A visit to the Government Technical Institute on Woolford Avenue is an eye opener. The place is now equipped as it has never been in its history.
It is also better managed and the students now have far more sufficient resources for their practical work. The institute has come a long way from the days when if you were studying motor mechanics, you were not guaranteed of seeing inside an engine. Things are now much improved but like any institution, there is always room for progress.
Technical and Vocational (Tech-Voc) education has made the greatest strides in the educational sector over the past four years, yet very little of this progress is being highlighted. Instead, greater attention is given to Guyana’s continued domination of the Caribbean Examinations Council’s exams. For quite a few years, some of the top regional performers at these examinations have been from our country.
But if there is any area where Guyana can become a front runner in education it is in tech- voc education. Guyana has the potential to become a centre of excellence in this regard.
There is a great deal of attention paid to the brain drain and the emphasis is always placed on ways and means to retain skills. That is never going to be easy when there are strong pull factors, and also when people want to move around, and go and work and live in other countries.
It is important that Guyana continues to examine ways in which it can retain locally trained skills. Otherwise we will continue to train skills for export. This is not always as bad as it seems since most of those who leave do send remittances back home that support any people. As such, the migration of skills is a brain drain on one hand but a financial gain on the other hand.
But Guyana also has another opportunity to become a regional hub for the training of tech-voc education. This past week, a new technical training institute was declared open in West Demerara. It is expected to be up and running by January of this year. There is also a similar technical institute in Linden and others are planned for other parts of the country. These will all allow easier access for those interested.
Tech-voc education must not be viewed as a substitute for the more formal secondary educational studies. It must not be seen as helping those who did not do well at secondary education.
In fact, in order to do well at technical education, students are expected to have a good educational background. As such, tech-voc education should not be seen as being only for those who have failed to graduate from secondary school with sufficient passes to move on to university education.It must be seen as offering more options to the student population. There are many students who are proficient in technical studies and they should be allowed to develop these skills, and afterwards if they so desire, to move on to higher education.
At the same time, Guyana can become a central location to train the rest of the region in technical and vocational skills. The government has invested hundreds of millions in the infrastructure and there are still many highly trained and skilled Guyanese around who can deliver tech-voc education.
The Ministry of Labour has also run off a number of skills training programmes which have graduated thousands of Guyanese with skills for development. So with the facilities in place, we can use all of that experience to extend to the wider Caribbean.
Already, Guyana is providing training in agriculture to the rest of the region. Agronomists from the rest of the region are being trained in Guyana, as also are some military officers.
So Guyana has the potential to become an important point for the delivery of much sought after educational services.
With the millions that the government has pumped into tech-voc training, and the experience that has already been gained, Guyana should set its sights further afield and aim to train the rest of the Caribbean.
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