Although, from all indications Guyana has been able to achieve respectable rates at the different levels of education, there yet exists a notable challenge in schooling two specific categories of children.
These, according to Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, are ‘at risk and vulnerable’ children as well as those who have ‘special education needs’.
The Minister said that a primary priority area to help address the schooling needs of the two subgroups is to bring them into school and help them to complete the requisite stay.
But according to Manickchand, once the target students, like those in other normal groupings, are enrolled into the schools system there is also another challenge that exists – to keep them in school.
“…Once in school, the focus, even for the two sub-groups, would be to maximise their learning achievements,” said the Minister.
Addressing this state of affairs has been carefully noted in the Ministry’s newest Strategic Plan.
The Plan, which will span a period of 2014 – 2018, is one that was designed to cater to all levels within the education system and will therefore help to guide the operation of the Ministry over the next five years.
Manickchand said that in designing the Plan, a wide variety of stakeholders, both within and outside of the Ministry, were consulted. This, she said, resulted in the Plan focusing on increasing the learning achievements at all levels of education and for all sub-groups and decreasing the difference in learning outcomes between sub-groups especially students in Coastal and Hinterland schools.
According to the Education Minister, the recognised learning outcomes of primary concerns are literacy and numeracy followed by Science and Technology, subject areas that will be given especially closed attention.
And there might already be significant results in terms of improved attendance rates. But according to the Minister, quantifying this state of affairs may not be possible at this point as enrolment rates cannot be credibility estimated until the new census data on the size of the population by age has been released.
Nevertheless, she said, “Guyana seems to have achieved respectable rates at the different levels of education.”
The Minister has informed too that there have been clearly identified initiatives to be pursued, with the guidance of the Strategic Plan, that are aimed at achieving six intermediate outcomes.
And, according to her, progress on these outcomes is expected to translate into improved learning outcomes for all sub-groups.
But achieving this goal, the Minister noted, will require, among other things, that the performance of all Government Departments responsible for implementing the Strategic Plan’s priorities are improved.
Also, there will be need for the establishment of a functional accountability system that creates incentives to improve students’ learning outcomes, even as moves are made to improve the quality of school facilities, the quality of teaching and the curriculum.
Also needful, the Minister said, is the availability of teaching/learning materials and the alignment of materials in the curricula of training programmes, and even an improved and revised curricula that is coupled with increased instructional time.
But according to the Minister, any five-year plan in any sector and in any country is potentially vulnerable to events beyond the sector’s control.
These, Manickchand added, can include political instability in the country, changes in the Government’s priorities on which the Plan depends, and, according to her too, “changes in the priorities can occur when the party in power changes…”
Changes in the Plan could be linked to economic disruptions to undermine the Government’s funding base for the Plan and changes in donor funding, said Manickchand.
And according to her, “any of these events can happen in Guyana over the next five years but their probabilities are judged to be moderately low or low.”
She premised her theory on the fact that the education sector has always been regarded as a major priority, and went on to point out that “with this administration evidencing stable support for the sector we are in the process of refining the costing of this Plan which we expect we will be able to release in publication (form) by mid-January.”
According to Manickchand, over the years of the present administration in office there has been robust support to the education system reflected by at least 15 per cent of the national budget, being directed to this sector.
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