Teachers Union to examine impact of younger nursery enrolment age

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 20:59 by GxMedia

Parents and guardians lined up at the Starters Nursery School, Camp Street, Georgetown to register their children

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) on Thursday cautiously welcomed the decision by the Ministry of Education to accept younger children into nursery schools but cited the need for more teachers and smaller classes.

GTU President, Colin Bynoe said the overwhelming view among parents and teachers was that most young children were capable of performing certain tasks at nursery school because they were being prepared by day care centres. “With the proliferation of day care centres and institutions that have been set up in Guyana, several children are actually ready to go to nursery school at an earlier age,” he said.

Children born on or before June 30 are now eligible for placement at a Nursery School in the year they turn three years.  With effect from September 2014, children can enter the formal education system, six months earlier than previously obtained. Although this level of education is not mandatory, most children in Guyana begin their academic education at this level.

At present a child can only enter a public nursery school at age 3, if that child will be at least 3 years 9 months by December of the year he or she begins. For all the children who are born after March 31, they must wait until September in the year following to enter nursery school. 

The Teachers Union boss, however, said the lingering question was whether every child was ready for earlier entrance to the formal school system. While acknowledging that children’s growth and development should not be stymied, he said the union would be monitoring how younger children and teachers would be coping during the academic year. He vowed that the union would make its views known if the new system is mired in hiccups. “I do hope that the Ministry of Education will appreciate that it’s a new approach that they are taking to nursery education and that they also will listen to what we have to say because we will ensure that we put together empirical evidence to justify any changes,” he said.

Among the possible needs, he said, might be the need for smaller classes and more teachers who would now have to cope with children who would not be, for instance, potty-trained and versed in basic hygiene. “We feel that if you have smaller classes, it’s going to be more manageable and it will give those who are ready an opportunity to move forward and give those who are not ready the same opportunity to move forward because in terms of the smaller classes you will have an opportunity to work with them to help them to come up to scratch to where the others are,” he said. He feared that if those systems were not eventually put in place, the delivery of the curriculum could be slowed down. The GTU also planned to gather the experiences of other countries through the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT).

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand was quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as urging parents to register their children for nursery school early so that sufficient provision could be made for them. “We really need parents to come out and register…we don’t want children to be turning up in September and schools are not ready because we don’t have enough furniture or enough teachers in place, and so to help us prepare to teach your child and give them the best start possible you need to go and register,” she said.

The Education Ministry expects at least 3,000 more children entering nursery schools, due to the age change to 3 years 3 months.

As customary, parents or guardians are asked to provide the child’s birth certificate and clinic card at the time of registration, along with their (the parents) National Identification Card and proof of address.

Parents who are employed or work at a school (e.g teachers, vendors, cleaners, gardeners, handymen etc) will be given priority, amongst the parents who appeal a placement, for his/her child/children at that school at which the said parent is employed/works and will be treated as though the child/children live closest to the said school at which said parent is employed/works.