The Ministry of Education’s National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in collaboration with the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), yesterday, held a stakeholders’ workshop at the University of Guyana Berbice Campus (UGBC).
The aim of the workshop was to develop a framework for a National Science and Technology Policy and action plan for innovation towards socio- economic development in Guyana.
Guyana’s education system has employed the teaching of Science at all levels of the ladder. Students are also given an opportunity to write these subjects at the CXC exams as well as other higher exams.
In 2009, there was a consultation to determine the way forward to develop this National Science Policy in Guyana. This consultancy was the result of efforts by the Ministry of Education to gain assistance from UNESCO to improve science education in the country. After local consideration, it was decided to seek assistance for the wider issue of Science and Technology for development.
A consultant was then identified to visit Guyana and to draft a framework document that included policy objectives and action plans to give effect to these objectives. This was done in November 2009.
There were two site visits, during which stakeholder meetings were held together with a number of intercessional sittings of a High Level Working Group.
At yesterday’s forum, it was revealed that the rationale behind the formulation of a Science policy for Guyana emerges from the backdrop that Guyana is yet to accelerate the installation of a knowledge society, although this is the goal expressed in recent development plans.
It was felt that improvement of the country’s capability in Science and technology will accelerate this task. For this to happen, the country’s research and development capacity will have to be deepened, expanded and energized, to gain targeted technological skills to address local issues, and develop capabilities to identify, select and transfer foreign scientific insights and technological methods.
Facilitator of the workshop and delivering a PowerPoint presentation to those present, Dr Arnoldo Ventura, who is senior adviser to the Prime Minister of Jamaica on Science and Technology since 1989, stated that for science to progress in Guyana, there must be total private sector involvement.
“In many of our countries like Guyana, the private sector plays little or no role in the whole affair,” he said. He urged banks and other financial institutions to become involved in the development of science in Guyana.
It was revealed at the workshop by participants that there is a misconception that only the intelligent students in schools can pursue the various sciences.
Faculty member of UGBC, Marlyn Ramjeet- Samad, urged the gathering to encourage young minds to take up science and develop a love for the area.
“We need to start teaching Science at an earlier stage, having them understand the relationships between Science and the rest of their lives. We need to do it more rapidly”, she said.
Dr Ventura noted that there is an immense shortage of Science specialists in Guyana and this has been one of the major challenges to advancing the subject at the various levels.
Professor Lloyd Kunar, currently attached to the Faculty of Technology and Natural Sciences at the University of Guyana, said that all children need to be motivated to do science in school.
“Science should be taught from kindergarten. And what has happened is that we’re churning out graduates from secondary schools and not many of them would have done anything in Science”, he said. He mentioned the poor background in science that a number of university graduates possess.
“How can you service an entire country teaching Science with two or three graduates? So we have a problem here where the people who are asked to teach Science know little or no science.” He said that the notion of science for the bright students should be thrown out of the window.
Region Six Education Officer, Mrs Shafiran Bhajan, refuted claims that some schools exhibit arrogance to employ Science and Mathematics teachers to work with students. “NCERD and the MOE are quite willing—and the Minister of Education himself gave the undertaking that they would pay part-time teachers in Mathematics, English and Sciences.
“I am sure the arrogance is not on the schools. We are going to find out in a few weeks whether the persons have been approached or not”, she said.
Bhajan expressed agreement with the sentiments shared with UG science students at the forum that not enough Science research is being done by the university. She alluded to India’s University Grants Commission that encourages individuals to do research.
“It is my hope that professors and scientists would no longer talk about the small number of graduates from UG and the school system in science and technology because our national framework policy should have embedded the manpower requirements approach to planning in utilizing our resources because it doesn’t obtain right now”, she said.
Professor Kunar responded that it is difficult to conduct and publish Science- related research at UG because of the limited research facilities and equipment at the campuses.
Director of NCERD, Mr Mohandatt Goolsarran was present at the workshop. Several Science teachers, UG Science students and academic staff, bankers in the Berbice area and other members of the business community attended the workshop.
The National Science Policy thrust is expected to be guided by the National Development Strategy, the Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the Low Carbon Development Strategy. (Leon Suseran)
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