UG’s 2nd Biennial Teaching Conference for Tertiary Educators Sees Call for Careful Consideration of how to transition from Emergency Remote Teaching to the new norms in higher education as the planet braces for more disruptions in the future
The University of Guyana’s Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CoETaL) on Monday, 20 September 2021, launched its three-day Biennial Conference with local and international partners in the education sector calling for more collaboration between the various stakeholders to adequately respond to the challenges confronting the delivery of education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference is being held in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE). The entire event is being held via Zoom and hundreds of education practitioners and policymakers from around the world are participating.
The conference aims to provide a platform for academics, researchers, and key stakeholders to deliberate on issues and find solutions to the challenges confronting the delivery of tertiary education due to the impact of COVID-19.
Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Prof. Edward Greene posited that the theme chosen for the conference is most appropriate as the trajectory of the discourses promises to help professionals in the educational system to grapple with and learn to navigate the mindset for which the pervasive COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst.
“As we interchange ideas at this conference, it will no doubt help us to comprehend the true meaning of change management, catering to different learning experiences of students, particularly those who are digitally challenged or excluded. This is no doubt compounded by having to work with communities and individuals with varying responses to the COVID-19 vaccine efforts,” Prof. Greene expounded.
Additionally, the Chancellor noted: “A Conference like this brings into sharp focus that we are all in this together and must leverage creative action to inform and uplift our constituencies not only university students, and staff, and those in other tertiary educations but those in communities all around us. Further, I am very pleased to acknowledge the comprehensive nature of the agenda of this conference because it is only by creating an extensive network of engagement and learning from the broadest range of perspectives can we hope to meet the challenges facing us all.”
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Prof. Paloma Mohamed Martin in her remarks gave a brief overview of the University’s readiness to cope in the changing environment due to COVID-19 when the pandemic hit Guyana around March in 2020.
Prof. Mohamed Martin said: “We have been slightly prepared for this in a certain sense because in 2018 we started working on the University of Guyana’s Blueprint 2040. The Blueprint maps our four aspirational goals and one of those was to have at least one graduate per household. This meant that they had to be a level of inclusiveness, a level of decentralisation, de-urbanisation of higher education, we had to rethink the way in which we were delivering education. And out of that came numerous propositions, and one of those was about a starlight campus. And so we were thinking about how to deliver education across the country remotely in a serious way, but we were not planning to do it so soon.”
The VC: “This conference is quite specifically themed as none of us could have imagined what was going to happen to education and to the world in just a few short months after we launched the first Biennial Conference in 2019.”
She noted: “In capturing this modus, we know that the nuanced theme of this conference, emergency remote teaching, leading, and learning as distinct from online education is quite present. And so this is why we're gathered together to share, interrogate and disseminate what we did, how we did it, why, and with whom. And we'd want observable effects in the short term.”
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Education, Hon. Priya Manickchand, Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson outlined the strategies the Government of Guyana has been implementing to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s education sector.
Dr. Hutson said: “This conference could not have come at a better time as we strategically seek to grapple with a global pandemic which requires leadership with the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by purpose.”
Dr. Hutson said: “Without the elements of passion, conviction, and purpose, we will not see the need to do differently as we fight for the cause of the delivery of education. Amid any emergency, we must be determined now more than ever to be able to respond with resilience, rectitude, and resourcefulness to ensure all those students are adequately served, particularly in remote areas that are often left undone. Consequently, there is the need to adopt a holistic approach to education delivery by working with all stakeholders, including our teachers, parents, and the wider community. We are dealing with the hard truth and this is why collaboration is essential.”
Dr. Hutson admonished that discussing the issues is not enough because the change we desire must be guided by clear policy documents that must be used as reference points. He said: “In the Ministry of Education we have developed a national strategic plan that addresses issues related to improved governance and accountability, improved performance at all levels, improving the efficiency of the education sector, reducing inequalities, and contributing to lifelong learning.”
The keynote address was delivered by the Programme Manager from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Dr. Dimitrios Vlackopoulos. He outlined the importance of education and technology as it relates to the preparation of jobs today and for the future. His presentation also focused on the use of education and technology for vulnerable groups of people who live in rural communities, those who cannot afford education, and those with disabilities.
According to Dr. Vlackopoulos there is a difference between emergency remote teaching and online teaching. He said: “There is a very clear difference between online education which has a concrete audience who apply for this kind of learning model and the remote teaching that we use during the pandemic. We have observed that face-to-face traditional education or online education is more effective as it provides guarantees for high-quality teaching and learning…if they are implemented successfully. They can lead to a high-quality education experience and there is a lot of evidence for on-campus face-to-face conventional education, but there is also a lot of evidence from several online institutions that have been working for years that they can also lead to high-quality educational experiences.”
Dr. Vlackopoulos noted that the transition was not an easy one and there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that teachers and students are not feeling overwhelmed with the new systems.
A special panel comprising of five lecturers from the University of Guyana – Ms. Kara Lord, Ms. Lisa Edwards, Ms. Shanomae Rose, Ms. Angelina Autar, and Ms. Monique Sarius - who are all pursuing their Doctor of Education degrees under a special UG- Arizona State University (ASU) programme will complete the conference presentations.
The Opening Ceremony was chaired by Dr. Charmaine Bissessar, Director of UG’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CoETaL). Dr. Viola Rowe, Principal of Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) gave the appreciation.
The conference is being held under the theme; “Emergency Remote Teaching, Leading and Learning” and is open to the public for FREE. Interested persons can register now by clicking on the link here: https://coetal.uog.edu.gy/biennial-conference-2021/registration.
The University of Guyana acknowledges the support of its main partners; the Ministry of Education and the Cyril Potter College of Education for collaborating to host this event. UG also thanks Elton B. Stephens Company (EBSCO) for its sponsorship.
The Opening Ceremony can be viewed at:
UG IN BRIEF
The University of Guyana is the 58th-year state university of Guyana. It offers 136 programmes in over 60 disciplines online and face-to-face in 8 campuses across Guyana. With a student population of now 10,000, UG has provided education, learning and research for over 50,000 alumni. The mission of the University is to discover, generate, disseminate and apply knowledge of the highest standard for the service of the community, the nation and of all mankind within an atmosphere of academic freedom that allows for free and critical inquiry. UG’s forward-thinking Blueprint 2040 is currently setting the course for the University’s future design and institutional response to the changing needs of Guyana.
Ms. Krest Cummings
Public Relations Officer
Department of Events Conferences and Communications (DECC)
- The University of Guyana