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Gleaner Editors' Forum | Revisit technical and vocational training in schools

Published:Friday | September 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
A UTech student shows students how to assemble a CPU, during a workshop last year at the OUR’s Girls in ICT Day Seminar and Exhibition held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

As Jamaicans celebrate the success of students who have aced subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) is also celebrating its good fortune. However, the association noted that many students had been stumped by various subjects and would have made greater strides if they had pursued technical studies.

Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, President of the JTA Garth Anderson said the country should stop valuing education based on the number of subjects students pass.

"We have to move from valuing education based on the old Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and start to look again at technical and vocational education. The work of the teachers, the inspiration, making you feel valued, 'smaddyness' is important," argued Anderson.

"It is a mistake that we have not expanded that programme into all our schools - technical subjects. If you look in the economies across the world, that is what is driving them," Anderson told the forum.

He said that it was quite possible for a plumber doing two jobs for the week to earn more money than a teacher's salary for the month.

"Those are not areas anymore that people look down on. They are the areas of need now in our society, and we need to start embracing them," he said.

With the introduction of the HEART National Training Agency programmes for technical and vocational education, many schools were forced to close down technical education such as electrical works, carpentry and joinery, plumbing, needlecraft, and home economics. Such programmes were pursued by children from third form (grade nine) in many traditional secondary schools and were curriculum requirements for the new secondary schools of the 1970s and 1980s.


Technical skills pulling in higher salaries


Immediate past president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Georgia Waugh Richards is of the view that secondary schools should not seek to create students "with a lot of CXCs sitting down doing nothing".

She said that it was not far-fetched that students with seven CSEC subjects and no financial assistance were not gainfully employed, while a National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) certified plumber was commanding a high salary locally, and his skills were also in high demand regionally and internationally.

Anderson said that only The Mico University College and the University of Technology were providing technical education teacher training.

"We need to start expanding those areas now," said Anderson, who is the principal of Church Teachers' College in Mandeville.

NCTVET was established in 1994, under an amended HEART Act (1992) as part of Government's efforts to revitalise and upgrade technical and vocational education training to meet development challenges.