Introduction : Contrasting Contexts
Guyana, ‘the land of many waters’, and Jamaica ‘land of wood
and water’ , both former British colonies , are countries which have much
in common and yet are different in many ways. Guyana is situated on the South
American continent ,surrounded by Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese speaking neighbours,
while Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean sea whose nearest Spanish speaking
neighbour is Cuba. Table 1 gives a summary of its main differences which underscore
that Guyana faces greater challenges than Jamaica in terms of its level of poverty,
the variety of its ethnic groups , including an indigenous population scattered
over a vast and difficult terrain for which it has to provide trained teachers.
Table 1: Some differences between Jamaica and Guyana
||Main Ethnic Groups (%)
||51 East Indian 38 African Guyanese
|Sugar, Rice, Timber, Gold, Diamond mining
Aims of the Paper
Distance Education has been described as an educational process in which a
significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone removed in space
and/or time from the learner (Perraton et al 1987. Its teaching/learning activities
take place off campus and involve activities other than face-to-face interaction.
This paper seeks to compare the challenges of training teachers in the vast
remote under underdeveloped areas of Guyana with those faced by teachers in
Jamaica who are exposed to more sophisticated technology and physical and human
resources, with particular reference to the extent to which the use of the distance
/on-line delivery mode has enabled
- greater access to training particularly by teachers
who had hitherto been disadvantaged, for example by virtue of their geographical
location in relation to training facilities.
- Quality of teacher training which is comparable
to face to face delivery , with quality being looked at in terms of resource
inputs, , relevance of the content of the print materials , as outcomes (
as measured by comparing performance of teachers trained using different delivery
modes) and to some extent as processes.
Sources of Data
The data sources are evaluations of distance education programmes conducted
by the author on the Hinterland Teacher Training Project (HTTP) in Guyana (Jennings
1996), the evaluation of the Certificate programme by distance (CED/DE) delivered
by the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE )in Guyana (Jennings 2005) and
in Jamaica a comparison of the performance of students in a course delivered
by the author face to face in the Certificate in Education fulltime (CED(F/T)
and by distance (CED(UWIDITE)(Jennings 1999) and research on the B. Ed (Secondary
) by distance (B Ed Sec) .
For over 75 years the CPCE has been offering initial training for teachers at
the Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary level and has implemented special
programmes for training teachers from the hinterland. One example is the European
Union funded HTTP Phase 1 in 1994 which trained 150 under qualified and untrained
teachers in the hinterland regions using DE (print based). Another is the CIDA
funded Trained Teachers’ Certificate programme using DE. In August 2001
, 280 trainees from five of CPCE ’s in-service centers located in regions
2,3,4,6 and 10 commenced the first Early Childhood and Primary teacher training
DE programme. In July 2004 this pilot programme was completed and 64% of the
trainees were successful. In fact the CED/DE was described as one of the most
outstanding successes of the CIDA initiatives (Cowater International Inc. 2005
Since 1961, the DES has offered the CED(F/T) in areas such as Education Management
and Supervision and the teaching of subjects (e.g. Mathematics, Reading ,Teaching
of Hearing Impaired (THI). The CED (UWIDITE) was first offered in the 1983/4
academic year in the THI and Teaching of Reading. It was governed by the same
regulations as for the CED(F/T),except that whereas the latter lasted three
terms, the CED(UWIDITE) lasted four terms and required candidates to be teaching
full-time in a school in the area of specialization selected for study. A cohort
of CED(UWIDITE) candidates who com¬menced studies in October 1983, completed
in February 1985. This paper draws on data concerning this cohort.
On November 8 2001, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture (MOEYC) awarded
a ten-year contract to the UWI to develop and implement a B.Ed degree delivered
by distance to teachers in secondary high schools in Jamaica. The MOEYC funded
the programme at no cost to the trainees. The expectation was that 3,000 teachers
would be trained in five cohorts over this period in a range of subjects The
first intake of students was January 2003. Initially the programme was print-based,
with students being given course guides and a book of readings for each course.
The distant –taught courses were delivered at the UWI Distance Education
Centres (UWIDEC) across Jamaica, but the face to face courses were offered in
the summer on the Mona campus. Over time , however, the demands of the numerous
courses on UWIDEC far outweighed the available physical and timetable space
for tutorials and teleconference and so in the 2004/5 academic year, the decision
was taken to move to asynchronous technologies (e.g. email discussion lists
, audio /video recorded lectures).This enabled students to complete their programme
without the need for attendance on campus except in the summer. .However, the
course in the programme with which this paper is concerned- Issues and Perspectives
in Education was delivered in the traditional distance mode using print materials,
teleconference and face to face tutorials.
Challenges in teacher training in Guyana and Jamaica
Table 2 contrasts the challenges faced by the distance programmes offered in
both countries. It shows the regions and the resource centres to which the trainees
in the CED/DE in Guyana were attached and a sample of the UWIDEC to which the
trainees in the B.Ed Sec. in Jamaica are attached. It should be noted that when
the CED(UWIDITE) was offered to the first cohort, it was delivered by teleconference
from the Mona site to which students in other parts of the country had to travel.
