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Principal prejudice - Corrupt promotion policies hurting Jamaica's education system, claims professor

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser

A United Kingdom-based professor in education has declared that the promotion of teachers to the rank of principal in Jamaica is a flawed, corrupt enterprise prejudiced towards the 'favoured'.

Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, has contended that the progression of teachers in Jamaica to school leadership is characterised by systemic corruption.

Miller is also founder and director of the Institute for Educational Administration and Leadership-Jamaica (IEAL-J).

Pointing to the power of members of parliament (MP) to select board chairmen and the resulting authority of the chairmen to make appointment recommendations for principals to the Teachers' Services Commission, Miller said that peddling of influence was a great concern among respondents in a study he conducted on the appointment of principals.

"Influence peddling, however, extends well beyond an MP and participants reported that micro-politics at the school level and meso-politics at regional offices of the Ministry of Education influenced the appointment process and outcomes, and that those persons more likely to get promoted were those who were 'in favour' with a school's administration and local education ministry officials," he said, while delivering the Sixth IEAL-J Lecture under the theme 'Corruption as Redemption: Marks of affiliation for progression among teachers in Jamaica'.

Turning his attention more directly to the discretion that MPs have in nominating board chairs, Miller said: "The practice of an MP nominating the chair of a school board is discretionary, evolving over time, and is not to be found in Jamaica's education regulations. Nevertheless, this practice has dominated the educational leadership landscape in Jamaica for decades, quite possibly at a cost to schools and the education system as a whole."

Miller further argued that the discretionary power afforded to an MP to choose the chair of a school board is part of a broader cultural acceptance of corrupt practices in Jamaica.

Miller said his study, on which the lecture was based, indicated that in order for teachers to be promoted to the post of principal, they must be a visible member of a political party, belong to an established church (Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, United), engage in micro and/or meso-level politicking, or be socially connected at a level above their usual social group or groups.

That these marks of affiliation continue to dictate the appointment of principals is a concern that Miller believes can be addressed through fixing the problem with school boards.

"How school boards are selected or constituted needs urgent attention," he said.