Symposium explores underachievement of boys in education system

1st July, 2018 0 comments

The University of Guyana (UG) on Thursday launched a two-day symposium aimed at developing approaches to address the underperformance of boys in the education system.

The Symposium on Boys’ Education, organised under the theme “Bridging the Gender Divide: Stemming the Tide of Male Underachievement in the Education System,” was held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, The Commonwealth of Learning, UNICEF and CARICOM.

It precedes and will inform a project action planning workshop, which is to be held in the coming week, and which will involve the participation of education officers, and other representatives from both governmental and non-governmental agencies. The workshop will identify activities to address issues affecting boys.

“To date, we have not developed a strategic approach for the education system in Guyana. With every passing day, boys continue to slip further behind, curtailing their potential to contribute effectively to society. For these and other relevant reasons, the Faculty of Education is hosting a Symposium on Boys’ Education to identify ways of addressing this issue,” the university explained in a brochure.

It was further stated that the initiative is in keeping with efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal #4, which aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Dr Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development at CARICOM, stated that the discussions at the symposium would held to provide further insight into the “nature of gender in education in the CARICOM region.” He said that this information will hopefully be used to inform educational policies, transform pedagogical practices and drive professional development. He stated that solving the issue of male underachievement is critical for the success of Caribbean nations as it relates to the CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy 2030.

“This symposium does provide an opportunity to bring together thought leaders, practitioners, academicians, researchers, from diverse disciplines from within and across the Caribbean so that they can connect in a Guyanese space—and I’m stressing that—to share and discuss ideas and innovations and practices. Ideas and innovations that hopefully elevate boys’ experience of school and schooling and by extension, improve learning outcomes and life challenges,” Dr Mairette Newman, representative of The Commonwealth of Learning, stated during her presentation at the launch.

Dr Newman referenced three notable statistics that shed light on the reality of the gender inequality in education: The fact that the gender gap in literacy widens as the ascension is made to higher grade levels, with boys dominating at lower proficiency levels, while girls dominate at higher proficiency levels; that girls outperform boys in many subject areas and are also more likely to remain in school; and that girls are more likely than boys to transition to tertiary education levels.

She pointed to underlying trends that have been identified, including the diminishing presence on men in boys’ lives, not only in the familial sphere, but in the school setting as well, where females dominate the teaching profession, and what has been known as the “feminisation of schooling.”

“Being able to work quietly, cooperatively in groups, communicate effectively, be receptive, be introspective, be diligent, be methodical… teachers value those behaviours… we demand them… girls fit that mold; boys don’t,” she explained.

Dr Newman related that research has shown that outside of a student’s ability, the second greatest influence on their performance is teaching.

“So, if we want to affect the learning outcomes of students, and I put in brackets ‘boys,’ teaching is key. But if that teaching and schooling generally favours girls’ behaviours and does not value or pay attention to boys, then we have a problem,” she stated. Minister of Education Dr Nicolette Henry, in her address, stated that discussions will have to be held to determine what a “modern curriculum should look like.” She expressed hopes that the discussions at the symposium would birth a fusion of ideas that can be incorporated into the local education system.

“As the responsible institution, the Ministry of Education must look at the data to reform policies, strategies and curriculum. And it is, therefore, opportune at this time that we undertake a very extensive curriculum reform and we have begun that process,” she related.

Thursday’s presentations were on the “Cross-section of boys’ performance in education,” done by a Ministry of Education representative; and a presentation titled “Needed! A paradigm shift for unravelling the problem of male underachievement”, presented by Professor Barbara Bailey. Those were to be followed by a panel discussion on “Voices and perspectives on boy’s experiences in education”.

Presentations planned for Friday were “Keeping boys out of risk—When that’s just where they want to be”, which will be presented by Shawn Hardnett, of the North Star College Preparatory Academy for Boys; Critical Mas: A collaborative project to co-design solutions with at-risk Caribbean youth,” to be presented by Dr Ngoni Chipere, of the University of the West Indies’ Open Campus; “Feminisation of Education—The absent male teacher,” by Dr Christopher Clarke, Principal of Shortwood Techers’ College in Jamaica; “Misconstruc-tions, Deconstructions and Reconstructions in Masculinity: Implications for Pedagogical Approaches to the teaching of male students in the Guyanese classroom,” by Dennis Gill, of the UG Berbice Campus; “Considerations for accelerating attendance, participation and performance,” to be presented by Education Specialist Audrey Michele Rodrigues and Michael Gillis, a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at UNICEF.

Their presentations were to be followed by two panel discussions: “Lessons from TVET—A Success Story,” by Patrick Onwuzirike, Deputy Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education; and the “Portrayal of males in the media,” by Enrico Woolford, the Chairman of the National Communica-tions Network’s Board of Directors.

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COHSOD meeting this week to focus on implementation of HRD Strategy

9th May, 2018 0 comments

The Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) will meet this week from the 2–4 May, 2018. The main focus of the meeting will be the implementation of the Human Resource Development (HRD) 2030 Strategy. The Strategy was endorsed by the Conference of Heads of Government at its Thirty-Eighth Regular Meeting in Grenada in July 2017, based on prior consideration and approval by COHSOD XXXII in March of the same year.

The COHSOD will also focus on the discussion and approval of a Regional Action Plan (2018 – 2020) for the Strategy, and agreement on arrangements for monitoring and evaluation at both regional and national levels of implementation. Specific attention will be given to the imperative of inter-sectoral action in the context of approved strategies in the areas of social, economic, environmental and technological resilience as articulated in the Caribbean Community Strategic Plan (2015 – 2019).

