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Government of Guyana’s policy on post-secondary education as a tool for national economic and social development

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Written on 14-Jun-2016 by Fidel A. Captain.

Abstract

This paper is the course project for ED5572, which involves conducting policy analysis of a government policy issue of importance and relevance to higher education today. To this end, this paper will analyze the Government of Guyana’s policy on post-secondary education as a tool for national economic and social development. It first gives a background of this public policy and the role of government in developing higher education policy. This is followed by a detailed analysis of this policy that includes objectives, the environment, boundaries and limits, and recommendations. Next, the ethical issues related to this policy are discussed, which include education commodification, quality, access and cost. Finally, the impact of this policy on post education in Guyana is discussed.

Background

Public policy on higher education plays an important role in long term strategic planning for the national development of any country because the most important resource of any nation is its people and there must be strong post-secondary education policy regarding the developent and use of the nation’s human capital for economic and social development.

The public policy topic that will be explored is:
“Government of Guyana’s policy on post-secondary education as a tool for national economic and social development”.

The reason for choosing this topic is because the author is from Guyana and is very interested in higher education in Guyana and using higher education as a tool for economic and social development in Guyana. Guyana is one of the poorest countries on in the Western Hemisphere and the author strongly believes that education is one of the tools that can be used alleviate poverty and grow the middle class in Guyana.

The author also believes that in addition to using education as a tool for economic and social development, a broad post-secondary education base is necessary in order survive and succeed in the new knowledge based economy of the 21st century. Mellow and Katopes (2009) stress that developing nations must educate more citizens to higher levels, espousing a greater number of citizens with mid-level intellectual skill sets, which they argue will lead to a larger middle class enabling citizens to move across income levels (p. 56). In addition, Chapman and Austin (2002) notes that governments recognize the need for their education system to produce citizens with the skills necessary to succeed in the new technological and information based economy (p.14).

The role of government in higher education policy

In most developing countries, including Guyana, there is usually one ministry or governmental department that deals with education, and hence all public policy relating to education and higher education tends to come out of this ministry or department. This policy is usually made manifest in the form of an education strategic plan, an education master plan or an education sector plan. In some countries, such as Malaysia, there is a separate ministry for post-secondary education and a separate strategic plan for post-secondary Education (Azman, Sirat & Ahmad, 2014, p. 306).

These education strategic or master plans tend to set the stage for five or ten years as to what the overarching government policy will be, the framework within which the government’s education policy will be implemented and the role the government will play in higher education over that period. The role of the government in higher education policy in developing countries at any point in time is usually determined by the current education strategic or master plan, or part of a larger vision for the development of that nation. In Guyana, there is the ‘Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’, which is not evidently part of any larger development strategy; but in Malaysia, there is the ‘National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2020’, which arose out of the Mahathir’s ‘Vision 2020’ in 1991 where he envisioned Malaysia being a developed country by 2020 that led to education policy changes that would oversee the development of Malaysia’s human capital as part of his vision (Tham, 2013, p. 651).

In the ‘Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’, “The Ministry defines education as more than the instrumental activity for supporting greater national development or reducing poverty” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v) and that in recognizing the changing economic and technological climate “requires that the Ministry commit to a policy of providing continuing education and training opportunities for the adult population” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v). This outlines the role the government intends to play in driving and supporting higher education in Guyana over the next few years, and also the way it sees education as contributing to national development.


Policy Analysis

The following analysis is conducted according to what is outlined in the chapter ‘Conduction Policy Analysis in Higher Education’ of the book ‘Public Policy in Higher Education’ by Lovell, Larson, Dean & Longanecker (2010). It first defines the objectives of the policy, then gives a description of the environment that the policy will effect. This is followed by a list and description of the boundaries and limits affecting the policy and finally recommendations for the policy are given.

