Contributed by Francilene Marcia Farias – Tourism Student – University of Guyana.
Education in Guyana is steadily evolving. It started out as a selection system during British colonization. The colonial masters needed most of their human resources for hard manual labor in the plantations, but they also needed a few skilled laborers and academics to work in accounting offices. This “selection system” was not created with the best interest of the common people at heart. A lot has changed since Guyana gained independence in 1966, but our education system hasn’t. The Education system needs a complete overhaul if it is to succeed in the 21st century.
First of all, the number of school dropouts are going up each year. Why? Because children are becoming more and more frustrated with the way things are going in the classroom. It seems like a few select group aces to the front lines while the vast majority of students are trail miles behind. And all this is perpetuated as though it were the way things were meant to be. Consequently, children are made to feel incompetent. Children are made to feel like they don’t belong in school. They are made to feel as though they are not good enough, as though they are hard-headed, dunces…and the list goes on. Most of these students “rebel” by dropping out of school. Some of them turn to drugs, some of them to crime, while others risk their lives in dangerous mining operations. Thankfully, there are a few who pursue a trade or learn a skill and become successful in life.
To illustrate this point, let me give you a case study. Akbar and I grew up the same neighborhood. We both attended the same nursery school, the same primary school, but branched off at the high school level. Akbar went to local Community High School, while I went to the Corentyne Comprehensive High School. At the end of the day, Akbar was given no education credits or certificate and his literacy level is very low. What was the cause for this? Was it a flaw in the education system or is it that something is wrong with Akbar’s brain. If you think that something is wrong with Akbar’s brain, then you probably didn’t see him ride a motorcycle, drive a car, maneuver a truck, Hymac, or other industrial machine. You didn’t see him break open the bonnet of a car or go under the hood of any of these vehicles.
Certainly, his powers of reasoning, and his ability to fix mechanical problems would dictate that this kid is highly intelligent. Yet, the education system in Guyana, for which his dad sweated at the cane fields in Guyana for decades to support with tax paying dollars, has failed Akbar. This leads us to…
The Impractical College Degree.
A college degree is becoming more and more overrated. And what it can be used for is becoming more and more limited. It is no wonder then that unemployment among college and university graduates are steadily climbing. And what’s worse is that these students are packed with some much “impractical” knowledge that they are rendered unable to innovate, create and transform. To illustrate this point, I’d like to give a real life example.
Some months ago, I met an old friend, Paul Singh, in Lethem; that is, by the border with Brazil. We had a few beers and took a few pictures. During the course of conversation, Paul Singh related how he studied marketing at the university of Guyana.
I then proceeded to ask Paul Singh if he could tell me of one good thing I could buy from Brazil and resell in Georgetown. Paul Singh declared with flat assurance “nothing.” He said too that there was nothing profitable to buy from Georgetown and resell in Brazil.
Not too long after, I opened a conversation with a businessman named Ramchand Singh. He was on his way from Brazil to Georgetown. He told me that he was a trader and that he had just loaded a truck of merchandise in Brazil to resell in Georgetown. This was a part of his business. About every month, he would purchase one truckload of goods from Brazil and resell in Georgetown. Mr. Ramchand Singh not only did not have a university degree but he barely completed high school.
The Relevance of Curriculm
Thirdly, I’d like to emphasis the point or relevance. If something is not relevant to you, you are like to get bored. And that is exactly what is happening in the education system in Guyana. More and more students are waking up to the question brewing in their head, “why do I have to learn this?” Or “how will this help me in life.” And there’s hardly ever a proper answer.
Students are going to school for 15 to 20 years of their lives only to realize that the skills they really need to make it big in life are taught in “the school of hard knocks.” The owner of one of America’s biggest businessman once said, “I never went to Harvard, but the who work in my companies do.” It is this very irony that is causing a huge wastage of time, money and human potential. When you supplement real life “on the road” education with a traditional university education, then you have an individual who is capable of doing just about anything.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that the education system in Guyana needs a complete reform if it is to thrive in the steadily changing fortunes of time. The education system needs to cater for, and offer certificates to those “differently-abled” geniuses. More hands-on, practical exercises need to be implemented into the curriculum, and students need to be exposed at an earlier age to the challenges of running a business or a company. To put it simply, the education system must be redesigned so that there is no stigma attached to practical work. Every student must “feel” the joys and effects of going to school regardless of their vocational inclinations.