TWO thousand unemployed teachers have registered with the Ministry of Education in an effort to find employment, Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites disclosed yesterday.
About 300 of the teachers will be assigned to early childhood and primary schools as interns and be paid a gross salary of $40,000 per month in the new school year.
Earlier this year, the ministry advertised for graduate teachers who were having problems finding work to register with the ministry.
“We have some 2,000 teachers who are fully trained at public expense and at private sacrifice who we can't employ,” Thwaites said at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
“We are trying to find money within the existing resources to employ as many of them as possible, maybe 300 in the first instance not as tenured teachers, but as apprentices or interns, close to where they live where they come in and help out in a school, start their teaching career, earn a stipend, and when there is an opening they would be well placed to [fill it],” Thwaites elaborated.
“It must be better than sitting down at home or having your ambition to be good teacher slip away from you,” he added.
He expressed the desire for the teacher-interns to be placed in areas of greatest need in the education system, such as special education, early childhood institutions, literacy and numeracy.
Commenting on the ministry's decision, presidentelect of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Clayton Hall commended the move, but called for more teachers to be employed permanently as a solution to the oversupply of those in the profession.
Hall said this should be done by reducing the studentteacher ratio at the primary and pre-primary level, while increasing the ratio at the tertiary level.
“At the primary and preprimary level the ratio is one to 35, while at the secondary level it is one to 25, and the tertiary level it is one to 15. We would like to see the ratios changed in such a way that at the earlier levels where students are in greater need of teacher assistance we would have the pupil-teacher ratio being lowered,” Hall said.
He said students at the tertiary level are more likely to be independent learners and as such would be better able to cope in larger-sized classses.
He also said schools in other Caribbean countries have much lower pupil-teacher ratios than in Jamaica.
The JTA president-elect said, as a temporary measure, taking on unemployed teachers as interns would help to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio and also give the young teachers valuable work experience.
Hall noted that the option of migration had been reduced significantly because of the struggling economy in the United States.
But despite the surplus of trained teachers the JTA president-elect warned against teachers' colleges and universities reducing their intake of students at this time.
“That would be a dangerous precedence to set,” Hall said. “The fact is many persons who have gone through pedagogical training as teachers end up using that level of qualification for post-degree studies and move on to other spheres of life.”