The Government of Guyana provides free public education to all Guyanese from the age of 3 years and six months to early adulthood. This provision represents the government's conviction that education is a priority in raising the standard of living of the people of Guyana. Tuition fees have to be paid for University education.
Education, through the school system, is administered and supervised by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry has a political head - the Minister of Education, who is held responsible for education policy and administration in the country and is a member of the Parliament.
The school system comprises of:
l. Preschool/Nursery Education. Nursery schools offer a two year early childhood programme to all children acquiring the age of three years and one month. This level of education is not compulsory but each Guyanese child is guaranteed a place in school. Parents may choose not to send their children to nursery schools. There are more than 350 schools with over 26,000 children. There is a ratio of one teacher to every eighteen children. The hours of school are from 8.30 a.m. to 12.00 noon. Parents play a pivotal role in the success of these schools.
2. Primary Education (Elementary). (The picture shows the primary school at Fort Wellington, Berbice.) Primary schools accept children who attain the age of five years and nine months and provide a six year programme leading to entrance in a secondary school programme. This level of education is, by law, compulsory hence parents can be deemed negligent if a child older than five years and nine months is not enrolled and does not attend school. Upon completion of the programme of study, the children take the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (SSEE) so that they might gain entrance to Secondary Schools.
Students receive five hours of school per day from Monday to Friday. Classes normally commence at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 3:00 p.m. The lunch period is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The School year begins in September and ends in August and is divided into three terms of 13 weeks each -
(i) Christmas Term - September to December with two weeks vacation;
(ii) Easter Term - January to April with two weeks vacation;
(iii) August Term - April to July with six weeks vacation.
A school year has approximately 378 sessions or 189 days.
3. Secondary Education (High School). Secondary schools offer three types of programmes for children who have completed Primary School and taken the SSEE. The programmes are referred to as: The Community High School, the Multi- lateral High School and the General Secondary School. Entrance to these programmes is solely dependent on the student's performance score on the SSEE.
The programme in the Community High School is designed to prepare students for life in the Guyanese society by developing in them practical skills which will make them employable for a variety of jobs required by the society.
Students undergo a four year programme. During the first two years, they are exposed to basic academic studies, i.e., English Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education and Music, and pre-vocational activities such as Art and Craft, Agriculture, Home Economics and Industrial Arts and vocational activities needed in the community.
As students are guided through the first two-year phase, their aptitudes, interests and abilities are identified. In the final two years, emphasis is placed on vocational activities while basic academic studies continue to be an important part of the school experience. Based on ability, interest and aptitude, students are guided by teachers to select one vocation or part of it on which they will concentrate, e.g. Agriculture, Arts and Crafts, Home Economics or Industrial Arts. An important experience during the second period is exposure to actual job experiences and tasks which enable participants to prepare for their working lives.
The Multilateral School programme provides a general high school programme with emphasis on practical application. The programme prepares students to take the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations. The General Secondary School provides a more academic based programme leading to certification in the CXC and London General Certificate of Education (GCE), Advanced Level. It takes an average student five years to the CXC and an additional two years to the Advanced Level. The subjects taught in the secondary schools to examination level include - English Language, English Literature, French, Art, Spanish, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, General Science, Economics, Pure and Applied Mathematics, Geography, History, Home Economics and Nutrition, Music and Physical Education. With such a wide range of studies offered, the Multilateral and General Secondary Schools are intended to offer Guyanese a wide choice of educational and professional opportunities. During their fourth year in the schools, the students would be able to choose from the fields of science, technology, agriculture, home economics or commerce for major study.
4. Special Education. The Government provides programmes of study for children and adults who have special needs in the areas of the handicapped and mentally deficient. Some young children are taught job-related skills and helped to find suitable employment.
5. Vocational Education. Provision for this level of education is shared by both the government and the private sector. The government provides training programmes in several vocational fields including commerce, home economics, automotive mechanics, agro-studies, business, engineering, architecture and other technical fields. Private schools provide programmes in business and commercial studies.
The schools under the administration of the government are the Government Technical Institutes, Government Industrial Training Colleges, the Guyana School of Agriculture and the Carnegie School of Home Economics.
6. Teacher Education. There are two Teacher-training institutions in Guyana which provide:
Pre-service training for primary school teachers and lower-form secondary levels.
Post-graduate diploma courses for teachers at both primary and secondary levels.
A one-year Certificate in Education course for Trained Teachers.
These institutions are:
The Teacher Education Complex, and
the University of Guyana.
7. University. The University of Guyana offers courses of study which lead to the Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Education and Forestry, Technology and Law. The University also offers a Master's Degree in History. There are Diploma programmes in Public Administration, Medical Technology, and Social Work. A Medical School is also operated by the University.
8. Continuing Education. There are two adult education programmes. One operates under the auspices of the University, and the other is under the Adult Education Association which collaborates with and receives funding from the Ministry of Education. The programmes aim at upgrading adult skills and knowledge which may lead to acquiring the necessary entrance qualifications for the University of Guyana or Universities overseas.