Apr 21, 2021 Letters
The Government has announced and even advertised its 20,000-scholarship initiative. They have indicated that there are two aspects to the administration of the initiative: the administration of the scholarships, to be done by the Public Service Ministry and the management of the academic and technical aspects to be undertaken by the Ministry of Education. Mention is also made of the establishment of Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL). Where that fits into the scheme of things is not clear.
A country’s growth and development are inextricably linked to the development of institutions and the institutional capacity of the state. In that regard, Guyana has years of experience in the administration of scholarships offered at local and foreign institutions. That aspect of the initiative should not pose many challenges, if any at all. The accessing of online programmes, like those advertised, should not be problematic since the institutions identified to deliver the programmes have a long and successful history of delivering online programmes transnationally. However, the intention of the Ministry to manage the academic and technical aspects of the programme poses questions regarding the proposed roles for the Ministry and GOAL. If the institutions are offering these online programmes as they have traditionally delivered them, why does the Ministry need to be involved?
There are many other subsidiary questions which come to mind based on the central one posed above. It may however be pre-emptive to pose them, at this time, given the paucity of details, which hopefully will be forthcoming before the delivery of the programmes commence. However, there are a few other related issues that are of concern.
1. The programmes advertised range from six months technical and vocational programmes to Master’s degrees. In advertising, it has been indicated that the awardees will be bonded and guaranteed jobs in the Public Sector. Is the Government seriously contemplating jobs in the Public Sector for graduates of a two- month Certificate in Awareness Programme on Dairy Farming for Rural Farmers or a six-month Certificate in Motorcycle Service and Repair, to name just two? Those seem like programmes for practitioners, who might be self-employed or in the Private Sector. In a previous dispensation, it was concluded that service to the country would have sufficed as fulfillment of the bond.
2. In the field of Education, one of the offerings is the Certificate in Teaching of Reading for applicants ‘with any Bachelor Degree currently employed as teacher in early school grades.’ What is the plan to retain such a person as a professional teacher? This is but one instance where what is being offered is incongruent with the professional requirements of a particular career path. There are other such instances.
3. Many of the advertised programmes at the Bachelor’s level require ‘A’ level or CAPE qualifications. Is our school system churning out a sufficient number of such persons or will the number of persons accessing those programmes be limited? It should be noted that the initiative is intended to offer 4,000 scholarships each year.
4. In future years, persons may have completed the six month Bachelor Preparatory Programme. Will such a programme close the academic gap between ‘O’ level or CSEC and the required ‘A’ level and CAPE, for entry into Bachelor programmes?
I have identified issues that require answers and/or attention in the interest of developing an effective scholarship initiative. It is my sincere hope that my concerns are viewed in that spirit, less the baby be thrown out with the bath water.
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