Educator advocates for introduction of ethnic studies

Vincent Alexander, the former Registrar of the University of Guyana, who is now Technical Advisor to the Education Ministry, wants ethnic studies to permeate the entire education system in the country. He believes that by bringing focus to this theme, the number of issues which arise in plural societies like Guyana can be addressed.

“We live in a plural society, and what is critical if we are to be a cohesive society is

Vincent Alexander

for the various groups to have an appreciation of, and respect for, each other. I am not quite sure we can rely on the families to do that,” he told Guyana Times during a recent interview.

Alexander envisions that the principle of ethnic studies can be fused into all subject areas, and can be enhanced with the introduction of a course centred on Guyanese history at all levels in schools.

“I think the education system owes it to us to provide that opportunity for a look into each group, a building of respect for each group, and enhancing tolerance among the groups…I don’t necessary believe it has to be a subject, I think a lot of this can be taught by fusion and inferential teaching,” he explained.

He noted that there is not necessarily a need to add another subject to the curriculum. Nonetheless, the educator said he would rather push for the introduction of Guyanese history, since an understanding of the country’s struggles as well as an in-depth background on contributions of each ethnicity can go a long way in fostering an appreciation and respect for the country’s diverse culture; as opposed to the fuelling of hate, as is presently prevalent in today’s society.

Social media is riddled with trolls and other individuals who constantly propagate racist remarks, further inciting the vulnerable, the gullible, and those who leap at every opportunity to use racism to their advantage, it has been observed. In fact, social media users and society at large wasted no time in peddling race-hate messages in light of the recent beatings which occurred at Canal #1 Polder, West Bank Demerara. Observers note that such a culture can have devastating impacts on Guyanese society, the social fabric of which is already on the verge of being torn.

Alexander envisions that UG, the country’s premiere tertiary educational facility, can be involved in research on the matter, and create the material needed to be used at various levels, including in the schools’ curriculum. “I envisage that UG would be involved in research, and that in the schools’ curriculum we introduce Guyanese history, which has to recognise the plurality and the way society has evolved. I also believe that, in other subjects, inferentially we can also deal with the question of a plural society,” he explained.

As it relates to progress, the education advisor said these desires have been fed into the Commission of Inquiry on the local education system, and Government will be guided by the contents of the report, which will be submitted at the end of this month.

The Education Ministry is also moving in the direction of curriculum reform, a matter which will also be addressed in the CoI report.

Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine has underscored the importance and urgency of educational reform in Guyana. Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry has also announced that the Ministry plans to mainstream music and sports into the schools’ curriculum.

The CoI is expected to establish a baseline analysis of the sector, as well as recommend broad strategic guidelines for its enhancement, including addressing issues of the low and declining examination scores and the challenges of human resource development in regard to both enrollment and delivery of the curriculum.