But this was no longer necessary once UWIDEC sites had been established in all
the parishes in Jamaica.
Table 2 : Contexts for teacher training in Guyana and Jamaica
|| Internet Access
||2 Anna Regina
||Transportation costly in Pomeroon
||Transportation costly from islands in Essequibo
||No Head of Centre
Variable transportation costs
||6 New Amsterdam
||High transportation cost
||Trainees relocated to town due to transportation costs
||Transportation costs for students outside parish
||2 Port Antonio
||Inclement weather disrupts communication
||3 Brown’s Town
||Difficulty with on-line registration
As can be seen from table 2 the cost of transportation to get from their homes
to the RCs is a major challenge for trainee teachers in Guyana For example,
it can cost trainees as much as $10,000.00 to get to Vreeden –Hoop from
the more far flung areas and even those with their own boats find fuel costs
very expensive. These costs sometimes cause trainees to stay away from the tutorials.
Because of the difficulty with transportation as well as cost, the policy in
region 10 is to relocate trainees in the remote riverain areas to schools in
or near Linden and they are housed in a hostel. Transportation costs are not
such a deterrent in Jamaica except for those who do not live near site. Even
so it does not pose the sort of challenges associated with Guyana. For example,
in the case of the first Hinterland Upgrading Programme in 1985-86
, although most of the teachers who did the programme were successful, the programme
was discontinued because of the costliness of transportation. One of the centers
for training was located in a part of the country which required students who
lived in certain regions to go by air first to Georgetown and then by road and
steamer to the area. This proved too costly to be sustainable.
Inadequacies in physical conditions and resource support
Most of the Regions in Guyana do not have a separate Centre for the training
programme. For example, the Vreed-En-Hoop Centre is located at the Vreed-En-Hoop
Community High School which itself is in a very bad condition. The facilities
are cramped , the books are stacked in a way that makes them inaccessible to
the students and tutors. The classrooms used for the face to face sessions are
often left dirty by the school children and the roof leaks. The Georgetown Centre
is located on the CPCE campus where the pre-service programme is offered. There
are no photocopying, computer or internet access or research facilities available
at the Centre. And so students have to access such services at the CPCE pre-service
facilities. The problem is that the library and copy shop are not open beyond
4.30.p.m the DE students have to be in classes from 4.00p.m The trainees suffer
from a sense of being treated like ‘poor cousins’ by their colleagues
who do the CED full time at CPCE main campus.
Table 2 shows that the teachers in the programmes offered by the UWI, Jamaica,
have far more advantages. The UWIDEC sites have computer labs and internet access
enables the teachers to access resources from the Main Library of the UWI campus.
The main challenges they face are transportation ( in cases where students live
far from a particular site), inclement weather affecting telephone communication,
or technical difficulties in linking with the UWI on-line system for student
There is no doubt that distance education has made it possible for more teachers
to be trained in both countries. It has enabled access to teachers , such as
those in the Pomeroon, who were unable to leave their families to go to the
city for training. But there are times when unnecessary encumbrances result
in persons being denied access. For example, there is a the case of a teacher
in a remote part of region 6 who would not have been able to attend tutorials
every week and so was denied access as she would not have met the attendance
requirement. This suggests the need for flexibility in the application of regulations
governing such programmes.
In the case of Jamaica, DE has enabled the UWI to reach a larger audience
spread over a wider geographical area at a much faster rate than traditional
forms of delivery. For example, over a period of 22 years from the time that
the CED(F/T) was first awarded (1962-1984), Dominica had 12 persons trained.
On the UWIDITE system it had 11 persons trained in the first two cohorts of
students alone (graduates of 1985 and 1986) (Jennings 1999). But providing access
to an educational opportunity is one thing. Getting the target group to take
advantage of it is quite another.
With a projected five intake for training 3,000 students, it was expected
that the B.EdSec would attract 600 students per intake. However, by the final
intake less than one thousand trainees would have been admitted. A number of
reasons account for this. A telephone survey of 23 schools in 2003 revealed
that some 60% of them was unaware of the programme , despite use of the media
for disseminating information about the programme. Information sent to the schools
about the programme was not well displayed and principals themselves did little
to encourage the teachers to apply. Off-shore universities also proved more
attractive to some of the teachers. A major problem , however, was that a number
of the teachers in the upgraded high schools were not qualified for entry into
the B.EdSec. Many were trained to teach at the primary level, but were teaching
in a secondary school. Others were trained to teach at the secondary level but
were not teaching the subject that they were trained for and it was a requirement
that to be admitted into the programme, the teacher had to be teaching the subject
in which further training was being sought.
Quality and parity of programmes with different delivery modes
One of the fears of DE students is that their programme would be of an inferior
quality (e.g in terms of content and tutors/lecturers) to that offered face
to face. In the DE programmes examined in this paper, the content for the DE
delivery was the same as for the face to face, but due to the late arrival of
modules for the DE trainees in Guyana , they were put at a disadvantage compared
with their face to face peers. When asked about the greatest difficulty they
experienced in the programme most DE students highlighted the late arrival of
modules. Delays in producing the modules led to courses being taught out of
sequence. For example, the core content courses were not taught till the second
year of the programme. Tutors had to do face to face sessions when the modules
had not yet been developed and so trainees had nothing to read to prepare them
for the sessions. As a result the trainees became dependent on the face to face
sessions. While 40% of them felt these sessions were held frequently enough,
54% wanted more face to face sessions (Jennings 2005). And yet they had to do
the same final examination paper as the face to face students. The exam paper
was set by CPCE lecturers, with no input from the tutors.