The meeting will kick off with an opening ceremony at the Theatre Guild in Guyana that includes an unprecedented thought leadership forum on “Positioning Human Resource Development (HRD) as Central to Caribbean Resilience and Development”. The forum will be led by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, and two discussants Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport of Montserrat, the Hon. Delmaude Ryan, and Artist, Economist and Recipient of the Caribbean Laureate of Arts and Letters Award, Mr. Adrian Augier. According to Director, Human Development at the CARICOM Secretariat Ms. Myrna Bernard, a wide range of stakeholders were invited to the meeting. She said this was important as a holistic approach was needed when addressing Human Resource Development.

Ms. Bernard advised that an implementation plan for the strategy had already been devised and will be done in three phases. She said the first phase would go up to the year 2020 and the COHSOD meeting would be looking at the actions that needed to be taken up until then. She added that there were two components in the strategy, a regional component and a national component. She said that, at the Regional Level, they would try to provide “Regional Public Goods” that would enable Member States to be better able to carry out the implementation on the national level.

She added that all the issues to be addressed in the meeting would be tied to the Human Resource Development Strategy and its implementation. Some of the topics included early childhood education, tertiary and secondary development, developing youth who were already out of school and training of managers. She said the main objective was to get buy-in from Member States for all the initiatives that would be undertaken during the implementation.

Following a workshop held in May 2017, Ms. Bernard gave the assurance that the Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy would not just sit on a shelf, but would be implemented. Participants of that workshop included representatives from the 15 CARICOM Member States, the Associate Members, International Development Partners, Private Sector/Civil Society Organisations as well as Regional Institutions in education and business. The focus of this COHSOD bears testament to that assurance.

The Regional Education and Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy and Action Plan are intended to form the basis for converged action by Member States.

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GPL operating below industry standard

7th December, 2017 0 comments

Guyana, in April 2016, signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement amidst public commitments to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, but experts have been painting a dire reality about Guyana’s energy sector.

One such reality concerns the capacity of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL). Responsible for the distribution of electricity across the length and breadth of Guyana, experts say GPL has such out-dated infrastructure that integrating renewable energy into its grid would be an uphill task.

Head of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat’s Energy Unit, Dr Devon Gardner, speaking during the recent University of Guyana Turkeyen and Tain Talks, identified GPL’s generation and distribution systems as below industry standard. He noted that while GPL is contending with reaching unserved areas, there is also pressure surrounding the utility company going green.

He painted a picture of a company that has bitten off more than it could chew. “To start with, the grid they currently operate is not in the best of shape, to say it mildly. There’s not a lot of investment that is going into the grid right now. And the fact is it’s always difficult to manage and maintain infrastructure in countries like Guyana, where the population density is very small compared to the distance over which the grid is run.”

Dr Gardner explained that the longer the transmission line, the more a utility company’s losses are likely to be from both a technical and criminal standpoint, from the increased possibility of theft. The specialist noted that this all amounts to lost revenue and investment diverted away from upgrading the grid. “Looking at the generation system, not even talking about the fact that it is fossil (fuel) based, the capacity at which power is being generated (by) GPL is 10 to 15 per cent less efficient than the (standard).

“The average rate for the generators is around 8200 BTU (British Thermal Unit) per kilowatt,” he said, adding that this is around 10 per cent higher than what is average in the industry. So GPL is 10 to 15 per cent less efficient. In addition, the transmission losses are currently 28 per cent. For perspective, Gardner explained that the industry standard of transmission losses is five to six per cent, compared to GPL’s 28 per cent. He noted that as a result of these statistics, GPL could stand to benefit from the introduction of renewables.

He noted the potential not only to reduce carbon emissions, but to also lighten the load on the pockets of consumers, if GPL were to switch to renewables. But he said the issue is a complicated one, and he cited GPL’s infrastructure as a major hindrance to renewable energy. “Even if GPL wanted to put wind and solar right now, it’s going to be difficult to put significant amounts. Because the critical issue is because the grid is so unstable, it’s not modern, it means you would run the risk of the system becoming destabilised by the fluctuations and variations of the solar and wind generation,” he explained.

“So the grid issue is a primary source of concern; because, without fixing that, it limits the ability to put certain types of renewables into your grid. (But) there are opportunities for GPL to look at the way it is currently expanding its gridding,” he declared. Notwithstanding the state of its infrastructure, Dr Gardner said, GPL is taking steps in going green.


Sharing the panel with him was Project Officer for the Project Management Department of GPL, Amir Dillawar. While the young engineer confirmed the stark reality of Gardner’s contributions, he identified what the company is doing about it. “What we have done is advertised recently for three utility scale solar sites,” Dillawar said. “One (is) in Demerara, one in Berbice, and one in Anna Regina. The intention is to shortlist from that public round (persons) to move to proposal stage, where we will enter a build/own/operate/and transfer (BOOT) arrangement,” Dillawar explained.

Essentially, the company would build, own and operate the solar sites, he said, adding, “We will buy power from them. So there (are) three three-megawatt (sites) and there are ongoing negotiations on finalising the Hope Beach Windfarm project. There are restrictions to what and how you can technically put (infrastructure), but we are making moves to have a greening of the sector, little by little,” he explained. In the Finance Ministry’s 2017 mid-year report, it was detailed that GPL’s expenditure increased from $9.3 billion in the first half of 2016 to $12.6 billion in the same period this year. Interestingly enough, this increase in expenditure was noted to be due to higher costs for heavy fuel oil (HFO), reinforcing the need for clean and renewable energy if the Government hopes to cut costs.

Recent issues with the transmission of power have caused the Private Sector Commission (PSC) to take the power company to task for the spate of blackouts.

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