AS DISCUSSIONS on the planned amendments to the Education Regulation Code continue, the Jamaica Teachers Association has said it wants decision making powers on some matters now set unilaterally by the Ministry of Education.
According to JTA general secretary, Patrick Smith, the JTA wants a say in the setting of the pupil-teacher ratio that presently under the code is made only by the Minister of Education.
Mr. Smith said the ratio, which determines the maximum number of students per class, directly affects teachers in the conduct of their jobs, and that as a representative of teacher teachers, the JTA should be allowed to participate in the decision.
The current ratio is 1:35, which according to Mr. Smith, is being exceeded in most schools. The matter, however, is not under consideration by the Ministry. Other issues that are under discussion include extension of the annual school period to 195 days, up from the current 190 days.
The code is also seeking to give principals more leverage in handling disciplinary matters, and will extend their authority to suspend teachers beyond the maximum ten days.
Recognition of para-professionals such as guidance counsellors are also being considered for inclusion in the code, so that they, too, can be governed by it.
Under the amended code, teachers will also be required to attend a development course sponsored or approved by the Ministry of Education.
The JTA meantime continues to maintain its stance against regulating teacher behaviour outside of the school.
Mr. Smith insists that the JTA can and has dealt with such matters in the past, and that the association has its own code of ethics that sufficiently regulates teacher behaviour at all times.
The Education Code will be defining more clearly the level of institutions such as pre- primary and primary. The JTA also wants the conditions of schools to be addressed in the code, said Mr. Smith.
The physical condition of schools is one of the issues the JTA said it would like to see included in the code.