Traditionally, Guyana’s hinterland regions faced several disadvantages in early childhood education compared to coastal areas. These remote regions suffered from a lack of appropriate learning materials in schools. Teachers were required to improvise using what was donated by parents, community groups and NGOs or make their own. Therefore, learning materials were frequently not aligned with the curriculum, nor available when needed.
The lack of trained teachers also posed a challenge: in 2011-2012, 53% of early childhood education (ECE) teachers in hinterland areas were untrained. Even among trained teachers, their instructional methods didn’t follow best practices; many of them were unaware of how play can stimulate cognitive thinking and develop social and motor skills just as much as learning letters and numbers.
Moreover, these regions had the highest poverty rates in the country. While quality ECE is essential to all children, the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children benefit the most.
The combination of poverty, inadequate teaching practices and the lack of appropriate learning materials had a negative effect on learning outcomes.
In 2013, the ministry of Education (MoE) administered a diagnostic assessment to more than 700 children entering grade 1 in hinterland areas. The findings were alarming: approximately 60% of children had not mastered pre-requisite skills for reading, and less than 10% could demonstrate any understanding of text. Additionally, 40% showed very little or no ability to identify any numbers from 1 to 10.