The decision being broadcast on mainstream media and elsewhere by the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) about pretrained teachers needing to become qualified or be booted out of the profession is understandable. But it is also insensitive and inconsiderate.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not in any way supporting or encouraging current educators or prospective ones not to improve their qualifications. I am simply saying that standard procedures usually follow any decision and this is no exception. What would the Ministry of Education (MOE) do if there were a massive migration of our teachers and a massive brain drain occurs?
If one should go by the assertion and reasoning of former Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Winston Smith, if the Bill took effect now, 3,258 specialist teachers would be affected, along with 5,840 in the early childhood sector, and 24 from Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Despite disagreement from Education Minister Fayval Williams regarding its stance on this issue, the JTA questioned whether the intent was to rid the profession of thousands of pretrained teachers when it is known that most, if not all, basic school teachers do not have a bachelor's degree, which is the proposed starting point for entry into the profession.
Those who crafted this Bill must have known that thousands of Jamaican teachers/educators existed donkey's years before it was even thought about and they have delivered professional service in their respective areas of specialisations within the classroom. When did it reach the stage at which a piece of paper — no matter its importance or value — supersedes the countless teaching hours, days, weeks, months, and years of thousands of Jamaican teachers who have made sacrifices to guide their charges?
In a time when jobs are hard to come by and the economic crisis mounting, a decision to relieve teachers of their income-earning profession is not only untimely but inconsiderate and insensitive.
A possible solution could be implemented by the Government, whereby it provides funding and a four-year tenure for teachers who are not fully qualified to upgrade themselves. At the end of this period, if they fail to capitalise on this initiative, then they will have no one to blame but themselves for not fulfilling the criteria set out by the JTC and the MOE. Maybe even a 10-year bonded policy could be implemented by the Government for teachers who would benefit from this government-funded four-year initiative.
While I fully understand the education ministry's and the JTC's concern on the matter of teacher qualification, the abrupt, insensitive, and inconsiderate manner in which they are going about this critical issue is what many people have an issue with.
It is as if the numerous years teachers spent in the classroom educating our children are being totally ignored, thrown back in their faces, and they are about to be unceremoniously dumped in the dustbin of history.
Grade 9 co-ordinator and senior teacher
Kingston College (Melbourne Campus)