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Ministry of Education to conduct “diagnostic tests” on blended education delivery; 4th, 5th formers to return to classes sooner

Priya Manickchand

Minister of  Education  Priya Manickchand on Friday hoped that a combination of Online, radio, television, handouts and toys will continue to deliver education during the extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she indicated that it would be hard to immediately measure success.

“While we do not know what the outcomes will be, what we hope is that we can keep our children engaged in a way that sees learning loss minimised  and that sees any potential drop-out figures rising be stabilised,” she told a news conference.

With the World Bank and other international organisations forecasting school-dropouts and poor assimilation of knowledge, Ms. Manickchand said “diagnostic tests” would be conducted across all grades to “plug gaps” between goals and levels of achievement.  The Education Minister stressed that Guyanese authorities want to reduce any type of learning loss.

Of the GYD$52 billion set aside  for the public education sector in the 2020 National Budget, Ms. Manickchand said GYD$300  million would be spent on blended delivery of education through the Learning Channels, printed materials, radio, private Cable television providers and Internet-based platforms such as Google, Zoom, Moodle and WhatsApp.

Specifically, she announced that home-based kits for nursery school children are being procured and would be in Guyana in another six weeks. Ms. Manickchand explained that these would include printed materials, workbooks, and appropriate manipulative toys for the 27,000 years one and two children.

Many parents of nursery school students  work and would not be at home to accompany them to follow the lessons on televisions, but the Education Minister said extended families, including grandparents, would have to assist in ensuring those children watch the programmes on the Learning Channel. “We are going to have to innovate. We are in a pandemic. It is not normal times. We all have to give the best we have  to making sure  as far as we can in keeping our children engaged,” she said.

She said core subject content would continue to be delivered via Broadcast to Schools and Interactive Radio Instruction Programmes. The Minister of Education said more than 1,000 teachers were being trained in Online delivery of education  with assistance from the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Profutura.

Authorities say it is too early to say when schools will be opened for face-to-face interaction as this will be based on epidemiological patterns  of the coronavirus, COVID-19. However, she indicated that education ministry officials have been talking about Fourth and Fifth Students returning to face-to-face classrooms. “There has been discussion and we are considering allowing our Fourth and Fifth Form students back into the schools with strict protocols, of course, ” she said. The Minister said she had held talks with the Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council and other officials about concerns that Guyanese students might be disadvantaged due to the prolonged five-month electoral period and COVID-19. Those talks have also centered on the administering of School Based Assessments that include practical components.