Guyana: A long-term investment in early childhood education

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A commitment to improve early childhood education
Based on evidence of the clear benefits of investing in students’ early years, the Go
vernment of Guyana decided to prioritize investments in early learning.
Global Partnership for Education (GPE) supported the government’s objective and provided a US$1.7 million grant for the period 2015-2018. The goal of the program was to improve literacy and numeracy skills for children living in hinterland regions and remote riverine areas, from preschool to Grade 1.
To achieve this goal, the GPE-supported program promoted an integrated intervention that focused on three pillars: providing capacity building for teachers; improving the supply of teaching and learning materials; and providing training to primary caregivers.

Strengthening the teaching force
To improve teacher effectiveness, 526 teachers participated in a compulsory, annual training program which covered pedagogy, phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, and the use of resource toolkits. The training was delivered by master trainers, the best and brightest teachers across the different regions, whose role was to not just to train, but also monitor and mentor early childhood education teachers.
This training was vital for many teachers. Most of them had weak or no academic background. The training helped them acquire new techniques for teaching in the classroom, while putting them in a better position to deliver the content of the curriculum.
“Overall, the program has been very successful. I talked to many teachers…I particularly observed one teacher during the training workshop that when she came the first year she was so shy and hardly spoke on public, but after two years of attending the program she became a strong leader,” Hongyu Yang, Senior Education Specialist, World Bank.
Monitoring and evaluation was one of the key elements of the program’s success. Master trainers visited the teachers up to twice per semester to observe and support the implementation of instructional methods and learning activities, as well as provide support on the spot.

Providing effective learning materials

Along with improving teacher training, GPE supported the distribution of 750 early childhood education resource kits to schools as well as teachers’ manuals explaining their use. These included 30+ learning resources such as stackable cubes, numeracy flash cards, mega blocks building bags, alphabet and numbers foam puzzles, among others.
Aiming to promote more experiential and inquiry-based learning activities for children, the learning materials helped students learn independently and in small groups through play. The teachers’ manual helped teachers develop learning materials from locally available resources that are culturally specific to the learning environment.
“In some schools, the kit has now become a whole school resource. It’s not just for the early childhood level. You have grade 2, 4, and 6 teachers asking to borrow the kits, so that they can give a more action-oriented approach to the children’s learning. That says there is a mental shift in how we treat education, Quenita Walrond, Nursery Technical Coordinator, Guyana’s Ministry of Education

Training programs for primary caregivers
In Guyana, few parents are exposed to methods to support their children’s learning and are unaware of the behaviors that can help their children succeed.
Recognizing that parents and caregivers play a key role in reinforcing lessons from school at home, the ministry of Education, with support from GPE, decided to make primary caregiver education a critical area of intervention.
The program supported face-to-face training sessions for primary caregivers at school and during parent-teachers associations meetings, parent-teacher conferences, learning resource centers; and home visits, to name a few.
To reinforce these messages, GPE funded the “Read. Play. Love.” campaign, the first (and internationally award-winning) literacy and numeracy mass media campaign for parents and caregivers of children under 5 that encourages them to start modelling pro-educational behaviors at home.
As a result, parents learned about their role in supporting their child’s development while acquiring the necessary skills to support their children’s’ learning more effectively.

A sustainable investment in learning and equity
Ensuring sustainability after the GPE-supported program ended was a key priority for the Ministry of Education. To achieve this, teachers and master trainers will continue to receive training as part of the ministry’s continuous professional development program. In addition, the replenishment of the learning materials toolkits is already budgeted in the next financial plans.
Thanks to the program, according to the Ministry of Education, more than 8,000 school children living in hinterland and riverine areas improved their literacy skills by 139% and their numeracy skills by 133% (compared to 90% and 75% respectively in coastal areas).
“When I looked at the data to see the percentage in terms of success and growth that we have seen in the Hinterland, it certainly tells a very good story. A story of growth, a story of hope, and a story of encouragement, particularly for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged population,” Nicolette Henry, Minister of Education.
GPE’ support to Guyana has gone beyond financial resources. With GPE’s support, Guyana developed an education sector plan for 2014-2018 that was robust and evidence-based. Additionally, the GPE program helped the government take a more holistic approach to ECE, moving away from fragmented interventions in the past.
“I think GPE has set the course for us to understand that there is need for partnership in moving education forward. Education cannot be confined to the chief education officer alone, or to the classroom, it has to be a partnership approach. Because when we come together, there will be a collective impact, and that is what we’re constantly searching for in education…collective impact,” Marcel Hutson, Chief Education Officer, ministry of Education.
GPE has supported the Government of Guyana in making a long-term investment in ensuring that future generations of children have equal learning opportunities. These children, who will be tomorrow’s workforce and the nation’s future leaders, are now better prepared to undertake any challenge. (Global Partnership for Education – 2018)