The greatest challenge facing the education system today are the thousands of persons it places on the streets each year without a marketable qualification and the tens of thousands already there in a similar condition. About 8000 persons leave the school system annually, amounting to 240,000 in a generation, without being properly able to fend for themselves and their families. These persons have been largely ignored by the education system and many of them are in informal employment where they face even more hardship through low wages and the absence of job security from which emerge a host of social ills plaguing our society.
Over the years, by way of various out of school apprenticeships and other projects, some of these have been trained but these programmes are still unable to bridge the gap between the skills needed to develop the nation and what currently exists. Since, the primary purpose of public education is to enable us to develop critical skills that will make us valuable and productive members of society, and prepare us for higher education whether in the academic or skills trade, there is widespread evidence that the system has failed us. A sound education is still not accessible to many children in remote areas, and in cases where attendance has been secured up to secondary level, the system continues to fail our youths who are left with no option but to choose any form of employment available to them over further development of their skills and talents. It is no doubt that the vast majority of youths are capable of being so empowered to make a good life for themselves and their communities as is most potently evidenced by the performance of some private schools whose intake are not limited to top performers at the primary level. If this isn’t evidence of a failed public education system, then what is?
Our problems are not simple as a nation, but neither are they too complex for us to address. We have a problem delivering quality education throughout the country, and we have a problem employing those who have gone the extra mile to acquire higher education. We have endless challenges in retaining skills and talent and this will be further discussed in our plans for youth employment. These issues of inequitable access to quality education across our geographic landscape, has the tendency of placing many troubled youths to fend for themselves without any social support, and feeds social ills such as alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, health-related issues, teenage pregnancy, crime, and many more.
As a priority, in collaboration with stakeholders ANUG will seek to ensure that:
- Within 5 years no child leaves the education system without some marketable qualification.
- Every unqualified adult in Guyana has the opportunity to gain such a qualification and more than 50% of the starting unqualified has taken that opportunity.
To achieve the above commitment and the other normal objectives of the education system we will, work with all stakeholders to:
- Reestablish the National Advisory Council on Education with broad stakeholder participation to advise the minister on all matters affecting the sector and help to monitor the five years education strategic plan.
- Improve education sector administration by e.g.: enhanced regional accountability, effective school planning and implementation, creating incentives at the administrative and school levels to improve learning outcome.
- Enhance the capacity of the National Accreditation Council to establish a national qualifications framework with the objective of making all training meaningful and creditable.
- Increase access to quality education at all levels –including the University of Guyana – ensuring that our people are equipped for the local as well as global society. Access also includes building capacity to introduce more evening programmes so that employed persons can formally educate themselves or upgrade their skills.
- Provide support needed to new graduates to discourage migration and achieve skills retention so that our own people can be equipped to benefit from preferential treatment in the oil and gas sector under the local content policy.
- Ensure from the cradle that no child is left behind by introducing incentives programmes e.g., direct financial support tied to attendance, transportation, improved school feeding, parental counseling that will improve attendance.
- Cooperate with the Guyanese diaspora, their associates and other international partners to transfer necessary skills and other resources into the system.
- Introduce performance incentives for teachers and tie them to tangible benefits. This will be discussed further under the area of public service.
- Introduce flexible hours of tuition – This includes:
- Collaborate with the private sector to build capacity at the university or technical/vocational schools so that their skills needs are met locally.