Title: “Faculty of Social Sciences undergraduate students’ perceptions of education in Guyana.” Chapter One: Introduction and Background to the Study
The General Problem
For many years, educators and researchers have tried to understand why students tend to criticize their instructors and learning institutions. Research studies have attempted to identify and measure student attitudes and perceptions, and to predict relationships that influence their attitudes related to the education curriculum (Corbin, 1994). Through the years, ongoing changes in curriculum design, teaching methodology, and administrative practices may have helped to improve students’ perception of what is thought in schools (Shaughnessy & Haladyna, 1985). However, an attitude still persists among many students, that, some aspects of their educational experiences are found to be boring, and irrelevant to their lives. If the curriculum of any learning institution is to continue to have support from their administrators, politicians, and the general public, it is desirable to have positive student attitudes towards the subject matter. Thus there may be the need to, firstly diagnose the perceptions of students about the given subject matter or the overall learning institution to facilitate intervention. For it is quite possible that negative perceptions could ultimately result in a sharp decline in the allocation of resources for this subject area or the particular institution. In a study of students’ perceptions of social studies among high school and tertiary level students, Shaughnessy and Haladyna (1985) captured the essence of why social studies is one of the least liked courses. The researchers concluded that: It is the teacher who is key to what social studies will be for the student. Instruction tends to be dominated by the lecture, textbook or worksheets.... and social studies does not inspire students to learn (p.694). In another but yet similar study of “Teachers’ perceptions of the University of Guyana Post Graduate Diploma programme (Granger, 2005) it was observed that teachers have generally favourable perceptions of that particular programme as it relates to issues such as worthwhileness of the programme, restructuring, and recognition, among others However, uncertainties abound with regards to its recognition outside of Guyana (p.21).The researcher went on to posit that consistent with the findings of her study, “Failure to review and update [the] programme could result in serious implications for the programme”(p.22). Using these arguments and findings, it can then be assumed that the study of undergraduate students’ perception of education in Guyana bears much relevance to the future of the University of Guyana. Further, in light of the many curriculum changes that have taken place over the last two decades and the changing attitudes of politicians, parents and students toward public education, the world over of which Guyana is no exception, it is appropriate to visit this area of research. As a sociologist and social science educator, my personal mission is to help others gain the kind of knowledge that has helped me in understanding a broad range of social science issues. Yet, I want to ensure that they do not have to spend as long as I have, in coming to grips with a holistic understanding. In other words, I want to contribute to a shortening of the learning cycle so that others can grasp the importance of knowledge from a well founded and framed scientific context, and thus make them more aware of those issues that will play an ever increasing role in the decisions of their generation, i.e. resource consumption and management. Further, I want to ensure as much as I can that the next generation of lecturers can help students in their knowledge building, to have a sound, well founded conception of the social sciences as inquiry, and that their teaching enables students to think...
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