Nursery education in Guyana celebrated 45 years on November 16, 2021, since its existence in a formal setting. To observe this day, the Ministry of Education hosted a National Symposium on Play-Based Pedagogy under the theme “Revisiting Play in the Nursery School System in Guyana: Opportunities for Inclusion and Responsive Programming.”
Speaking at the event hosted at the Pegasus Hotel Guyana, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand noted that nursery education is the most important stage of a child’s development. She disclosed that Guyana has the highest level of enrollment in the Commonwealth at 85 per cent and is continuously pushing to have 100 per cent access to such facilities.
“We’re at a good place where we can see how we can use the experiences over the last 45 years to make sure we get it right. We know that access remains a problem especially in far-flung hinterland communities and although attendance at nursery school is not compulsory like primary and secondary, we want to get to a place where we can make it compulsory and have the facilities that will allow us to do that so in the Ministry, our eyes are set on 100 per cent accessibility to nursery schools,” Minister Manickchand said.
The Minister noted that this is also the most important period for the teaching profession since there is a need to respond to students in different settings. “If our teachers aren’t where they want to be, with training and improvement, and have no desire to get there, then we’re destroying every single child that comes out of your class and not just up to your year-end but all through their lives.”
Also addressing the event was the Assistant Chief Education Officer (Literacy), Samantha Williams who noted that every child must develop the readiness skills and attitude for lifelong learning at the nursery level. The event was a collaboration between the National Centre of Educational Resources Development (NCERD); UNICEF-Guyana; University of Guyana; Syracuse University, USA; The Pennsylvania State University, USA; and Bloomsburg University, USA.
Nicolas Pron of UNICEF pointed out that play is an important pillar of the learning process as he congratulated the Ministry on its achievements over the past 45 years. Similar sentiments were expressed by Professor Jaipaul Roopnarine of Syracuse University in the USA who noted that “play and playfulness can help us be resilient and bounce back when negative events occur, sometimes even bouncing forward.”
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Dr. Paloma Mohamed-Martin further pointed out that the nursery level with the incorporation of play into learning helps children to develop behaviour, personality, individualism, and shows respect for a child’s culture.
In September 1976, when the Government of Guyana took responsibility for providing care and educational support for young children (nursery school programming for the three years nine months to five years nine months), play-based, child-centred, exploration and stimulation activities were promoted to foster good mental health and general developmental domains.
This approach became a well-established curriculum component in early childhood education, as captured in the Guyana Nursery Education Programme. Even though the need for play-based learning at the early childhood stage was well integrated into the nursery education programme in Guyana, iterations in curriculum reform over the past decade witnessed a shift in the delivery and allotted time of play-based interventions.
However, the growing challenges resulting from the migrant crisis in Guyana, the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased frequency and intensity in climate change, gender-based violence, and other issues have led to the revisiting of play-based learning to help children build resilience as enabling coping approaches.
The Symposium on Play Pedagogy was a one-day event that will bring together a wide cross-section of education stakeholders to address the prevailing issue of maximizing the developmental possibilities of children’s play encounters.