Tue | Aug 21, 2018

JTA lauds teachers as education week kicks off

Published:Monday | May 2, 2016 | 12:02 PM
Norman Allen ... "The proverbial 'grass is greener on the other side' is fuelling teacher migration and cannot be successfully stifled even by the JTA because of certain grim realities".

Today marks the start of education week 2016, which is being observed under the theme: 'Consolidating Our Gains Collaborating For Growth and Sustainability'.

President of the Jamaica teachers' Association, Norman Allen, in his message urged all teachers to embrace this year's theme.

Allen points out that teachers have unselfishly imparted knowledge, created social change and advanced morality and ethical change.


Education week 2016 is the usual period of deep reflection and retrospection.

Much has happened since we launched our theme Consolidating Our Gains Collaborating For Growth and Sustainability. I have consistently borrowed and applied the truism that “if you don’t know where you are going you will not know where and or when you have reached”.

We have come through a period of serious anxieties to include the threats associated with Pension reform. While accepting that public sector Pension reform will happen we continued to highlight pitfalls in the current thinking on such reforms and have consolidated our recommendations for fair, just, equitable and sustainable end product if and when the reform becomes a reality.

You have walked with us through a very successful Education Conference in which we focused on Effective Teaching and Learning and redoubled our efforts to bridge the achievement gap. We remained aware of the differences in individual traits and learning styles and were determined to play our part in ensuring that no child is left behind.

To the extent that we were able to achieve our objectives is to the same extent that we have helped each other to grow and to sustain such growth.

You have allowed us to strengthen the profile of our core leadership within your schools by our pulling out your middle managers for two days in the staging of our first Middle Managers Conference.

This was an engagement of sharing best practices and collaborating with our overseas partners in the exchange of ideas and insights into our different and separate approaches to similar concerns.

We have all benefitted in some way from the Jamaican Diaspora. Someone in your current life space has rich memories of the Jamaicans who departed our shores, decades ago, in search of a better life and in the process assisted in the building of world monuments such as the Panama Canal.

Some of our very bright, if not some of our brightest, minds have left the teaching profession in Jamaica to build minds in Universities, Colleges and Schools in First World countries and in diverse places on the globe. Under our theme of commitment to collaboration, you have partnered with us  in the staging of the Second Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Education Conference and of our hosting of influential groups from North American chapters of the Diaspora.

As you well know, education week has always been a buzz of activities and our theme for 2015 will be wrapped up with your participation in the education symposium set for Monday, May 2, 2016 at Jamaica College, state of the Art Auditorium and multipurpose facility.

This symposium will focus on the mental health of our members in light of the stresses of an ever changing work environment.

Gratitude must be expressed to organisations such as LASCO, Kingston Bookshop and Carlong for consistently recognising excellence in teaching as well as highlighting and rewarding our educators.

The JTA, recognises that it is imperative for teachers to remain current and thus, our continued drive to provide professional development opportunities for our members through direct inputs and by way of collaboration.

We will be the first to acknowledge and recognise the significant lack of resources in many of our schools, yet, we hear talks of an intent to remove auxillary fees from the school system and to replace same with an increase in subvention from the central Ministry. The JTA’s position has been and remains that the idea does not support “consolidating gains within the education sector and that it would be a retrograde step to remove any existing source of funding from an already underfunded education sector.

We believe that if the government in general and the central education ministry in particular has additional funds that can be made available to shore up the education product then by all means use such funds to consolidate what now exists with the concept of auxillary fee well entrenched.

If it is, and, it very well could be, that the Auxillary fees being asked by particular schools pose significant challenges to parents then it is the prerogative of the |Central Ministry to so regulate to achieve best fit rather than  take steps to further erode the economic base of all schools. The  asking for contributions in the form of Auxillary fees is a working feature.

Laboratories in many to most of our secondary schools need significant injection of funds to make them barely optimum.

The APSE initiative with its own anxieties for space and other concerns will most likely require additional space to provide for the additional places. Consideration could be given to the injection of funds in that regard to the extent that, that initiative is feasible, at this time, and to other areas of dire need.

The Jamaica Teachers Association would never object to any programme that will improve the state of the Jamaican Child. However, we must express concerns as it relates to the availability of space, as we as a nation contemplate the introduction of Alternative Pathways to Secondary Education (APSE).

The JTA, like ALL well thinking Jamaicans , wish our teachers didn’t have to go abroad to seek teaching employment. The experience garnered, here in Jamaica, over the years by the teachers who are being attracted has served us well and we wished they could have been retained to serve us in perpetuity.

The proverbial 'grass is greener on the other side' is fuelling teacher migration and cannot be successfully stifled even by the JTA because of certain grim realities.

As a country we are blessed with  teacher training institutions, turning out teachers of high quality each year, many of whom cannot gain employment locally due to a perceived overload and a reluctance of government to respond by reducing pupil teacher ratios.

Could it be that we need to convert threats into opportunities  to provide for these graduates access to much needed employment.

This education week we launch our new theme as our focus to take our profession through the rest of 2016 and into 2017.

“Celebrating teachers: Informing, Inspiring, Impacting.”

This theme is so critical to us going forward with a new thrust, a renewed drive to recognise, appreciate and award the achievements of teacher’s.

Teachers have unselfishly with a sense of duty and genuine love imparted knowledge, created social change and advanced morality and ethical change.

Let us all as teachers and as the Jamaican teacher of the future, embrace this theme, resolve to see it through to May 2017.

Do have a great education week as we unite and serve.

Norman Allen