The government is establishing a private sector training college which will be compulsory for persons entering the public service. This is another controversial idea, one that was clearly not properly thought out.
The idea of a staff training college is part of military establishments. They have no place in the modern public service. Not because something worked in militaries means that it can be transposed into civilian life.
For one, the idea of a training college for public servant entrants is outmoded. Induction training institutes are becoming redundant around the world. Guyana seems to be going backwards rather than forward.
While the rest of the world is moving ahead by privatizing public services we are actually reverting back to old archaic ideas about training within the public service.
Philosophically, the idea of a training college for public servants is one which emphasizes an expanded role for government in the economy. This measure is therefore bound to attract criticism on ideological grounds. It will be seen as a return to the old socialist emphasis on public bureaucracies which turned out to be highly dysfunctional, not just here in Guyana, but also in the USSR.
Secondly, public services are becoming highly specialized and therefore there is a need for more specialized skills. The various parts of the public service perform different functions. You do not expect a clerk in the Ministry of Legal Affairs to have the same training as a clerk in the Ministry of Health, except if both persons are involved in the accounts departments of the respective ministries.
Ministries need to be able to recruit persons who want to make a career in a particular Ministry not those who are assigned to a Ministry on completion of their time in the public service training college.
The Ministry of Health needs persons who are interested in a field in public health administration. This freedom to recruit the better suited persons for the jobs is going to be affected by this new policy.
Thirdly, there is always the fear that such colleges will be used, as they were, in the past, for the purposes of political indoctrination.
In the past, public servants were forced to attend all manner of political activities under the pretext that they needed to understand the political context in which they operated. There is always some justification for courses on political indoctrination. Public service training colleges can be used to brainwash public service recruits.
Fourthly, publics servants are not expected to be neutral and they do not need training on how to be neutral. They are expected to be partial towards implementing government policies.
They can be PPP or PNC but at the end of the day, they know that their job is to serve the government of the day and not the party of the day.
Fifthly, the establishment of a public service training institute is likely to be a costly exercise. No one has stated as yet what are infrastructural costs involved in the establishment of this institute.
No one has yet quantified the recurrent costs involved. They are both expected to be high. One wonders if plans for that college are scrapped if the expenditure is saved and help avoid the imposition of the VAT on private education.
Sixthly, in most public services in the Caribbean persons leaving schools are eligible for entry-level admission. The establishment in Guyana, of a public service training institute, now places a second eligibility tier.
You now have to pass through the college. This really makes a mockery of the CXC system which has been adapted to making students functionally literate. Why should any student spend five years in high school and then have to spend another period training just to become a clerk.
The whole system is going to attract suspicion. People will see this new system as a means of filtering who enters the public service. It is a criticism which the government will have to disprove.
If you cannot graduate from the training institute, then you cannot secure a job in the public service. This is bound to raise suspicions in people’s mind.
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