Challenges and opportunities in the education system of Guyana
Summary of Guyana ́s Roundtable
April 6th, 2021
From SUMMA: Dr. Javier González, Raúl Chacón, Ivana Zacarias, Carolina Osorio and Mar Botero.
From AIR: Dr. Naomi Ziegler and Dr. Rebecca Stone (AIR)
KIX LAC Representatives: Dr. Roslyn Khan (Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Guyana), Dr. Charmaine Bissessar (University of Guyana), Mr. Mark Lyte (President, Guyana ́s Teacher Union)
The goal of the meeting was to present the main findings of Guyana ́s educational system review, carried out by AIR and led by SUMMA and the OECS, in the framework of the KIX Initiative, and to discuss them with KIX LAC representatives from the country, given their roles within their organizations. A draft version of the document was shared with them before the event.
During the first ten minutes, Dr. Stone and Dr. Ziegler shared a presentation informing the results of their research. After delineating the general features of the educational landscape, they highlighted which they believed the main Guyana ́s educational challenges are: (1) the inequalities between the coastal and the hinterland regions; (2) ensuring equal access to resources, personnel, and technology across all regions of the country; (3) improving the public education sector’s efficiency and effectiveness in the areas of management, planning, and monitoring and evaluation; (4) ensuring that agenda and policy formulation in the MoE is based on the latest evidence or data; (5) the inability to pass the new education bill in Parliament; (6) regional disparity among Guyana’s trained teachers; (7) quality of teacher training and professional development programs; and (8) recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers. These challenges and others, as well as the strengths of the system, are thoroughly approached throughout this document.
AIR ́s presentation was followed by a discussion, where representatives were invited to share their opinion and perspectives about the document as well as the presentation. The general discussion focused on the needs of teacher training, considering the role that University of Guyana and the teachers ́ union play in this topic.
About that, Dr. Khan mentions that low salaries in the teaching profession prevent prospective students from pursuing a career as a teacher. Another problem she finds, especially in these times, is the difficulty in reaching students, considering many of them do not have internet access, mainly in the hinterland regions. However, there might be a window of opportunity in online instruction, because of the needs the University has in terms of physical infrastructure. In this line, Dr. Bissessar commented on her research with students teaching in the hinterland, who benefited from online classes (before they had to spend a lot of money on transportation and now they can add credits to their cell phone for a much lower amount). Besides, she raised her concern about the inequalities within the hinterland as well.
On the other hand, Mr. Lyte stressed the difficulties that teachers have been having, since the breakout of COVID, in adapting to the use of technologies for instructional purposes. This implied tremendous efforts for changing mindsets and enormous workload. Moreover, they had to go on with their daily responsibilities at home. That is why providing them with psycho-social support is so important. Dr. Khan and Dr. Bissessar agreed on this last point, enriching the conversation with examples from their own practice.
Followed by questions by Dr. González, the session turned then into a deeper discussion about the characteristics of the teacher training, trying to take advantage of the experience of University of Guyana. About that, Dr. Bissessar stressed that quality assurance is one of the universities ́ priorities. About that, she and Dr. Khan shared perspectives about the problem of master ́s students putting off their thesis, allegedly because the program is part-time and they have many other responsibilities. Increasing the number of lecturers holding a PhD has also been a challenge for them. Concerns were raised, by Mr. Lyte, about the evaluations of the thesis as well.
At the end, Dr. González also shared the strengths of SUMMA and KIX, and how they could contribute to improving Guyana ́s KIX LAC ́s representatives’ work.