A parliamentary fracas which led to the proroguing of Parliament and the eventual announcing of early General
Elections by President Donald Ramotar was in fact a factor that prevented the New Education Bill from gaining much needed attention.
This state of affairs was hinted to by Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, when she hosted her end of year press conference, on Monday.
According to the Minister, while she is happy to report that the Bill was laid in the National Assembly earlier this year she is concerned that it is yet stalled. The Bill which was tabled in June is one that is designed to replace an archaic Education Act which was first passed in 1876 and later amended in 1976.
“Unfortunately, that Bill got stuck in the Parliamentary fracas and has been unable to receive the attention of the Members of Parliament and any Special Select Committee that could have been set up,” said the Education Minister.
Once passed, the New Education Act will give keen attention to the rights of children and their responsibilities in the school system, as well as the rights and responsibilities of teachers, said Manickchand, as she spoke of the proposed Act also directing focus to the operations of Parent/Teacher Associations and the Ministry’s Departments.
“It will reconcile the constitutional provision that allows for private schools to be opened and managed; and for people to attend private schools with our historic only public school system. The Bill is extremely important to address modern education needs in Guyana; we look forward to the passage of that Bill.”
The Minister said that the Bill will serve to cater to things that “we did not know would be realities when we passed the last one in 1876.”
The Bill was crafted following consultations with stakeholders across the country, and seeks to reform the legal framework of education in Guyana, and provide an effective system of education related to the needs of the people.
And since Article 149H (1) of the Constitution mandates that every child is entitled to free primary and secondary education in schools owned or funded by the State, the Bill makes provision for such a realisation which is however subjected “to available resources of the State, and the availability of educational facilities to all persons in Guyana.”
Also contained in the Bill are provisions for ensuring free education to all persons, and a component that speaks to quality education at all levels, both in public as well as private schools, and other educational institutions in Guyana.
The Bill is outfitted with a component to cater to the strengthening of the existing school management system, so that it allows for the maximum participation of parents and teachers in the management of schools.
The Bill, which also provides for the disciplining of children in the school environment, is being touted as a mechanism that contains measures that will “ensure for the benefit of children, enhancing their talents, mental and physical, and ensuring a rounded education in all schools.”
It also touches on the administration of the education system; categories of schools and the stages of education; the management of public educational institutions; employment of teachers; curriculum assessments of students, and even inspection and review of the education system.
Of note too, is the fact that the Bill entails a component that deals specifically with the delivery of education to students with special needs. It outlines that “the special education programme may take the form of an individual education plan tailored to suit the specific or individual needs of the student concerned.”
It also contains a clause that empowers the Minister of Education “to make provision for distance learning education programmes at pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels” and yet another that enables the Minister to make provision for continuing adult education programmes.”
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