Let's look at reforming leave entitlement in education system


Let's look at reforming leave entitlement in education system

Sunday, January 05, 2020

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Doctors, nurses, police and pretty much everyone else who is fortunate to be employed work 11 months out of each year, if they take all their vacation and other forms of leave. In contrast, teachers enjoy the luxury of almost three weeks at Christmas, nearly two weeks at Easter, and 10 weeks in the summer when they are not actually teaching.

This is a grand total of more than 14 weeks, or almost four months, or one-quarter of the year when teachers are not in the classroom.

The rationale for this ancient model of working conditions for teachers, from primary to university level, comes from England and other countries where the seasons of winter and summer mean a change in weather and when there was agricultural work of planting and reaping for which the extra labour of children was vital.

At the level of the wealthy at university, summers are used for travelling the world. In previous times, the same applied to teachers who would use overseas travel to not only relax but acquire new knowledge. This, however, is not so now, since most teachers are teaching the same material year after year at the primary and secondary levels.

At university level, academics are, in many instances, eligible for an entire year off as a sabbatical every seven years, while teachers are entitled to eight months' leave after 10 years of service.

These days, most teachers cannot afford travel and many look for temporary work either in Jamaica or abroad during the summer. Meanwhile students, in many instances, are idle during these holiday periods.

Teachers at all levels, including well-paid university lecturers, feel their excessive leave is compensation for what they regard as low salaries. Ironically, in some cases those salaries are the envy of significant numbers of working class Jamaicans.

We don't, for one minute, doubt that teachers, particularly those in the public education system, should be better paid.

But, until that ideal can be realised, we suggest that adding four weeks of teaching time to the academic year would not only permit more hours of classroom time, but would be good for students and for the education system as a whole.

The extra time could be devoted to English, Mathematics and Science. It would slow down the pace of teaching and learning and reduce the stress on students. In addition, it could reduce the necessity for extra lessons and the cost of this to parents.

At the university level, reducing holidays would allow for a move from two semesters per academic year to three full terms. As such, a university degree could be completed in two years instead of three. It would also reduce the time people have to be out of the workforce in order to get a university degree, and allow more people to graduate from universities.

A reform of leave entitlements in the education system, we suggest, can be beneficial to the country.

Let the debate begin.

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