There were also disadvantages in terms of teaching. Full time programmes are
usually delivered by staff who are permanently employed to the institution and
therefore have been subjected to more stringent assessment of their qualifications
and experience . In the case of the CED/DE in Guyana, most of the tutors were
retirees with over 20 years of experience in the education system, and while
they were very dedicated, only about 50%of them had training in distance education.
There were difficulties in recruiting staff with the knowledge and skills to
write certain modules (e.g. in Personal and Professional Development) and to
teach certain courses (e.g. Music).Spanish was squashed in a concentrated period
of three weeks over one summer. For those doing the subject for the first time,
this hardly gave any time for oral skills to be developed to any extent.
Most of the trainees (57%) felt that the content of the modules were not suitable
for the hinterland areas. In one of the modules on Reading Across the Curriculum,
for example, reference is made to ‘what I see in the bedroom and planning
a trip to the zoo’. While this may be appropriate for trainees in the
city, it is hardly relevant to those who inhabit the rainforest and brave the
dangers and joys of the wildlife everyday.
In terms of performance, at the June 2004 sitting a total of 256 out of 281
actually took the examinations. Of these a little over 65% passed. At the CPCE
campus where the DE Certificate programme was delivered face to face, the performance
of the primary trainees surpassed those who did the DE Certificate in the five
in-service centers. However, the performance of ECE trainees in regions 2, 3
and 4 surpassed that of the trainees who did the programme face to face (Table
3). Noticeable in the final results were the strength and weaknesses of the
Regions. Regions 2 and 4 appeared strong in ECE, but weaker in Primary while
the reverse was true in regions 6 an 10 .This had to do with the training of
the tutors in the particular area.
A comparison of the performance in the CED(F/T) and the CED(UWIDITE) over a
ten year period showed that the performance of trainees in the former consistently
surpassed that of the latter (Jennings 1999) but the performance of students
who did the Issues and Perspectives in Education course in the B.EdSec surpassed
that of the students who studied the course face to face. The difference in
performance between the students in the different delivery modes was significant
at the .05 level of confidence
Table 3 Performance of Trainees in Early Childhood Education by region
Table 4: performance of trainees in Issues and Perspectives in Education by
|Face to face
If the quality of a programme is assessed by its product, then the data presented
in this paper suggests that DE programmes can produce graduates who are comparable
in quality to the same programmes delivered face to face. It is interesting
to note that the award for best performance in the 2001-2004 batch of the CED/DE
was given to trainees in the distance programme .This is not to deny, however,
that DE programmes face greater challenges than those delivered face to face,
for example with regard to the quality of lecturers as well as their training
for the DE mode and problems of access due to location. The teaching learning
environment in the RCs in Guyana clearly needs to be improved and essential
resources provided. They have a long way to go to become comparable to the UWIDEC
What is also clear is that more realistic timelines need to be given for the
development of materials for DE. This problem was most acute in Guyana, but
preliminary feedback from an evaluation of the B.EdSec now underway suggests
that inadequate time was given for the preparation for on-line delivery resulting
in a poorer quality of course materials compared to those provided for synchronous
delivery. The lower than expected intake into the BEdSEC raises questions concerning
trainees perceptions of ‘free’ programmes as well as of cost effectiveness.
Freeness in the teachers’ minds may be associated with poorer quality,
whereas if they have to pay they can demand an offering of a the highest quality.
Furthermore, the question arises whether a programme with less than one third
the expected intake would be worth the in excess of four hundred and sixty million
dollars that the project costs. Future research would need to determine this.
But most evident too is that the size of a country, and its terrain, as well
as the strength of its economy and the attitudes of the target groups impact
on the quality of DE programmes and the extent to which they can meet their
Cowater International Inc. (2005) The Review and Evaluation of The Guyana Basic
Education Teacher Training Project – GBET. Draft Report.
Jennings, Z (1996) Evaluation of the Hinterland Teacher Training Programme :
A project of the government of Guyana –European Community Sector Programme
for Education and Health , managed and implemented by CEMCO.
Jennings, Z (1999) ‘Innovation with hesitation: distance education in
Commonwealth Caribbean Universities’ .Journal of Education and Development
in the Caribbean Vol. 3, No,. 2 :115-144.
Jennings, Z (2005) The review and evaluation of the certificate programme delivered
by CPCE (August 2001-2004).Report to Tecsult International Ltd, Canada.
Perraton, H.; Tsekoa, K. (1987). Distance Education in Small Nation States.
In: Bacchus, K,; Brock, C. (eds.) The Challenge of Scale: Educational Development
in the Small States of the Commonwealth. London, Common¬wealth Secretariat.