Strive for competence, principal tells colleagues
The principal of an improving high school in the Corporate Area has urged his colleagues to be mindful of their embrace of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), an organisation which he said has made it difficult for to remove incompetent and unqualified teachers from the classroom.
Kevin Jones, principal of Mona High in St Andrew, while speaking at a post-sectoral press briefing held by education minister Ronald Thwaites at the Office of the Prime Minister last week, said the single most element responsible for student performance is having good teachers in classrooms.
"Even if education is not valued in the home, the research has shown that if you put qualified, competent teachers in the classrooms, students will be inspired to learn," Jones said.
The principal said he, at times, takes issue with the JTA, which is the union that represents most of the island's teachers, noting that "we have teachers, educators in the system who are not competent, who are not qualified".
"My colleague principals, especially the ones who are the so-called veterans in the system, we have to ensure that we become a little bit more neutral where JTA is concerned. Because, on the one hand, it becomes a little bit more difficult to part ways with some teachers and then the JTA is going to back them, even if all the evidence shows that it is time for the teacher to go," Jones said.
Thwaites, in his contribution to the Sectoral Debate last Wednesday, said while the teaching profession is improving, there is a significant mis-match between teachers and the areas they teach.
"For example, 708 of 1,784 teachers of mathematics aren't qualified in that area; 249 of 366 teachers of biology are in the same situation; 129 of 414 history teachers; 156 out of 311 chemistry teachers and 160 of 227 physics teachers. There is a significant mismatch and we have to correct that now," Thwaites said.
"It happened because there were insufficient graduates of history and math willing to stay in the classroom and many of them who went were attracted by higher salaries. We have to provide incentives for our best qualified teachers to stay in the classrooms," he added.
The minister said the Jamaica Teaching Council bill, which will be tabled in parliament later this year, will be crucial in removing unqualified and incompetent teachers from the system.