By Ariana Gordon
EDUCATION Minister Dr Rupert Roopnarine has called on the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the education system to produce strong recommendations to close gaps and to produce more rounded students.
Dr Roopnaraine was at the time addressing the opening of the CoI on Friday at the Saint Stanislaus College, Brickdam, Geogetown.
“Education is the heart of everything… education has to be much more than passing exams,” the education minister told a handful of stakeholders who were present at the event.
He mandated the commission to have extensive consultations across the country, while stressing the importance of persons feeling free to speak to the commission without fear.
Dr Roopnarine said too that the CoI must be evidence-based, so that structural changes can be effected.
“Much needs to be fixed in the education system…the point of the CoI is to gather evidence and provide recommendations for reforms to be sensible… but there must be evidence…actual, hard evidence,” he said.
The minister said his ministry will extract the best of what has happened in the sector in the past, but will not hesitate to put to an end those aspects of the sector that are not deemed beneficial.
“There is nothing more important than getting the education system right; if we don’t get it right, then we won’t get anything right,” the Education Minister emphasised.
Dr Roopnaraine also stressed the need for children to be involved in extra-curricula activities, so that they can be rounded. He said looking at a child who has been successful at 21 subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) he often wonders, “What kind of childhood this child has?”
“Education has to be much more than passing exams… I want music back in schools etc. We need to produce very rounded students,” the minister added.
Emphasising that the work of the commission is critical to the restructuring of the education sector, the minister said the commissioners who are all educators have wide experience in the field and are capable of looking at the entire education system and making recommendations.
“I have asked NCERD [National Centre for Educational Resource Development] to look at curriculum reform… go boldly, examine it and bring it into the 21st century,” he urged, noting that there must also be a review of the curriculum at the Teachers’ Training College as the curriculum in schools and the college must be synchronised.
Describing the commission as a “genuinely truth-seeking” commission, Dr Roopnaraine noted that it can only be of use to the Ministry of Education if “it is entirely free.”
As such, he urged all those who may be part of the system, but afraid to speak publicly, to speak with Chairman of the Commission Ed Caesar.
“We have much to do and there are enough people in Guyana with goodwill…I don’t want to spend my time at the Ministry of Education reading reports… I want us to be innovative,” the minister said, noting that during the process “feathers will be ruffled.”
“We can’t do anything without ruffling feathers,” he stated, urging all stakeholders to view the CoI as a great challenge and opportunity.
He said he longs to see “patriotic education” in the schools’ curricula. He believes that “patriotic education” is being neglected to the detriment of the nation’s children.
Additionally, Dr Roopnaraine made note of the need for the issue of skilled persons migrating. He said ways must be found to keep those who graduate from the University of Guyana from leaving.
“Obviously, remuneration is part, but there has to be something more,” the education minister stated, while noting that he is interested in finding out what are the dis-incentives for remaining to serve Guyana.
Meanwhile, stakeholders present were given five minutes each to outline their concerns within the sector and make suggestions for changes.
An educator who has served Guyana for approximately 46 years, said he believes integrity and economics are important in the discourse on how to change the education system.
“We cannot teach inspiration, it has to be handed down,” he stressed, while noting that more emphasis needs to be placed on making tools available for learning and teaching.
Meanwhile, another stakeholder said emphasis should be placed on schools infrastructure.
He said for as long as he has been in the education system as a science and technology teacher, the same text books are being recycled year in, year out. He explained that there is need to become abreast with the 21st century so that students can appreciate the advancements in the respective subject areas.
Anthony Willis of Innovation Consultancy told the gathering that he has been working to develop digital content to showcase to the Ministry of Education for some time. According to Willis, there is a great need for there to be the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education.
Literacy and numeracy should be taught digitally, he said.
“I have spent the last eight years doing research and working on software… and have analysed the education sector plan,” he said, noting that nowhere in the plan did he observe the recommendations made by CSEC.
He submitted some of his work to the Minister of Education and a meeting has been scheduled for early next week with education officials.
Bonnai Adonis, a teacher of a senior secondary school in the city, outlined some of the problems he faces as a teacher of Agricultural Science. He spoke to the implementation of a “Back to Basic” document into the education system some two years ago.
According to him, it is difficult to work with the requirements therein because the document has reduced Agricultural Science to two periods per week, one term per year in the lower school. The document has also reduced Home Economics to the same periods as Agricultural Science.
“Further, this document completely removed information technology from the first and second forms… so the first and second form students at the senior secondary schools are not exposed to information technology,” Adonis told the commission.
He called on the Ministry of Education to “look into the situation.” The teacher said too that in order to satisfy a 32-period per week, the minimum requirement by the Ministry of Education, there needs to be some form of standardisation.
“If I am reduced to two periods per week, it simply means I have to carry 16 classes to meet my minimum requirement; it is impossible for that to happen. So I believe that the requirement- 32 period has to be standardised because one teacher has eight periods per week, the other teacher two periods per week, then it means that you are carrying two and three times the load as the other teacher and have the same deadline,” Adonis added.
Consultations are also scheduled for Friday, April 29, 2016 at 16:30hrs at the auditorium, National Centre for Educational Resource Development, Kingston and May 4, the same time at St Stanislaus College.
The Commission chaired by Ed Caesar also includes Ramesh Persaud, Ronald Austin Jnr, Marcelle Hutson, Ingrid Trotman, Leslyn Edwards Charles, Kellyann Hercules (secretary), Vincent Alexander and Cheryl Sampson.