Narrowing access, attainment gaps
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President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, chairs the Transforming Education Summit Leaders Roundtable Discussion, which is a part of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), currently underway in New York (Office of the President photo)
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, chairs the Transforming Education Summit Leaders Roundtable Discussion, which is a part of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), currently underway in New York (Office of the President photo)

— authorities commit to spending 20 per cent of national budget to enhance inclusive education system
— country investing in teachers’ training to ensure that schools are staffed with 100 per cent trained teachers, President Ali tells UN education summit

THE Government, as part of efforts to empower Guyanese and meet the demands of a growing economy, will soon increase education expenditure to 20 per cent of the national budget and six per cent of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), President, Dr. Irfaan Ali said on Monday.

It is common knowledge that one of the most effective methods of eliminating inequality and poverty is education, which also lays the foundation for long-term economic progress.

Cognisant of this, the Government plans to increase its expenditure in order to ensure that there is always adequate and sustainable financing for education.

“Education is a core element of Guyana’s social transformation. Investments in education are aimed at unlocking the potential of our students to help them realise their aspirations, while enhancing the repository of skills available for national development,” President Ali told global leaders who participated in Monday’s Transforming Education Summit Leaders Roundtable Discussion. The discussion is a part of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), currently underway in New York.

Dr. Ali, who chaired the discussion, said: “Guyana commits to an inclusive education system, one that leaves no one behind. This entails narrowing access and attainment gaps by ensuring that every school-aged child in regions is entitled to a sound primary and secondary education.”

The President also reiterated the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C) commitment to providing free tertiary education by 2025.

This year alone, the Government has allocated $74.4 billion for the education sector in its national budget and some of the initiatives it covers include the increase in grants for school children, laptops for teachers, the expansion of the National School Feeding Programme and the cost of 4,500 GOAL scholarships.

“Guyana remains committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four, an inclusive and quality education for all. Presently, however, there are educational gaps nationally, which can frustrate the objective, but we are adopting measures to narrow these gaps,” Dr. Ali said.

MEASURES
The Head of State highlighted that the Government has been introducing more in-person tutoring, reforming the national curriculum, extending the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in education, increasing access to digital and non-digital educational resources, and increasing distance education.

In addition to those, the Government has been investing in other interventions that aim to address the disruption to physical schooling and the learning losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Bank had reported that the COVID-19 pandemic was, without doubt, the greatest shock suffered by education systems worldwide, and to address this, it was recommended that there be a “rethink” of education strategies in order to achieve SDG four by 2030.

“The rethink must include strategies to reduce inequalities and foster inclusion, curriculum reform, focusing on foundational skills, cultural response, technological integration, and development of a comprehensive integrated education management information system, monitoring and evaluation and of course financing,” Dr. Ali said.

In Guyana, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted schooling for more than 20 months, but various interventions were instituted to ensure that the absence of formal schooling did not mean the end of learning.

“Remote learning was implemented and digital and non-digital learning resources were provided. As expected, challenges were encountered. Many teachers were not fully comfortable with this form of delivery, and not all students enjoyed Internet access. As a consequence, learning losses ensued. In response, diagnostic assessments in numeracy and literacy were conducted to assess the extent of such losses during the pandemic,” President Ali said.

The data generated from the assessments was being used as a guide for the implementation of remedial measures such as accelerated tutoring services, the creation of a learning platform to bring learners back to grade level and an early warning system to identify learners at risk of falling behind.

INVESTMENT IN TEACHERS
Also, not only as part of efforts to recover from the learning losses, but to further advance the education sector, the Government, according to Dr. Ali, has been investing in teachers who are the “backbone” of the country’s educational system.

“Trained teachers are critical to the attainment of our educational objectives. As such, we’re investing in teachers’ training, with a goal of ensuring that, by the end of the decade, our schools are staffed by 100 per cent trained teachers. In-service training of teachers is also being strengthened,” President Ali said.

Last year, Education Minister, Priya Manickchand announced plans to have all teachers in the public education system trained.

Following the minister’s announcement, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) has facilitated the enrollment of over 2,500 first-year students; this is a figure that is five times higher than the usual enrollment number.

Courses at the college are now fully online and teachers in the system who are not trained have been advised to get qualified.

Minister Manickchand noted that moving the college online has allowed hinterland teachers to enroll in the Associate Degree in Education programme, rather than the Trained Teacher’s Certificate (TTC) programme, which, previously, was the only programme accessible to them if they were willing to leave their homes and attend face-to-face classes at the college.

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