Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Gov't, teachers could clash over specialist pay

Published:Monday | December 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

The Government and teachers seem set for a major showdown following revelations that there is a consideration to offer better salaries to trained public-sector science and math teachers than their other colleagues to keep them in Jamaican classrooms.

There is no official figure to date but, in recent years, dozens of teachers trained in the critical subject areas have reportedly been increasingly leaving Jamaica to take up positions in developed countries, where salaries and other working conditions are better.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has indicated that something has to be done to ensure that Jamaica's development is not compromised.

"Market considerations must apply, and these will change over a period of time. It's going to be very controversial. It flies in the face of a long tradition of collective bargaining which provided the same remuneration for teachers in particular categories."

Thwaites said Jamaica must question, in light of a worsening scarcity, what should be done to retain the educators.

Deserve more

While the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), which represents more than 20,000 teachers in the public sector, has acknowledged that teachers are being lured away, the union's president, Norman Allen, is insisting that "all teachers deserve more" and not a select group.

"Not because external forces are now taking away our maths and science teachers, we are going to be reactive. We must treat with it in a wholesome way, recognising that all teachers, no matter what they teach, deserve more," asserted Allen.

He is being bolstered by members. Two teachers of English who wished not to be named say the proposal is unfair and could lead to a neglect of arts-based subjects.

However, Professor Errol Morrison, scientist and director general of the National Commission on Science and Technology, believes the Government's thinking is in the right place, pointing to Jamaica's unsatisfactory performance in math and science education.

"The whole importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as a nation-builder, means that we need to ensure that we have an adequate teaching cadre because that [STEM] is one our weak areas," said Morrison, a former president of the University of Technology.