Ministry of Education, Guyana

Developing an Inclusive Education System

Particular attention needs to be given to developing a more inclusive education system that provides quality and equitable opportunities to indigenous and hinterland children and children with disabilities. Gender equality and equity also need to be integrated as a goal within a truly inclusive system.

The Ministry of Education understands the need for an education system that is flexible and accommodates diversity. This means that the MOE has to create the opportunity for all students to be in regular classes where the education programme caters for their individual needs and where they are accepted and supported.

The development of an inclusive education system also means that the MOE has to make the system flexible to cater for children along the entire spectrum from the very gifted to the severely disabled. The tendency in Guyana however, is to regard inclusive education as necessary for children with physical disabilities and to cater less for the gifted and highly talented children UNICEF in a listing of the “Characteristics of a Rights- Based and Child-Friendly School” supports the provision of an education opportunity that “meets differing circumstances and needs of children (e.g. as determined by gender, culture, social class, ability level)”. In Guyana, efforts have been made to reduce sex stereotyping in education material, to offer a module in the teacher training programme on gender, to offer males and females the same programme options and to respond to the needs of the indigenous communities where English may not be the first language and where cultural norms may be somewhat different from other communities. In addition it has sought to meet Special Education Needs. There have been different degrees of success in various areas. Sex stereotyping in materials has certainly been significantly reduced and although there are still perceptions in society about traditionally male and female subject areas, and males and females cluster in different specialities in the higher grades, the Ministry offers the same curriculum to all students.

There have been limited attempts to respond to the language issue with the Ministry supporting the use of the children’s mother tongue, where possible, in the early years of school and giving support to projects such as the Macushi Language project. These are very preliminary efforts and more needs to be done at the teacher training level to respond to the needs of different genders or groups. 

One of the areas of greatest concern has been the inability to adequately meet special education needs of children with physical or mental disabilities. Although some efforts have been made in the last five years to meet special education needs (SEN) it is probably true that this is one of the most neglected areas in the education sector. This is reflected in surveys and consultations that were conducted by other organisations such as the National Commission on Disability (NCD) and the Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO), from which the education sector has benefited. In a study carried out under the auspices of NCD with the assistance of VSO, it was found that of the persons surveyed 15% have never attended school, 42% of which were under 16 years. There are some children with disabilities who are able to access education in Special Education Institutions; however data shows that less than 40% of the teachers in these schools have sufficient training. Further research also reports that persons with disabilities who are mainstreamed in regular schools have to contend with negative attitudes from other students and teachers.

During the period under review a special education module was developed, which every teacher trainee at CPCE must take. This is a very basic module however and there is a critical need for higher levels of specialised training to be offered. It is also essential to the effective implementation of SEN programmes that the Ministry appoints a Special Education Coordinator who will drive the process from the level of Central Ministry; especially since so much inter-ministry and other levels of coordination is crucially necessary. The Ministry also needs to make several policy decisions to give direction to the scope and strategies/methodologies of implementation. These include the management and funding of special schools, level or scope of inclusion, teacher training, curriculum modification, support services, levels of parent education and partnership and career paths for teachers. Indeed, there are few persons willing to work in this area, especially teachers, because the career path is very limited. The new plan must also address these issues.

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