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The Jamaica Teaching Council Bill should not punish teachers

BY Wayne Campbell

Monday, February 03, 2014    

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Getting licensed before one is allowed to teach has become commonplace worldwide. Jamaica, on the other hand, has been lagging behind the rest of the world regarding this best practice.

The Jamaica Teaching Council was established to provide the framework to licence our teachers. However, there are many misconceptions regarding the role of the Jamaica Teaching Council and this has added to a plethora of misinformation and uneasiness in education circles.

The Teaching Council will seek to encourage excellence and to improve marginal performance wherever it exists. Teachers, therefore, are and should be concerned about this proposed Act as it will become the framework to govern the teaching profession.

Many teachers are opposed to the Teaching Council Bill in its present form because sections of the Bill are riddled with unfairness towards the teaching profession. An area of grave concern in which The Teaching Council Bill falls short is the protection and security of the major stakeholders. The Bill also gives legal powers to the Council to immediately suspend and cancel the registration of a teacher who is charged for what is deemed a disqualifiable offence. Such offences include sexual offences, murder, pornography, robbery, and fraud.

Many teachers are opposed to the Teaching Council Bill in its present form because sections of the Bill are riddled with unfairness towards the teaching profession. An area of grave concern in which The Teaching Council Bill falls short is the protection and security of the major stakeholders. The Bill also gives legal powers to the Council to immediately suspend and cancel the registration of a teacher who is charged for what is deemed a disqualifiable offence. Such offences include sexual offences, murder, pornography, robbery, and fraud.

One may ask why does this pose a problem. The wholescale disciplinary powers that this legislation would have if passed in its current form is most troubling. Part VII of the Bill, which speaks to the professional disciplining of teachers, notes that the Council can, at any time, suspend a teacher without an inquiry. Someone needs to be reminded that we are in the 21st century and this era calls for engagement and the consultation of all stakeholders. How can you suspend or even propose to suspend a teacher without an inquiry? What of the right of the teacher to a fair hearing or legal representation?

A number of teachers have asked questions such as:

1. If a teacher has his/her teacher training in one subject area, for example social studies, and a degree in a separate area, for example guidance and counselling, and currently teaches social studies, will that teacher be licensed at the diploma level and be paid at that level, or will the teacher be granted a licence in the subject area in which they are degreed?

The education system has a significant number of teachers who have undergraduate and even postgraduate degrees outside of their teacher training subject areas and it would be quite unfair to penalise such teachers by restricting them to teach only the subject areas of their teacher training.

2. Will a teacher will able to receive multiple licences; ie, in more than one subject area?

3. What percentage of a teacher's salary will the licensing fee be set at?

In its present form the Teaching Council Bill does not have the support of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), or any other teachers' lobby group for that matter. We all agree and accept that the country's education system is in need of reform and transformation. However, there must be a collaborative and consultative approach engaging and engendering consensus from a wide cross section of the stakeholders in the society, especially the nation's teachers who will be most affected by this pending legislation. The education system cannot move forward in an atmosphere of confrontation and war of words.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

www.wayaine.blogspot.com

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