Sandwiched between Suriname and Venezuela, and bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Guyana has close political and cultural ties with both the Caribbean region and Latin America. Guyana’s total population of 767,085 (2015) is heavily concentrated in the northeast, in and around the capital city Georgetown and along the Berbice River to the east. The country is divided into three counties – Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice – and has four distinct geographical areas: the interior savannahs, the highland region, the hilly sand and clay region and the low coastal plain. The official language of Guyana is English. Gaining independence from Britain in 1966, it joined UNESCO in March 1967.
Guyana’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and the exploitation of natural resources. In 2015, agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industries accounted for 28 per cent of Guyana’s total GDP, while bauxite (the world’s main source of aluminum), sugar, rice, gold and timber made up 83 per cent of the country’s exports. Despite the country’s rich natural resources, poverty remains a major issue in Guyana. The 2006 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) estimated that 18.6 per cent of the population lived in extreme poverty while 36.1 per cent experienced moderate poverty. The highest incidence of poverty was found among children (aged 16 and below) and ethnic groups living in rural areas.
The Government of Guyana attaches great importance to the role of education in reducing poverty. It aims to enhance both the quality of education and its outcomes, encouraging both a more productive way of life and greater respect for the country’s ethnic diversity. This is reflected in the two priorities set out in Guyana’s Education Sector Plan for 2014–2018:
- Increase learning outcomes for all levels of education and all sub-groups (vulnerable and at-risk children, children with special education needs, and ethnic groups living in rural areas);
- Decrease the differences in learning outcomes between sub-groups, especially between students in coastal and hinterland schools.
Guyana recognizes that achieving quality education is a matter of both improving access to education services and reorienting the education system to foster the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary to meet individual, national and global needs. It is against this backdrop that Guyana, in cooperation with UNESCO, developed a draft policy for education for sustainable development (ESD) in 2015. This is the first policy of its kind in the Caribbean. The policy objectives include embedding ESD into the education system ‘through literacy and lifelong learning in all aspects which concern sustainability’ and providing ‘equitable and inclusive access to high-quality formal, non-formal and informal learning and education which includes the ESD thrusts and strategies’. By delivering education that empowers people for change, Guyana hopes to foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Adult learning and education has a key role to play in this, as Guyana’s Ministry of Education acknowledges through its efforts to provide the adult population with better access to continuing education and training. The Institute of Distance and Continuing Education, an arm of the University of Guyana, is dedicated to offering relevant and effectively organized education to adults and out-of-school young people. The objective of the institute is to fulfill the national goal of providing equal access to education. More specifically, it aims to provide learning opportunities to enable and empower adults to effectively contribute to societal change. It also provides training courses for trainers engaged in continuing education, so as to promote the interaction between formal and non-formal education.
Another notable achievement in promoting quality education for all in Guyana is the Learning Channel, an educational television channel established in 2011. The Learning Channel offers educational programmes 24 hours a day, targeting children as well as adults, including teachers. Today, it broadcasts to 16 locations, reaching all regions in the country, even the remote hinterland. With the model lessons delivered, the channel expects to support teachers in Guyana in improving both their teaching content and their methodologies.
Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute. 2011. Country Guyana. Available at: http://www.cardi.org/country-offices/guyana/ [Accessed 18 April 2017].
Central Intelligence Agency. 2014. The World Factbook, Guyana. Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gy.html [Accessed 18 April 2017].
Ministry of Education Guyana. Education Sector Plan 2014-2018. Available at: https://www.education.gov.gy/web/index.php/downloads/doc_download/803-education-sector-plan-2014-2018 [Accessed 20 April 2017].
Ministry of Finance, Co-operative Republic of Guyana. 2017. End of Year Outcome 2016. Available at: http://finance.gov.gy/documents-publications/category/reports [Accessed 19 April 2017].
Ministry of Finance, Co-operative Republic of Guyana. 2015. Mid-year Report 2015. Available at: http://finance.gov.gy/images/uploads/documents/mid_year_2015.pdf [Accessed 19 April 2017].
The World Bank Group. 2017. Guyana. Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/guyana [Accessed 18 April 2017].
UNESCO. 2016. Education for Sustainable Development Policy, Guyana. Available at: https://www.education.gov.gy/web/index.php/downloads/doc_download/867-education-for-sustainable-development-policy [Accessed 20 April 2017].
United Nations Statistics Division. 2017. Guyana. Available at: http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=GUYANA [Accessed 19 April 2017].