The Education Ministry is moving forward with plans to implement Spanish mandatorily within the primary and secondary school curricula in the Christmas Term 2023, following President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s recent announcement of doing so.
According to a circular sent to stakeholders in the education sector on Tuesday by the Chief Education Officer, this decision forms part of the government’s vision to provide students with a second language in keeping with the socio-cultural and linguistic realities existing within South America, as Guyana stands to be the only English-speaking country in a primarily Spanish-speaking continent.
As such, students are expected to be able to converse in Spanish and not only be exposed to the language on an academic level.
An end of term grade must be provided on the report card of each student, with assessments to go beyond written tests and include performance aspects such as reciting a poem, performing a scene in Spanish, singing a Spanish song, responding to situations in Spanish, completing a portfolio or creating an art piece.
To ensure the smooth administration of this new subject, head teachers at the primary level are advised to confirm their schools, using the renewed curriculum, expose Grades One to Four students to Spanish during one or two of the Beyond Core periods every week.
Meanwhile Grade Five students, who are using the Consolidated Curriculum, must do Spanish for at least one 30-minute period per week, while Grade Six students are expected to engage in studying the subject after they have written the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA).
“If possible, a school can use one or two teachers to teach Spanish throughout the school. These teachers should not be given a fixed class. Rather, they should be classified as the school’s Spanish teachers,” the Ministry’s statement read.
At the secondary school level, headteachers are to ensure all students of Grades Seven to Nine are learning Spanish as a foreign language, though if a student intends on pursuing French or Portuguese at Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in Grade Ten, they may be exempted from doing Spanish in Grade Nine upon their request to the school.
However, Spanish must be offered in each stream in Grade Ten, while headteachers are required to do staff rationalisations to identify teachers who can teach the subject within the school.
“It is expected that the introduction of Spanish will provide an opportunity for students to develop an understanding and appreciation of the cultural and historical contexts of South America and the Caribbean, while acquiring the requisite skills, attitudes and knowledge for social cohesion, social mobility and educational attainment,” the statement read.
During a press conference in July, President Ali had disclosed plans to introduce Spanish as a compulsory subject, given the influx of Spanish-speaking persons operating in the economy as well as Guyana’s geographical position amidst a host of Spanish-speaking countries.
He had noted the importance of knowing a second language in order to compete internationally and secure jobs out of the country.
As such, Ali encouraged both private and public sector members to make efforts to learn the language as well.
In fact, during the recent presentation of State Commissions and State Warrants to a number of newly commissioned Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officers, Ali had noted that within their one year of rotation within the state, they are expected to learn and be competent in Spanish.
Last month, however, Education Minister Priya Manickchand, noting the lack of trained Spanish teachers in Guyana, disclosed plans to source teachers from Cuba and Mexico while Guyanese teachers receive training in the subject.
“We’re creating material through the National Centre of Educational Resources Development (NCERD), through our Materials Production Unit, that would help us in the absence of a trained Spanish teacher and allow a [generally] trained teacher to deliver Spanish to certain levels in primary school,” Manickchand had stated.
She had explained that the Ministry is also looking at courses that can be done through the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) programme, at the University of Guyana (UG) or at Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) to train as many teachers as possible to eventually deliver these Spanish lessons at a high quality.