Gleaner Editors’ Forum | Geography, history & religious education teachers also in short supply
As government, schools and the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) bemoan the movement of science and mathematics teachers to greener pastures overseas, Dr Garth Anderson, president of the JTA, has pointed to another area of teacher shortage.
At a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, Anderson disclosed that there is a chronic shortage of geography teachers.
"A shortage of geography teachers across all teacher training institutions is of great concern to us as an association. The mathematics and science teachers have seen improvement mainly because of the scholarships that the ministry has provided for studies. In an attempt to treat with that shortage we have seen an uptick," said Anderson.
Geography - a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and the earth - has become increasingly important, especially with increasing focus on climate change, environmental pollution and its impact on industries like tourism. It is feeling the pinch as the cohort reporting to teachers' colleges has been dwindling.
"In 2012-2013, there was reduction in the intake across colleges when an impression was given that teaching was not necessarily the area to go into then. That has changed generally across the board, except in a select few areas. And in some areas we see some highly qualified persons applying," added Anderson.
He noted that in addition to geography there is an undersupply of teachers for history and religious education.
According to Anderson, the shortage of religious education teachers is of critical importance as the subject matter was an important part of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
REINFORCE VALUE SYSTEM
"The aim of the subject in school is to teach certain values and attitudes, and especially as we are a Christian country, to reinforce the good value systems," declared Anderson.
The JTA president, who is also the principal of Church Teachers' College, noted that teachers in training at the primary level must pursue all subject areas, but the absence of religious education teachers is being seen at the secondary level.
Jamaica is not the only country suffering from a shortage of religious education teachers.
In February, the Religious Council of England and Wales launched a campaign to attract more teachers for the subject, warning that "a shortage of religious education teachers could contribute to religious stereotyping and discrimination, leaving pupils at risk of becoming ignorant, or bigoted".
The report, carried by the BBC, said that government figures show that in 2017-18, only 405 of initial teacher-training places in England for religious education were filled - well below the target of 643. The figure for Wales was not reported.
The United Kingdom is one of the countries which have benefited from migrating Jamaican teachers.