Teachers' colleges warn against using regime Britain abandoned
ANDERSON... we should also look at the British system of education — which greatly influences our education system — why they have abolished it, and what were some of the concerns of teachers

DEAN of the Teachers' Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ) Dr Garth Anderson is urging Parliament to examine Britain's rationale for abolishing the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) before it forges ahead with a legal framework which is seen as punitive and egregious to some extent.

According to Dr Anderson, the Jamaican education system is generally based on the British model, aspects of which have long been discontinued, notably the teaching council regime.

"I am not suggesting that this is not important [but] we should also look at the British system of education — which greatly influences our education system — why they have abolished it, and what were some of the concerns of teachers (which is some of the concerns we are talking about now), and we should use those examples as [a] guide as we seek to establish [law] so that we don't make the same mistakes, have the same problems [as Britain]," he said while speaking with the Jamaica Observer in response to news that the joint select committee of Parliament, which is reviewing the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill, has agreed to remove the clause which would have given the council authority to conduct professional appraisals for teachers.

In June 2010 Britain's then Education Secretary Michael Grove, in announcing the abolition of the GTCE — the disciplinary body for teachers — said the UK Government must trust the professionals by giving teachers greater freedoms and reducing unnecessary bureaucracy. He said the GTCE had not done much to raise teaching standards or professionalism. Instead, it acted as a further layer of bureaucracy while taking money away from teachers, Grove told the House of Commons on June 2. The GTCE was abolished in 2012 after 12 years of existence.

In the meantime, chief executive officer of the JTC Dr Winsome Gordon clarified at a recent meeting of the joint select committee at Gordon House, that the appraisal system was intended for master teachers only, and not all registered teachers. This however, is not clear in the Bill, nor was it clear in the discussions which were held over the months.Furthermore, Dr Anderson said the teachers' colleges welcome the decision of the committee as the provision should not have been included in the Bill in the first place because it underscored the intent of a near takeover of the everyday operations of schools, which should be left to administrators who have an intimate knowledge of school operations.

"It's how draconian and all-inclusive the Bill is trying to be. Good sense has prevailed on this matter and I am particularly happy that the policymakers have taken this decision," he said.

The TCJ dean said the colleges are hopeful that legislators will look at some of the other egregious sections of the Bill which are all-inclusive to the point of making the JTC a sub-ministry of education. He noted that one of the bothersome sections is the formation of the council.

"We are not against other people from other professions sitting at the table — we may need lawyers, psychologists — but they should be there in an advisory capacity, to shed light. But when it comes down to that final professional decision, it can't be nobody else but the professionals. If not, we are fooling ourselves," he stressed.

Dr Anderson argued that elements such as these would undermine the very object of the Bill, which is to bring teachers up to a particular professional standard — an objective which the TCJ isn't opposed to."If teachers aren't the ones making a professional judgement, then the JTC is just another court of jurors drawn from everywhere to judge teachers. We hope that is looked at, that when it comes down to making a professional judgement, it should be the licensed teachers who do that," he expressed.

Like the teachers' union, the TCJs dean is of the view that a JTC regime, as now proposed, will drive Jamaican teachers out of the classroom.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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