I can recall last year when the CSEC results in the region were considered better than those of the previous years. Various doctoral spokespersons stood on their soap boxes in the public media and responded by saying that CXC's standards had lowered, hence the reason for the "success".
Hardly anyone commended our nation's teachers for applying good teaching strategies and best practices to bring out the best from students.
Now, one month after the release of this year's results that showed a decline of the average performance in English and mathematics, the discussion is not centred on the academic quality of the students who took the exams, nor the number of independent candidates who sat the various papers. Instead, the talk is about teachers of mathematics being "underqualified or untrained". Mark you, these, for the most part, would have been the same teachers who reaped success the previous year. These are the teachers who have not received adequate funding over the years and now, all of a sudden, they have failed our students.
The subjects that go unmentioned this year have received 100 per cent pass rates. No one will be accepted into recognised institutions with just English and mathematics passes alone. And what about those students who have done well at the schools which had not usually done well? What about the schools whose CXC averages have gone above 90 per cent? Where is the praise? Where is the reward? Where is the incentive? To all the professional town criers, please, give the good teachers a break!
Professor Errol Miller, at the most recent JTA annual conference, mentioned the dilemma in assessing students based on only one year's data and it dawned on me to ask: Is this a conspiracy against our teaching professionals and administrators who have had little resources and who have had to be innovative and do their best with the students placed before them? What about the teachers who have reaped successes over the years? Where is the recognition, the acknowledgements, the congratulations? If these same teachers were to be recruited by the United States, without a doubt they would reap success within the various school districts.
Where are the commendations for those students who have truly done well under the guidance of their "undertrained" teachers? Good Lord, give me a break! Stop killing our nation's professionals who have sacrificed much, even their own bank accounts, to ensure success is achieved! The pre-Colonial "hangmen" who are trying to tie a noose of perfectionism around the necks of teachers hardly have the experience or the competence to function in the classroom daily. Let us remember that teachers, who are accused of poor performance today, are the very ones on whom the nation's parents depend to produce the workforce of tomorrow.
The teacher who steps into the classroom is the one who has been given the tools — sometimes none at all — to create future politicians, public and private sector workers, and education ministers. Have dialogue with the real practitioners in the field, those who are currently digging the trenches, engaged in research, publishing textbooks, developing strategies, structures and techniques in the transfer of information, and you will realise.
Mention has been made of selecting teachers from Kingston to act as resource teachers for the rest of the island. So, only Kingston teachers have sense? Can't the powers that be utilise teachers from across the island who have had 90 per cent average passes?
I do agree to have teachers who are non-performing and ineffective in the classroom removed and replaced with skilled, qualified and trained persons who can not only deliver content, but develop students who can process, synthesise and apply knowledge and become useful to society in the long run.
However, there is more to the story than the qualification of teachers; the lack of resources and support material from the Ministry of Education plays a major role. I suggest that teachers be given the opportunity to conduct research to investigate current and long-standing issues, publish their findings and make recommendations with the hope that the ministry can address the shortcomings.