Jan 24, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – International Education Day 2022 is being observed today, January 24. A look at the statistics involving Guyana’s topflight students would give the impression that we have nothing to worry about, and that we are doing very well. When the metrics of the CSEC and CAPE examinations are examined, our top students are consistently running away with most of the awards in the region, including the highest ones, on occasion. As said before, we seem to be well set, where the education of our students and contributors of tomorrow are concerned.
It is said that looks can be deceiving, and that it is drilling down behind the headlines and the well-earned numbers of a few outstanding students that reveals the real story of education in Guyana. We are up there at the very top where a number of subjects at the individual level, and number of different subjects overall, furnish evidence of what should comfort us. Except that they don’t, for there are the untold stories of the many left behind, those who are not part of the numbers bandied about by ministers in different governments, and which are held aloft as if they are proof that all is well across the board. It is not, and we make a start at the post-secondary education level at the University of Guyana (UG).
The word from seasoned lecturers is that students arrive at the UG classrooms and training grounds with impressive numbers: numbers of subjects, number of distinctions and Grade 1’s, and praiseworthy percentage numbers of passes. The underbelly and upshot of all those numbers is the lament of those in our system of higher education in Guyana. It is that many of these very successful students at the secondary school level are not quite ready to make the leap to the advanced education heights. When this is so, then we have trouble. For when the focus is on numbers that make no sense, and stuffing these young ones with what leaves them unready and unsteady for the challenges of college education, then those early educational abuses and injustices are sure to return and haunt this society with what are the products of degree and diploma programmes.
If they can barely cope there, then the expectations of a quality workforce come under severe attack, and with great pessimism taking hold as to what we can do with what we have, and particularly at this pivotal time in Guyana’s history, it is now a fully dawned and brightening Oil Age.
On another note, but with some relation to this oil wealth of ours, it is instructive that the dozen or so, give or take, annual top students at the secondary school (CSEC and CAPE) level usually say that their field of choice for higher education is either medicine or law. There is rarely, if ever, any mention of the study of geology, geophysics, engineering, including petroleum engineering, and other academic offshoots of that commodity. At this beginning and lengthening hour of great oil discoveries in Guyana’s offshore oilfields, our best students’ attention and preferences are elsewhere, as in away from what this country desperately needs, and what could serve it well. We have a huge knowledge deficit in oil related areas, and we are not even nibbling away at the edges of that negative. When we do not have our young and our hungry and our aggressive devouring first the books, then the oil and gas environment, we will remain dependent on both foreign expertise and neighbouring help. We are paying a steep price for that already, and it looks as though we will remain mired in this situation for the next decade, at least.
Regarding the less than stellar students, especially those in the lower tiers of the public school system, we have too many of them. Indeed, it is widely perceived that many of those with solid CSEC numbers can be easily and correctly categorised as what is called the functionally illiterate. If our education system continues to churn out mediocrity, good numbers or poor numbers, then the probability is high that we will be saddled with a mediocre society. It is what can only be damaging for the foreseeable future in demanding times.
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