Nov 11, 2016 News
In what is expected to be an earnest quest to improve the results of Mathematics in the public education system, Government has allocated the sum of $48 million to the Ministry of Education.
The fund, according to Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, is expected to be expended by the end of December. But according to Harmon, Government is prepared to make provision for a further sum to be spent on the venture in 2017 and going forward.
Harmon, who doubles as Cabinet Secretary, made the forgoing disclosure at yesterday’s post Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
According to Harmon, funding for the Mathematics improvement venture gained approval when Cabinet met earlier this week.
He divulged that “there is an immediate emergency arrangement which requires this sum of 48 million and there is a strategy that’s outlined for that which we have already started and we (Cabinet) agreed to that.”
The move to put deliberate measures in place to realise improve mathematics results was one that was prompted when Government observed daunting results in the subject area of Mathematics at the 2016 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA). The NGSA is the final assessment undertaken by primary school pupils in order for them to be placed at secondary level institutions.
Harmon at an earlier press conference had shared that Cabinet was concerned with the Mathematics performance yielded at the 2016 NGSA.
The Minister of State yesterday made it clear that “if you have a problem in primary, by the time you go to secondary the problem goes with you. So we figured that at the bottom level this is where it has to be dealt with initially, because if we don’t deal with it there, they will get to the secondary and university (levels) and the problem is never dealt with.”
In highlighting the need to undertake the improvement venture, Harmon intimated that “I believe that (based on) some of the reports I get out of our own university, we have some problems at the tertiary level as well.”
But according to Harmon, efforts will particularly be made to target the primary level, since improving the performance at this level is seen as of extreme importance now. He however assured that the long term plan of the Ministry of Education is to also address the performance at the secondary level.
The Education Ministry has in recent days published multiple advertisements seeking applications from persons to help with the development of specific standards for secondary school mathematics instruction under a project being dubbed the Guyana Secondary Education Improvement Project.
The improvement strategy will be one that will be guided by a report that was presented to Cabinet earlier this month.
According to Harmon, Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, on November 8, last, presented a report to Cabinet dubbed ‘Emergency Education Intervention for improved performance in Mathematics by pupils of Grade Six’.
Harmon said that the wanting performance at NGSA was one that Government was confronted with upon its ascension to office. “We are correcting what we have found,” said Harmon, as he pointed out that “the hinterland was the more severely affected than the coastland.”
The Education Ministry was tasked with preparing a proposal detailing an immediate, mid-term and long-term proposal to address the glaring challenge.
According to Harmon, the seven-point proposal was submitted to Cabinet and consideration was given to it. The proposal, he disclosed, includes: training of teachers in content and methodology; facilitating fortnightly cluster meetings in all regions; the recruitment of mathematics coordinators and monitors; the training of officers and school administrators to supervise the teaching of mathematics; preparing and administering a diagnostic assessment of pupils in the hinterland regions before training; the enhancement of public relations; parental involvement in the education of their children and the acquisition of support materials for students.
Even at the time of presenting the report, Harmon said that the Minister of Education had informed Cabinet that preparatory work had commenced and the proposed strategy was awaiting funding for full implementation.
“Having had a very thorough discussion on the matter, Cabinet approved the proposed plan and agreed to the allocation of the sum of $48,682,690,” Harmon disclosed yesterday.
It is expected that the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) will play a key role in advancing the improvement initiative which is slated to have a countrywide reach.
But in addition to training Mathematics teachers to help yield the desired results, Harmon said that one of the options that the Ministry will embrace is to rehire teachers who have retired or left the system for various issues.
The option to recruit teachers from overseas will also be explored, Harmon said yesterday, as he pointed out that “many of our good teachers have migrated to the Caribbean and as far as Botswana in some cases…(but) many of them have actually started coming back.”
“We believe that we can attract some of those teachers who had left in the first place, with the kind of environment that is being prepared in the education system as well as the resources the government is putting into education,” Harmon underscored, as he emphasized that moves to recruit overseas teachers represent “a clear and viable option that will be exercised by the Ministry.”
According to Harmon, the ultimate intent of Government through the Education Ministry is “to enlarge its pool of persons who can actually teach mathematics, and my understanding is that they are well advanced in getting to that stage”.
In so doing the Education Ministry has proposed holding several conferences for mathematics teachers across the country, and Harmon related yesterday that this is likely to see NCERD spearheading training sessions in Georgetown and within the regions to improve expertise of mathematics teachers.
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