GUYANA will soon increase its education expenditure to 20 per cent of the national budget and six per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Why? Because, as President, Dr Irfaan Ali told colleague Heads-of-State and Government in New York recently, education is “a core element of Guyana’s social transformation” aimed at “unlocking the potential of students to realise their aspiration”, while enhancing skills for national development.
Selected to chair the ‘Transforming Education Summit Leaders Roundtable Discussion’ – part of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – President Ali informed fellow leaders that Guyana commits to “an inclusive education system that leaves no one behind…” by “narrowing access and attainment gaps” and “ensuring every school-aged child is entitled to a sound education.”
Thus far in 2022, his administration has allocated $74.4 billion for education, including more grants for child students, laptops for teachers, expansion of the National School Feeding Programme and the cost of 4,500 GOAL scholarships.
Government is also 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, while also investing in other interventions to address the disruption to physical schooling caused by COVID over a 20-month period.
COVID-19 school disruptions were also answered with remote learning and provision of digital and non-digital learning resources.
The Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) – after one year online – has facilitated enrollment of over 2,500 first-year students – five times higher than usual. Online courses at the CPCE have also allowed hinterland teachers to enroll for courses without having to leave their homes.
The World Bank recommended that there be a “rethink” of education strategies to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number Four by 2030 – and President Ali said, “It 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 financing.”
In the context of allocation of necessary resources, any historical review will show that since 1992, PPP/Civic administrations have done more to ensure resources go the farthest and reach the most teachers and students, country-wide – and not excluding Amerindian areas or communities considered non-supportive of the government.
From as far back in the 1990s – when Dr Dale Bisnauth was Education Minister and Hydar Ally served as Permanent Secretary – challenges were overcome with whatever limited resources were available and which were used to take teaching and learning to communities near and far.
Between 1992 and the current watch of Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, successive PPP/C-appointed education ministers have guided the filtration of knowledge like rivers awash, according to the general principles of equity of outreach and opportunity, no matter the challenges.
The holistic approaches employed by succeeding PPP/C administrations in the past three decades have moved mountains to bring education opportunities to Guyanese everywhere, up and down the 10 regions and the Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo counties and rivers – and those efforts continue to yield fruits to this day.
Government is also investing in teachers and the President promises that by the end of the decade, schools will be staffed by fully-trained teachers.
Today, the PPP/C also makes no bones about its commitment to providing free tertiary education by 2025 – and that’s another goal President Ali and the current administration are simply determined to achieve, come what may.