The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) needs new leadership
Published: Sunday | February 22, 2009
But as most people who operate in the core of institutions are, or ought to be aware, it is often the case that organisations become victims of their own success, taking the veneration they are afforded for granted. Respect, they feel, is a matter of right, rather than the outcome of work and achievement. They then enter into a state of institutional limbo where they drift from declared core values but are uncertain of where to turn next for continued relevance. We sense that the JTA is now in such a state of uncertainty and drift.
Unfortunately, institutions, like individuals, are usually the last to be aware of their troubles, such as the catatonic state we observe in the teachers. Occasional frenzied eruptions of activity are mistaken for a clear and coherent engagement rather than being symptomatic of a deeper dysfunction.
When individuals find themselves in such a state, professional intervention to guide them back to recovery is normally required. This requires, however, that the patient first admit to a problem.
It is the same for an institution; it must appreciate that something is amiss and then proceed to deep introspection, which demands healthy and rigorous debate. More often than not, this process demands a change in leadership.
JTA in crisis
That the JTA is in a crisis, of which it is not aware, is clear from the attitude of the organisation, and particularly its current leadership, headed by its president, Doran Dixon. On the matter of teacher accountability and performance-based remuneration, Mr Dixon will have none of it. He suggests that measuring teachers' performance and linking their pay to outcomes can only happen when the entire education system is fixed, all schools have the same level of resources, and absolutely the same criteria can be used across institutions to determine performance. There can be, he insists, no incremental shifts or weighted criteria to take into account the socio-economic or demographic environments within which specific schools exist.
Of course, the Jamaican Government, and in particular the education and finance ministries, are complicit with the JTA in this underserving of taxpayers and in diminishing the value of the institution. For instance, not long ago, the Government acquiesced to an allocation of $15 billion in additional pay for teachers, for which neither Andrew Holness, the education minister, nor Audley Shaw, the finance minister, demanded anything. So, it is all right if a third of Jamaican students continue to leave primary schools illiterate; or that no more than 20 per cent, having completed secondary schools, can immediately matriculate to tertiary institutions.
But worse, the JTA seems lost on the issue of the state of education in Jamaica, failing to engage in a robust public debate or to provide leadership on the issue. It putters along with the rest of the society. Mr Dixon should perhaps go early and the JTA should find someone to lead a renewal.
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