Attitudes Toward Education
Guyana's high literacy and school attendance rates evinced a great interest in education. From the time of slavery, AfroGuyanese saw education as a means of escape from the drudgery of plantation labor. The schoolteacher became an important figure in village life and a cornerstone of the incipient middle class. Parents made economic sacrifices so their children could attend school. Literacy improved the position of villagers in dealing with the government and commercial institutions. An education created the possibility that one could become a clerk or administrator in the public or private sectors. For the very few who acquired a secondary education, entry into medicine, law, and other professions might become possible.
Until the 1930s, Indo-Guyanese often were opposed to primary schooling for their children. The Indo-Guyanese plantation workers feared both discrimination and the influence of Christian education on their children. They were also reluctant to forgo the labor their children provided. In addition, the planters discouraged the workers and their children from pursuing an education. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, a significant number of Indo-Guyanese became successful rice producers and began to regard the education of their children as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Thereafter, the increasing enrollment of Indo-Guyanese children in elementary and secondary schools reflected the revision in parents' attitudes. New schools were built in the predominantly IndoGuyanese sugar-state areas.
Curriculum content was considered secondary to passing examinations and becoming eligible for a white-collar job. For this reason, parents showed little interest in a vocational curriculum that would prepare students for agricultural or mechanical jobs. Parents resisted attempts by the government to channel students into courses that it considered more relevant to Guyana's needs if those courses did not lead to a secondary education.
A high level of demand for expanded educational opportunities persisted in the postindependence period, especially at the secondary level. At the same time, parents continued to exhibit conservatism concerning curricula, not because they favored the traditional course contents, but because they continued to regard an academic curriculum as the best avenue to employment opportunities.
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