Objectives

The main objective of the policy outlined above would be to provide a framework for the advancement of post-secondary education as a tool for national social and economic development. Guyana is a developing country in the 21st century and its most important resource is its people, therefore a policy advocating the advancement of its people’s intellectual skill set as a means of development is of paramount importance. This is supported by Mellow and Katopes (2009) who state, “in order to respond to the burgeoning global knowledge economy, each nation must educate a greater number of people to higher levels than ever before” (p. 56).

The policy would also guarantee quality, affordable post-secondary education that is equally available and affordable to all Guyanese citizens. It would ensure that students who are qualified and would like to pursue post-secondary education can do so and are not deterred by the cost. It would allow for the development of private post-secondary education institutions alongside government-funded institutions, but in a way that does not promote education commodification and protects the interest of the Guyanese education consumer.

The policy would ensure that measures are in place to measure the quality of post-secondary education being provided by private and government-run institutions and ensure that quality control measures are in line with the aforementioned framework for national social and economic development. It would outline the role quality control councils or bodies play in ensuring that the quality of the education provided to the Guyanese people by both private and government-run post-secondary education institutions are in line with this policy.

The policy would also clearly outline how the gap between secondary school and university and between secondary school and the work force would be bridged. This is a problem faced by most developing countries and Guyana as noted by Spangler & Tyler (2011), “a missing link in most countries is the community college role that facilitates the transition between high school and skilled employment or the university—an institutional mandate to enhance skills of young adults” (p. 43).

The environment

Guyana is one of the poorest countries on in the Western Hemisphere with “a GDP per capita of US$ 4,053 (2014)” (The World Bank, 2016). This should place policy regarding social and economic development at the top of the government’s agenda and this policy promotes post-secondary education as a means of social and economic development.

The post-secondary education system includes technical and vocational institutions, a teacher training college, a government run university and other newer and smaller universities and continuing education. However, the education system does not include a community college which can enhance the skills of the Guyanese workforce and help to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education.

In Guyana, the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing all education in Guyana from nursery to university, which includes TVET, teacher training and adult and continuing education. This means that all policy regarding education emanates from this ministry, therefore this ministry would play a principal role in the development of the aforementioned policy.

The government as a whole would also play a pivotal role because the proposed policy calls for using an education for development framework for national social and economic development. The government would need to outline a clear vision of how education would be used as a tool for national social and economic development and then pass it on to the Ministry of Education for the implementation of the details of such a policy.

Boundaries and limits

The 21st century economy of a developing nation is heavily dependent on the knowledge base of its human resources. Human resources place a serious limitation on the pace and type of development of any nation, regardless of what natural resources the country has at its disposal. The knowledge base of a country’s human resources, in addition to its natural resources, determine the nature and direction social and economic development takes in any nation, especially developing nations.

Developing nations need to broaden the knowledge base of their citizens if they are to survive and succeed in the new economy of the 21st century. Although Guyana has many natural resources that include gold, diamonds, bauxite, timber, rice and sugar, the human resource is one of the most vital in the 21st century because this can help determine how efficiently the natural resources are used and can effect how many people will benefit from the knowledge based sector of the economy created from the spin offs from using natural resources.

The agenda of the political party in power is also a key limiting factor. This is because if the development of the nation’s human resource capital via post-secondary education is not on their agenda then such a policy would not be pursued by the government.

Recommendations

A current analysis of the current Government of Guyana policy on post-secondary education’s role in economic and social development shows that it only attracts two lines in its ‘Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’. It states, “The Ministry defines education as more than the instrumental activity for supporting greater national development or reducing poverty” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v) and that in recognizing the changing economic and technological climate “requires that the Ministry commit to a policy of providing continuing education and training opportunities for the adult population” (Ministry of Education, n.d., p. v).

