Education ministry implementing strategies to recruit and retain teachers
KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Ministry of Education and Youth is implementing several strategies to address teacher recruitment and retention in the sector, says Portfolio minister Fayval Williams.
These strategies have been presented to principals and school boards ahead of the official start of the 2023/24 academic year on September 4.
Addressing Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Williams said school boards have been empowered to take early recruitment decisions to fill vacancies.
“Meaning, they don’t have to wait on the ministry. Pre-approval has been granted for the replacement of teachers in clear vacancies and those in temporary posts funded by the Ministry of Education and Youth,” she advised.
Wiliams further indicated that teachers and principals on approved vacation leave can be engaged.
“They can work in the system as teachers and get paid for that in addition to being paid for their vacation leave. This is a facility that is available to our boards, our principals,” she said.
The minister pointed out that principals will not be engaged in their substantive post while on leave.
“They can teach in their school of which they are a principal, or they can teach in another school… so that’s available to them,” she explained.
Williams further informed that school boards may request extension for the tenure of teachers who are scheduled to proceed on retirement effective September 1, 2023, and beyond.
She said approval has been granted by the ministry for the engagement of part-time teachers.
“We also allow them to engage already retired teachers. Teachers who have retired since January of 2018, they can apply to have these teachers come back into the classroom as well,” the minister informed.
Williams further indicated that schools are allowed to recruit pre-trained graduates with at least a first degree in areas of expertise that are in short supply, such as mathematics and science.
Additionally, she said, final-year student teachers from recognised institutions can be engaged, and underutilised staff redeployed and trained.
The minister said schools may merge smaller classes to reduce the teacher demand for a particular subject area, where and when possible.
She added that schools may utilise the ‘blocked timetable’ approach, where all or a subset of teachers for a subject area are rostered at the same time to ensure all students are taught by a trained teacher through regrouping, where necessary.
Williams further noted that the continued and increased use of information and communication technology will also be utilised.
The ministry has 1,238 recorded lessons suitable for instructions from the early childhood to tertiary levels, which can be used to facilitate student-paced/self-paced learning.
Williams further informed that under the partnership with virtual schools, administrators, receiving the ministry’s approval to replace a teacher but are unable to find a suitable replacement can, upon request, be sanctioned to engage in a contractual arrangement with One-on-One Educational Services or other virtual schools to access the remote substitute/replacement teacher.
This service, dubbed the ‘Teacher Availability Solution’, is only available to secondary schools.
The minister said 88 teachers are expected to graduate under the ministry’s special scholarship programme and will enter the teaching force in September 2023.
“These new teachers will be bonded for a period of five years, and include 40 teachers of mathematics and 16 teachers of physics and chemistry,” she said.
Williams added that under the Building Out Our Science Teachers (BOOST) Programme, 10 new graduates specialising in mathematics and science will also enter the system.
The minister further informed that 68 teachers have been engaged to teach Spanish, chemistry, mathematics, and physics through the Jamaica-Cuba Teachers Programme/Cooperation.
She said 1,123 specialist teachers will be graduating from teachers’ colleges this year and they, too, should be entering the sector in the new school year.
The ministry also launched an online platform to improve the recruitment process for teachers and other school staff.
The platform, which can be accessed at email@example.com, aims to streamline the recruitment process by bringing together job seekers and employers in a convenient and efficient manner.