master teacher programme in shambles
There are strong indications that the master teacher programme, designed to keep high-quality teachers in the classroom through a special incentive scheme, is in a state of disarray.
The Ministry of Education has refused to comment on the status of the programme. The silence of the Ronald Thwaites-headed ministry comes against the background of the chairman of the master teachers committee, Dr Marriette Newman, last week resigning out of frustration.
The master teacher programme represents an attempt by the ministry to keep the best teachers in the classroom by rewarding them with pay and other incentives in a manner similar to principals and vice-principals. As at 2014, the total number of master teachers in the system stood at 15.
A close look at the appointment figures for master teachers shows a precipitous decline on an annual basis. Between 1999-2001, 22 master teachers were appointed. Between 2008-2009, that number plummeted to nine, and in 2010, only one teacher was given the designation. In total, only 61 masters teachers have been appointed since 1999.
Principal of Jamaica College Ruel Reid, who was among the first set of master teachers appointed, is of the view that the programme, in its current state, is ineffective.
"The programme is totally inadequate and is not fulfilling the objective for which it was established," he said.
One of the recommendations made in the second review of the programme in 2011, done by Dr Moses Peart, the first chairman of the National Committee for Selection and Appointment of Master Teachers of Jamaica, called for the Ministry of Education to establish a secretariat of the committee and to provide the resources for its operation.
Six years after the report was done, this call is being echoed by Reid, who said, "The programme should be fully funded, and it should be a priority for the ministry, but this is not the case. It is grossly underfunded."
Reid added: "If you want certain outcomes, you have to put the resources behind it, so I challenge the minister and the Government, if they are really serious about attracting the best persons to education and maintaining them, then they should provide the resources for the master teachers programme."
Pointing to Finland, Reid noted that the best and the brightest are attracted to education and are paid top salaries in that country. Reid said the Government should use the master teacher programme as a means of replicating the Finland model.
Doran Dixon, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), noted that the idea for the programme originated with the JTA. He lamented that "it has not been as active as we would have wanted it to be".
Dixon said that many persons who were appointed as master teachers have either retired or moved into administration and "they have not been appointing new master teachers".
The JTA president also said that the process by which persons get appointed as master teachers is a frustrating one, which has turned off many prospective applicants.
"Sometimes teachers have felt that the process has encouraged teachers to apply, but the teachers have been demotivated because the process has been drawn out," Dixon said.