The preliminary report into the state of education was handed over to Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine on Friday; and the final report is expected to be handed over in the next two three weeks, according to the commission.
In delivering some of the commission’s finding, its Chairman, Ed Caesar, informed that there have been 98 consultations countrywide, with contributions from all
Caesar said the commission found that there is need for greater collaboration between the regional education departments and the regional administrations, to determine the educational needs of each particular region.
He said the commission suggests there be the establishment of an education committee at the regional democratic level, and urged that that committee should be structured to examine the needs of the region and convey those to the Department of Education, so those needs could be adequately addressed.
The report also revealed that some Regional Education Officers (REdO) are not aware of their responsibilities; and while systems are in place to inform them of such, sanctions are notably absent.
“Unless there is a system of sanctions, (wherein) people who are not performing are either removed or disciplined, we will continue on this same road. We are suggesting that there be a reorientation of officers in the region, and that reorientation must end up with them signing a contract to say that they understand that these are their responsibilities,” Caesar recommended.
He added that the committee had found there is need for the review of the criteria used to allocate officers to the region, since there has been no change in the policy since 1982. He also warned of the consequences of stifling teachers.
“Officers in the region must understand the importance of teachers. Teachers are priceless; therefore, at every level, we must treat our teacher differently. We must empower our head teachers, we must let them understand that they must think outside of the box, we must praise and encourage creativity,” he advised.
“Too (many) people (teachers), during the consultations, complained that they can only do what have been demanded and directed by the officers. They can see things that they can adjust, and they can adapt to suit a particular situation; but they cannot (operate outside of what has been demanded and directed) because if they do that, the chances are they can be sanctioned,” Caesar added.
The commission’s findings also included a recommendation that the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) be equipped with the research capacity it needs, since progress in the sector cannot be measured and analyzed.
The report also noted that the ministry’s inspectorate should have a separate unit, and not be a part of another unit. “We are the only country, probably in the world, where the inspectorate unit is the part of another unit. The inspectorate unit (is) supposed to be an autonomous body, reporting to the highest office in the land.”
The commissioners also found that there is a greater need for Welfare Officers who are equipped with guidance and counselling skills, and recommended that there be one such officer in each school. However, they noted that, if not possible, there should be one officer with responsibility for no more than five schools.
In accepting the report, Education Minister Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine said he would be presenting the report to both Cabinet and the National Assembly.
“I would prefer the report not be buried in another Select Committee and we go on and on about the issues. I would think the comprehensiveness of the commission of inquiry is sufficient enough for us to act, and that is going to require some commitment; and that is something we are a bit short on,” he said.
The Government, in April 2016, launched an inquiry into the education system with the aim of gathering “evidential bases” for the revision, upgrading and extension of the system.
The CoI set up to conduct this probe would have held hearings across the country with parents, guardians, teachers, religious leaders, unions, and the private sector on their perception of the state of the education system, as well as recommendations for its enhancement. These series of engagements stretched into late November, with the CoI having a number of extensions.