STRIKING a precise balance between academics and extra-curricular activities remains one of the key ingredients for a successful student life once the student posseses the ability to manoeuvre smoothly between the two. In light of this fact, Education Minister, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine revealed on Thursday in an invited comment with this newspaper, that he will be working towards having the re-introduction of both music and physical education into the public school system.
“I would like to see two things come back into the education system: I want to see musical education so that children are exposed to music every day and secondly, I would like to see sports back into the schools. Every school must have a sports master or sports mistress so that we can plan serious sports programmes in schools,” Dr. Roopnaraine said.
This, he posited,will help to promote a well-balanced school life for students, deviating from the limitations of routine academic life.
Recently, following the announcement of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) by the Education Ministry, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Olato Sam had opined that some public schools had not adopted some of the policies private schools were executing. This,he said, may have been a contributory factor to private schools dominating the NGSA.
Minister Roopnaraine added that while he does not believe that private schools are doing everything better than public schools, he explained on Thursday that what will be pursued is an examination of the policies which have been successful and from there an adaptation could be made by the public schools and vice versa.
With reference as to how the public school system is functioning, Dr Roopnaraine explained that, “while things might not have collapsed at a point of complete ruin in Guyana in the public education system, we’re far too close to it.”
But this is not a result of poorly drafted policies, as he noted that qualified professionals have over the years consistently produced “well-crafted educational policies.”
Additionally, he stressed that we are not in a situation where the system is suffering from a lack of capacity of planning or possibly human resources at the administrative or student level.
But despite this, the public education system remains a weak one, given the statistics at national examinations over the years.
The minister encouraged persons to consider that while last year a Guyanese student, Elisa Hamilton,had passed the highest number of subjects in the entire Region, over 50% of her colleagues in that year did not pass the basic subjects of Mathematics and English.
Recorded in 2014 at the NGSA also, was that despite 13,700 students sitting the examination, less than 0.2% or about 186 students scored high enough to qualify for the number one school in the country.
This was described as the “consistent narrative” over the last five years. And while billions of dollars have been invested into public education infrastructure, Dr. Roopnaraine asserted that “we’re still met with horror stories of schools that are lacking basic facilities from lab equipment to furniture and in the most horrendous instances, toilets.”
But the baseline for future planning on education has to be significant reform of the education system, the minister said, while adding that certain problems facing the sector are as clear-cut as their solutions.
To this end, he pointed to the fact that teachers are underpaid and undervalued, which could be remedied by paying them better and valuing them more.
Poor enforcement of rules and guidelines too have contributed in this regard. “We need to place more emphasis on accountability within the system; we need to ensure that resources are equitably spread even in the hinterland areas,” the minister emphasised.