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
Data as of January 1992