according to World Bank Representative Dr Chingboon Lee, will be critical to the successful implementation of the recently launched Guyana Improving Teacher Education Project (GITEP).
The World Bank through a grant will be plugging US$4.2M of the project cost which has a total value of US$5.12M.
“Our expectations are that the project will provide the professional growth opportunities for the dedicated group of individuals who strive to train the new and existing teachers in Guyana whom I think are the future of the country.”
The project, she asserted, could not have materialised without the input of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) and the University of Guyana School of Education and Humanities.
According to Dr Lee, the effective collaboration of the two bodies during the preparation of the project served as a means which works well for the future, as these two important institutions can sustain working together to address the challenges facing teacher education in the country.
She acknowledged that in the past few years, Guyana has made large strides towards improving access to primary education, which she attributed to Government’s commitment to education as a national priority.
“This is a nation that has put most of its resources of the International Development Agency Association into education…So it is really walking the talk.”
Through the evident commitment on the part of Government, Dr Lee noted that there have been particularly significant gains in primary enrolment in the remote hinterland areas. This development, she said, is very important as it addresses equity of access to education, inclusive of the admirable objective of achieving universal secondary education.
Challenge at hand
However, the existing challenge, Dr Lee emphasised, is to ensure that all children within the school system today will be able to attain the critical literacy and numeracy skills that will prepare them for life and work. As such, she underscored that the effectiveness of the teachers in the classroom will be a chief determinant of achieving this objective. Dr Lee further posited that empirical evidence all around the world increasingly shows that a capable teaching force is a fundamental enabling condition for improving educational outcomes.
“This can even overcome the effect that the students’ socioeconomic background has on the academic achievement. In other words, the children may come from deprived families, they may be in schools with very basic facilities, but put in an inspirational teacher and you would have changed their lives.”
Inspirational teachers, Dr Lee added, have the potential to motivate students and by extension can help to turn around the path of an individual’s life. In fact good teachers, according to studies around the world, can add an entire year’s worth of learning to their students, the World Bank Representative proclaimed.
“For instance in some countries, including the United States, it has been found that the best teachers can raise students’ learning by two to three grade levels in a single year. You start in grade one, you have a good teacher by grade two and you will be performing above your grade level, in fact even perhaps two or three grades above.”
However, the opposite is true for children with very bad teachers, Dr Lee asserted. These children, she said, are only able to achieve learning of “about 0.5 grade level in the same period as those with good teachers. So instead of achieving what you should know at the end of Grade One you are behind the others in your cohort.”
Moreover, to improve teachers’ effectiveness, countries that are listed among the top performers in international student learning assessments, such as the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA), are in essence focused on finding the best talent for entry into the teaching profession.
These countries, she notes, are also improving pre-service training as well as in-service training, and providing the right incentive for motivating and retaining good teachers. For example, in countries such as South Korea, Finland and Singapore, only those university graduates who performed in the top 20 percent of their class are accepted for teacher training. As such, teaching in those countries is recognized as a top profession. “It’s like you wanting to be a lawyer, doctor or an engineer, and this is what we hope to see in Guyana…In 10 years from now the best young people will go into teaching.”
The new GITEP, according to Dr Lee, draws from what is referred to as best practices, in that it will focus on initiatives that will help the sector recruit the right candidates for teaching – to groom and motivate them while investing in the continuous professional development to existing teachers.
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