– special needs education, psycho-social support system also on cardsBy Jarryl BryanBudget 2018 is slated to be read today, and at least in one sector – education — there is some insight into what is to come. Funding for the education sector would be mostly aimed at making education more technologically friendly.Expressions of the need for a support system for students at the Ministry level have been gathering momentum in the public domain in wake of recent sexual misconduct allegations being levelled against a teacherThis is according to Education Minister Nicolette Henry, who was at the time responding to questions on a radio programme. According to the Minister, one primary area the education budget will focus on is Information and Communication Technology (ICT).“My 2018 budget will provide the beginning of a roadmap that will take us to 2030. The Ministry of Education will be focused on reviewing that, and ensuring that we have a roadmap that can take us to 2030, in alignment with our Sustainable Development Goals.“The primary focus (will be) ICT. We’re looking to modernise education, and that will play a big part.“The other area we will be focusing on is technical and vocational education. So you will hear some of the new facilities we will establish as it relates to technical institutes. “We will also speak about special education needs. We will focus on putting a school in Georgetown that will (have) the early childhood programme, to ensure that at a very young age we are able to make the appropriate diagnosis.”Henry claimed that these are new initiatives. According to the Minister, providingEducation Minister Nicolette Henrymobile psycho-social support to students would also be on the agenda. She identified “mobile clinics” as one way to achieve this.“I am talking (about an initiative that is) much broader than counselling (itself). We want to ensure there is linkage and a continuation of care and psycho-social support services. We’re not talking about a counsellor at a school, we are talking about a serious issue that requires that type of issue; you can be given the linkage to a competent service provider.”EducationGovernment had, in April 2016, launched an inquiry into the education system with the aim of gathering “evidential bases” for the revision, upgrading and extension of the system. It has been expected that the CoI’s findings would be considered when budgeting for the Ministry was actually done.The CoI set up to conduct this probe held hearings across the country with parents, guardians, teachers, religious leaders, unions, and the private sector on their perception of the state of the education system, as well as recommendations for its enhancement.The commission has found that there is need for greater collaboration between the regional education departments and the regional administrations, to determine the educational needs of each particular region.The commission had also suggested that an education committee be established at the regional democratic level. It was also urged that that committee should be structured to examine the needs of the region and convey those to the Department of Education, so those needs could be adequately addressed.The commission’s findings also included a recommendation that the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) be equipped with the research capacity it needs, since progress in the sector cannot be measured and analysed.The report also noted that the Ministry’s inspectorate should have a separate unit, and not be a part of another unit. “We are the only country probably in the world where the Inspectorate Unit is part of another unit. The Inspectorate Unit (is) supposed to be an autonomous body, reporting to the highest office in the land.”The commissioners also found that there is a greater need for welfare officers who are equipped with guidance and counselling skills, and recommended that there be one such officer in each school. However, they noted that if this is not possible, there should be one officer with responsibility for no more than five schools.In accepting the report, then Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had said he would be presenting same to both Cabinet and the National Assembly.“I would prefer the report not be buried in another Select Committee and we go on and on about the issues. I would think the comprehensiveness of the commission of inquiry is sufficient enough for us to act, and that is going to require some commitment; and that is something we are a bit short on,” he had said.