A more detailed policy is thus proposed that entails the following:

  • Provide a clear 10 to 20 year vision for post-secondary education in Guyana.
  • Provide a framework for the advancement of post-secondary education as a tool for national social and economic development.
  • Safeguard national economic development by broadening of the intellectual base of its workers through post-secondary education.
  • Guarantee quality, affordable post-secondary education that is equally available and affordable to all citizens.
  • Facilitate the transition between high school and skilled employment or the university.
  • Facilitate private sector education entrepreneurship and development while protecting the country and its citizens from education commodification.
  • Cognizant of the public interest that post-secondary education serves, both public and private institutions and ardently protects this interest.
  • Cognizant of the role of that the knowledge base of the nation’s human resources plays in the 21st century economy.
  • Provide systems to manage and monitor the quality of post-secondary education being provided by private and government-run institutions, ensuring that they are in line with international standards.

Ethical Considerations

The BBC (n.d.) describes ethics as “a system of moral principles… concerned with what is good for individuals and society” (para. 1 - 2) that provides us with a moral map helping us to navigate difficult issues. With regard to the aforementioned policy, there are four moral principles concerned with what is good for individuals and society regarding post-secondary education:

  • Education commodification
  • Education quality
  • Equal access to education
Education Commodification

Over the last two decades there has been a meteoric rise in the demand for post-secondary education and with this rise in demand an influx of post-secondary education entrepreneurs to fill this demand. Post-secondary education is now a major commodity and societies and nations have to decide how this commodity is traded and how to protect the consumers of this commodity. “The forces unleashed on higher education have propelled universities to function less as institutions with social, cultural and indeed intellectual objectives and more as producers of commodities that can be sold in the international marketplace” (Naidoo, 2007, p. 3).

The post-secondary education entrepreneurs or private post-secondary education institutions only respond to the demand for the education product and are generally not interested in the public good education serves or a country’s development goals in relation to education. Thus, public policy should be used to protect the consumer of the education product, but should not be to the detriment of the post-secondary education entrepreneurs. The policy should ensure that these education entrepreneurs adhere to nationally and internationally accepted moral and ethical principles regarding the supply and delivery of the education commodity.

Education Quality

It is difficult to find a complete definition of what quality post-secondary education is, but Bogue (1998) describes at least four systems for quality assurance in colleges and universities: (i) accreditation and program reviews, (ii) assessment-and-outcomes (iii) total Quality Management (TQM), and (iv) accountability and performance indicators (p. 9). Any policy regarding post-secondary education must address at least the first two of these four systems in a manner that protects students ensuring that the quality of the education they receive is of an acceptable standard.

As a moral and ethical imperative, any national post-secondary education policy should speak specifically and concisely to the quality of education delivered by post-secondary education institutions and received by their students. It should ensure that proper quality control mechanisms are in place and adhered to by post-secondary education institutions, ensuring that students get the quality education they pay for and deserve.

Equal Access to Education

The increasing demand for post-secondary education means that many persons that fall into the lower income bracket would be trying to obtain a post-secondary education. Any education policy should ensure that no post-secondary education institution discriminates against its students in their admittance policy with regards to income levels. Everyone should be able to apply for and obtain admission to any post-secondary institution regardless of his or her income level.

As a developing country, many of Guyana’s citizens will not be able to afford the tuition and other costs of post-secondary education, but the policy should ensure that measures are put in place so that this is not a deterrent to those aspiring to post secondary education. The aforementioned policy should facilitate loans, grants and scholarships to students of public and private post-secondary education institutions.

Education Cost

The cost of education should not be prohibitive, putting it out of the reach of the majority of those who need it most. While taking into account the need for post-secondary entrepreneurs to profit from their education ventures, the aforementioned policy should ensure that the cost of this education product is not so exorbitant as to restrict access to only the wealthy or those with sure means of paying for it.

While not putting a price cap or price controls on the post-secondary product, the aforementioned policy should ensure that the prices charged are fair for the product delivered. The policy should ensure that measures are put in place to monitor and if necessary regulate the cost of post-secondary education so that it is not exorbitant and out of the reach of the majority of persons who need it.


