The decline of education in Guyana since the 1980s has been a major concern for every educated Guyanese citizen. As our political and economic condition deteriorated many of our qualified teachers left the country seeking better jobs with better pay and better job incentives. When teachers are poorly paid, the education system cannot attract and keep qualified teachers. The effect of these conditions on student performance is reflected in failures at the primary, secondary and university levels.
Performance at Grade Six Assessment as well as CXC and GCE is very disappointing. Failures at the University of Guyana have now become a major concern for the business sector as well as government institutions. Students who are qualified with 6-12 subjects and even university graduates cannot function properly on a job. Many of them cannot write a report or a proper job application letter; they cannot do basic arithmetic, yet they are given a certificate.
I know of a student who passed 8 subjects including Maths but cannot recite his seven times table and do simple multiplication and fractions. My daughter currently attends St.Stanislaus College in Georgetown she told me a girl teaching her English who is not a trained teacher and many times they have no teachers for a number of subjects. What bothers me most is the amount of projects she has to get done that involves painting, colouring, making demonic objects like a masacurman, I saw her making a little wooden house then she asked for
paint to paint it. One day I shopped over $25,000 in things for her so called projects. I am wondering if that College and all our top A schools have now become trade schools rather than a real rigorous studies in a variety of great subjects including a foundation in great literature from Shakespeare to Walcott. Our system of education is producing more and more dunces all because our politics is the major cause of this to “duncify” the next generation to control them.
The true foundation of education is reading. Today students are seen with ipods, blackberries and all sorts of technical equipment attached to their ears, but a good book for them is something obsolete. My visit to several libraries has proven this, because I haven’t seen a great number of students reading and doing research. Today, television and DVDs as well as vulgar music have taken a toll on our young generation. We are just one generation away from complete illiteracy. The school discipline that was in the Ministry of Education 30 years ago is now thrown out of the school windows. The removal of corporal punishment from our schools created more disobedient pupils and students. Teachers are unable to deal with indiscipline students and thus the teachers are now afraid of some students and their parents. A child without a proper education and great moral upbringing will be another nuisance in society. Most of the problems we have seen in the form of domestic violence, drug addiction, prostitution, stealing, etc, are the direct result of illiteracy and poor parental guidance.
A survey among the religious community found that over 60% of families attending churches cannot read or write at a very competent level. Many of our young people today cannot write their own names properly. As a legal marriage officer I discovered that a great many of our young Guyanese citizens will spell their own names wrongly when they write them, while some will write a ‘call name’ but cannot spell out their real names which are on their birth certificates. While I am not against technology, I believe this age of technology has helped to create more illiterates. Our poor education system has failed since the late LFS Burnham introduced free education from nursery to secondary school. This free system of education failed because our schools cannot produce textbooks for students writing CXC, thus their parents are pushed to buy thousands of dollars worth of illegally photocopied books from some store owners.
Where have we failed in our education system? First the free education mentioned above did not push our system of education to be competitive with our Caribbean neighbours. Our country failed to produce better graduates than Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, etc. The Caribbean is a very small space of about 6.5 million people, and our people are very far behind that small space. In many of our institutions in Guyana lots of non-Guyanese are working for higher salaries because our people are under-qualified to do the job.
For us to better equip our people academically we will have to return to the old colonial system of back to basics such as Grammar, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Spelling, English, Reading, Dictation, Geography, History, etc. Today even some well qualified teachers cannot teach proper grammar to a child. Many students told me teachers are not taking time off to correct their assignments, so how will that child recognize his/her mistakes?
Many of the subjects that are offered at high school level are business subjects and not really tough subjects which will improve the student’s intellect and thinking power. The teaching of classical literature from Homer to Shakespeare should be re-introduced into our education system. The study of Latin, French, Spanish, Economics, Ethics, Logic, Literature, Astronomy, Biology, Physics, Political Science, Jurisprudence, Religion, Mathematics and the Social Sciences should be in our academic curriculum. All of these subjects will give our students a very comprehensive understanding about education.
The nation’s wealth and prosperity comes from the value of her educated citizens. Rome ruled and governed the world once because of her supreme intellectual aptitude and power. We cannot compete with a modern civilized world without a classical education. What we need are dedicated teachers who will work for their salaries and not collect the government’s money by false pretences. The economic progress of this nation comes from education that is the key to our GDP and prosperity. We also need moral education which will include religious education in our schools and universities to build and improve the character of students. The end of education is good character; that is the key to our moral, spiritual, intellectual and economic development.
Rev Gideon Cecil
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