Education Minister defends budgetary allocation -outlines new plans-as debates continue

GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Education should not be an area that should be the target of unnecessary politicking for partisanship sake, Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine said, as he made his presentation in the National Assembly in support of Budget 2017 and the allocations made for his sector.

Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine rises to support the 2017 National Budget

Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine rises to support the 2017 National Budget

Dr. Roopnaraine put forth the argument that “there is arguably no other area of public administration as intrinsically challenging as that of the education sector, but also none so critical to national development, particularly when it comes to charting the course towards a greener and more diversified economy.”

The Minister said whilst he understands that the key purpose of a political opposition is to oppose, and there will be differences of opinion on how the business of certain sectors is administered, he noted that, “Education, however, is not an area that should be the target of unnecessary politicking and partisanship for partisanship sake.”

Recognising that there must be a non-partisan stance in the development of the sector, the Minister informed the House that the inputs which form part of this year’s allocation  to the sector do not only reflect the policy directions but, as well, “the technical competence of education officials, research by learning experts, strategic recommendations of international partners, and the expressed desires of the parents and guardians of the children and young people,” who are the primary beneficiaries of what the government is striving to achieve.

The Education Minister also outlined a number of programmes and projects that would be undertaken by his ministry in 2017. He explained that some of the key objectives of the upcoming year will be to improve teacher training in keeping with government’s priority areas for education; increase instructional time for students; improve upon monitoring and evaluation and monitoring supervision of capital projects; and to enhance the internal efficiency of the ministry.

Minister Roopnaraine said that all government’s initiatives in this regard, are in recognition that there are three critical fronts “from which we need to engage in education sector enhancement.”  He said that these are Pedagogy, Service Delivery, and Innovation.

The Minister explained that without prejudice to the recommendations that will be soon forthcoming from the Commission of Inquiry into the state of the education system report, “there are certain preliminary presumptions that we can make- indeed that we have to make – with regard to improving service delivery in the sector and the budget for 2017 has been crafted with these in mind.”

He said there will be the rolling out of programmes such as the Programme for Emergency Education Reform (PEER), which will focus heavily on improving mathematics performance, “through comprehensive diagnosis of current constraints, methodology review, and the recruitment of a cadre of specialists for targeted interventions.”

He said that the invaluable progress that the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) has been making in 2016 will continue in 2017 in the core areas of Curriculum Development, Special Needs Education Training and Awareness, Literacy, and ICT integration.

Focus on Pedagogy, will also in 2017, see not only the approval of the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) policy and implementation of a supporting action plan, but also closer collaboration between the Science Unit and Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), in addition to a stronger public awareness programme on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

Further as part of targeting the, “worrying trend in decreased enrollments” in STEM subjects, Minister Roopnaraine said that in 2017, the Education Ministry intends to target the training of 132 teachers in multiple visual arts disciplines and across more than half of the education districts.  The Ministry will also continue to enhance teacher training programme in music, drama and dance, and will equip three schools with steel bands, bringing the total thus far to 24.

It will also see closer collaboration between the University of Guyana’s (UG) School of Education and Humanities, NCERD and CPCE, Minister Roopnaraine said. These initiatives will form the basis of a medium-term Sector Review Plan, 2018-2020.

The Minister also outlined a number of ways in which the Ministry would be looking to make its service delivery of existing programmes in education better, even as it is focused on reforming pedagogy.  The coordinating, monitoring and evaluating activities of the 2014-2018 Strategic Education Plan, with particular focus on the implementation of regional plans, enhancing the Ministry programme to ensure that schools are certifiable as child-friendly spaces, integrating climate change education more meaningfully into the curriculum, and strengthening the working relationship between its international partners, were among a few of the measures outlined by the Minister.

He also spoke of the Ministry’s plan to expend over $3.5 billion on the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of schools, teachers’ quarters and other buildings and additionally, to explore a programme of linking specific recreational grounds to schools, either individually or in clusters, and to upgrade facilities of existing grounds in specific catchment areas.

At the level of UG, the Minister said that the Ministry is finalising the construction of a new 300-seat lecture theatre, as well as a new student

Opposition Member of Parliament,  Dr. Frank Anthony debates the merit of the 2017 National Budget in the National Assembly

Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr. Frank Anthony debates the merit of the 2017 National Budget in the National Assembly

services building. In 2017, the Ministry will commence the construction of a new school of medicine on campus, as well as – under the Yesu Persaud endowment – a facility for clinical services attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Meanwhile, focus on Innovation, will be on particular initiatives that harness the tremendous power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for   improving the education sector in service of national development, the Minister said.

Opposition Member of Parliament Dr. Frank Anthony, who immediately followed Minister Roopnaraine, applauded the Government for continuing the practice of investing heavily in education.

For the second year in a row, the importance of investment in education has been underscored by Government’s commitment of over 17 percent of the national budget towards this sector. Minister Roopnaraine said that it is a commitment that is underscored by government’s recognition that there are things that are institutionally wrong with the system, and that it cannot skimp on investment on education.

Anthony recalled that Former President and once leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Dr. Cheddi Jagan started this trend of investing heavily in education. He noted that Dr. Jagan had a famous saying, “that your ticket out of poverty is through education, and we (the PPPC) are very happy to see that the government has continued this tradition of investing in education.”

Anthony however, said that he would have like  to hear a little bit more about concrete steps that would be taken to alleviate some of the problems affecting the sector including the declining Mathematics and English performance of the students. He noted that “there were some generalised things said, but nothing concrete.” If we do not get concrete solutions, then I am afraid that we would not solve the problems about Mathematics and English in our country,” Anthony warned.

 

By Macalia Santos

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