Policy Impact

Lovell et. Al (2010) says that public policy, whether in education or otherwise, is usually in response to some societal problem or shortcoming that the policy aims to remedy by stipulating a recommended course of action (p. 3). In developing countries such as Guyana, a ministry responsible for education usually identifies such problems or shortcomings related to education and then prescribe policies to remedy these problems or shortcomings. As mentioned before, the government would outline the vision of the policy on how education would be used as a tool for national social and economic development, providing the framework for its implementation and then pass it on to the Ministry of Education for the implementation of the details of this policy.

The main impact of the proposed aforementioned education policy would be the advancement of the intellectual skill set of the Guyanese people leading to national social and economic development. If properly implemented, the policy would lead to a larger number of Guyanese being educated to higher levels enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty leading to a larger middle class and a booming economy.

If properly developed and implemented, the aforementioned education policy would also ensure that quality, affordable post-secondary education is equally available and affordable to all Guyanese citizens. It would ensure that students who are qualified and would like to pursue post-secondary education can do so and are not deterred by the cost. The policy would facilitate the development of private post-secondary education institutions in a way that protects the interest of the Guyanese education consumer from education commodification.

If properly developed and implemented, the aforementioned education policy would lead to bodies in place to measure the quality of post-secondary education being provided by private and government-run institutions. The resulting quality control bodies would ensure that students coming out of the post-secondary education system are well educated and equiped with the skills and knowledge specified by the learning outcomes of their specific programs.

Finally, the aforementioned education policy would lead to a bridging of the gap between secondary school and university and between secondary school and the work force. This gap can be filled by private and/or public post-secondary institutions that offer courses in line with the policy specifically geared to enhancing the skill set of the Guyanese work force and the bridging of the gap between secondary school and university and between secondary school and the work force.

Conclusion

Governments play an important role in developing post-secondary education policy that aids in the development of their nations. In Guyana, the only available documented policy on education is the ‘Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014-2018’, which only gives about two sentences regarding post-secondary education policy. A more detailed post-secondary education policy is therefore proposed that, among other things (i) provides a clear 10 to 20 year vision for post-secondary education in Guyana; (ii) provides a framework for the advancement of post-secondary education as a tool for national social and economic development; (iii) guarantees quality, affordable post-secondary education that is equally available and affordable to all citizens; (iv) facilitates the transition between high school and skilled employment or the university; and (v) facilitates private sector education entrepreneurship and development while protecting the country and its citizens from education commodification.

References

Azman, N., Sirat, M., & Ahmad, A. R. (2014). Higher education, learning regions and the malaysian transformation policies. Higher Education Policy, 27(3), 301-321. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.capella.edu/10.1057/hep.2013.26

BBC. (n.d.). Ethics: A general introduction. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml

Bogue, E. G. (1998). Quality Assurance in Higher Education: The Evolution of Systems and Design Ideals. New Directions For Institutional Research, 1998(99), 7.

Chapman, D. W., & Austin, A. E. (Eds.). (2002). Higher education in the developing world: Changing contexts and institutional responses. Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Lovell, C., Larson, T. E., Dean, D. R., & Longanecker, D. (2010). Public policy and higher education. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Learning Solutions.

Mellow, G. O., & Katopes, P. (2009). A prescription for the emerging world: The global potential of the community college model. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 41(5), 55-59.

Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Guyana Education Sector Plan 2014 - 2018 (Guyana, Ministry of Education). Retrieved from http://web.moeguyana.org/index.php/downloads/doc_download/803-education-sector-plan-2014-2018

Naidoo, R. (2007). Higher education as a global commodity: The perils and promises for developing countries. The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, London.

Spangler, M. S., & Tyler, A. Q. (2011). Identifying fit of mission and environment: Applying the American community college model internationally. New Directions For Higher Education, 2011(155), 41-52. doi:10.1002/he.443

Tham, S. Y. (2013). Internationalizing higher education in Malaysia: Government policies and university’s response. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(5), 648-662. doi: 10.1177/1028315313476954

The World Bank. (2016, March 31). Guyana Overview. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/guyana/overview