Ministry of Education, Guyana

Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00

Education Ministry introduces dynamic and versatile website

With all education stakeholders in mind, the Ministry of Education yesterday launched a dynamic and versatile website at a unique ceremony venued at the Quamina Street, Georgetown, Cara Lodge. The website, which can be found at www.education.gov.gy, is in fact an intensely modified version of the Ministry’s previous website which was quite limited in its offerings.
And so it was in order to cater to a growing online following that Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, mandated her Information Systems Unit to put measures in place for a more interactive website.
The launch saw the Ministry taking full advantage of technological advances as the majority of the introduction of the website was done in audio/visual fashion.

But this was not before the Ministry officials treated its invitees to a scrumptious brunch.
And there was much Governmental support for the initiative evident by the presence of Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, acting in the capacity of President; Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, and Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran.
Enlightening the gathering, among them several senior education officers, students and members of the media, was Head of the Information Systems Unit, Mr Phil Mingo.
According to Mingo, the Ministry initially created its website with the need for it to be easy to use which translated to it being “clean and not cluttered” in order to cater to stakeholders including parents, teachers and students.
The vision therefore was for the website to be fast and reliable, Mingo said, who pointed out that choosing the right technology was the next crucial aspect to examine. This was in light of the fact that the initiation of the website saw it merely accommodating a few news articles complemented by some basic sections common to most websites. “Of course it was a dynamic website in the design but because of its information it was pretty static,” said Mingo, who noted that due to the technology being utilised then, there were a number of challenges in maintaining it, so much so, that it was at times temporarily offline.
Moreover, Mingo disclosed that the website in its current form sees the Ministry embracing the Joomla open source web platform which is a content management system that allows the user to focus more on content and not necessarily on technology. This, he explained, “allows us to update the content of the website without affecting the structure hence we do not have to put the website offline just to make simple news updates…”
Added to this, Mingo said that it was found that Joomla catered to the development of various modules and components for the website in a shorter period. An even later version of Joomla allowed for enhanced security features, said Mingo, as he intimated that “Joomla has tremendously matured; it has allowed us to accomplish pretty much anything we needed to do on the website…”
As such the website offers features ranging from image galleries and maps to document management and website backup and restore, and even web caching. “All of that we were able to either purchase or develop ourselves through the use of Joomla,” said Mingo.
He recalled that the need to enhance the website became extremely crucial when word of the website got around, resulting in an increase in traffic thereby causing the site to crash on a number of occasions. “Of course this became very embarrassing for us but many of the times these crashes would happen in the evenings when the demand would increase…it also gave us an opportunity to fix it before the next morning…that meant many sleepless nights.”
Addressing the shortcomings was imperative, as according to Mingo, Minister Manickchand had insisted that “everything we do must be accessible on the same site,” to parents, teachers, students and all other stakeholders.
A major feature on the existing site is a quiz platform which allows persons – teachers and students – to prepare for various examinations in addition to just learning new topics. “It is something we are quite excited about; essentially our quiz platform will be an integral part of a greater knowledge management system developed within the Ministry of Education,” informed Mingo.
By 19:00 hours yesterday, the website, which among other things offers past examination papers and syllabuses, had already recorded 215,000 hits with over 34,000 pages being viewed by the public.
According to Minister Manickchand, her Ministry has long been cognisant of the fact that Guyana functions in a modern world where information and Communication Technology play critical roles in the communication processes, like the rest of the world. It is for this reason, she noted, that the Ministry has decided to embrace the progressive march of technology. “With all secondary schools projected to have computer laboratories by the end of 2014, with more than 90, 000 Guyanese targeted to benefit from the One Laptop Per Family initiative…with more access to and use of smart phones, this website is going to be highly useful to all education stakeholders….” said the Education Minister.
She went on to point out that although currently the Education Ministry has in place some of the “most beautiful policies and programmes and resources” the challenge has been to make these known to the people who should use them and be implementing them effectively. “Even as we make significant and strong efforts to strengthen implementation of our policies, we are making real efforts to make our material and personnel more accessible with a strong presence on social media – Facebook and Twitter – we have established hotlines and today (yesterday) we launch this website,” noted the Minister.
According to Assistant Chief Education Officer (Secondary), Ms. Doodmattie Singh, the introduction of the new website comes as part of the Education Ministry’s plan to consciously make the resources of the Ministry of Education and the State available to all Guyanese and the world.
Also speaking yesterday was Prime Minister Hinds, who in lauding the effort to introduce the new website, encouraged that persons seek to personally promote it among friends, family and relatives so as to ensure that “we get the greatest benefit from it.”
According to Minister Hinds, since education is seen as one of the most important aspects of development, Government has been contributing some 14 per cent of its revenue to that sector “because we think that education is important in making people who are capable to become more productive and contribute to the rise of standard of living in Guyana…”

Source: http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2014/07/17/education-ministry-introduces-dynamic-and-versatile-website/

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