Math and English texts for Children

Dear Editor,
‘Provision of Mathematics and English texts for all students between Grades Seven to 13.” What a timely intervention this is, and I therefore heap accolades on the Ministry of Education (MoE), as it will provide “… all of the Mathematics and English textbooks, free of cost, to students from Grades Seven to 13, from the next school year, commencing September 2022.” This kind of move is necessary and believe me, it is rooted in educational theory and philosophy.
Bearing this in mind, I remind all that those textbooks have been part of the educator sector since time immemorial. Indeed, there is something special about a book. It has a, far longer than that of the individual user and reader. It is also a low-tech device and is accessible to almost anyone who can read the language in which it has been written. During the hours of daylight, it can be utilised without any other supporting technology whatsoever. It needs no maintenance and upgrade, and since ‘learning information’ just does not change overnight, it can last for generations.
In her exact words, Minister Manickchand detailed that “By September, every student from Grade Seven to Grade 13 will have all the Mathematics, English and Literature textbooks that they need.” According to her, “The distribution of the textbooks will mark the fulfillment of yet another promise made by the government to improve education.” We all recall that just recently, the government provided all pupils from Grades One to Six, in the public school system, with all the textbooks needed for studies at their respective levels. At that time, the commitment, now delivered, was that plans will be put into place to extend this to the secondary school level. So, fait accompli.
My second comment is that it is quite noteworthy that this “… latest measure is part of wider initiatives, taken by the Government of Guyana, to reduce the burden on parents to send their children to school.” I think it is safe for me to assume that we are all aware of the negative and deck lining state of education around the world, after prolonged school closures that affected nearly all the world’s students. Simply put, it is that a huge gap was created, and it still exists as regards the learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data gathered show substantial losses, especially in mathematics and reading, in high, middle, and low-income countries alike. No one has been spared.
I think of South Africa, where a recent study highlighted the positive correlation between access to textbooks and learners’ results, taking into account that not everyone was technologically predisposed to ‘out of classroom’ education. What was encouraging, as regards what the government is about to embark on, was the fact that textbooks are especially relevant to improving learning outcomes in low-income countries with large class sizes, a high proportion of unqualified teachers, and a shortage of instructional time. Few will that next to an engaged and prepared teacher, well-designed textbooks in sufficient quantities are the most effective way to improve instruction and learning.
I add that without textbooks, children will end up spending, maybe wasting, many of their school hours copying content from the blackboard, thus severely reducing time for engaged learning. I cap it off by reminding readers that the cost of textbooks is a key barrier that prevents many children from having access to the learning materials they need.
So, ‘on with the input in the education of the children.’ I think we are fully aware that learners with their own reading textbooks (or who share minimally with others) “perform significantly better” than those who are inconvenienced by the lack of them, or by having to share textbooks with too many.

Yours truly,
H Singh