Nadisha Hunter and Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writers
EDUCATION MINISTER Ronald Thwaites has said his ministry is against extra lessons and has indicated that a review of contact time between teachers and students would be conducted.
"We know that there are cases where some students might be facing learning challenges and this is understood, but one of the questions we would like to have answered is why the entire class have to be doing this, as is the case with some schools," Thwaites asked yesterday.
He added: "We know the financial struggle that many parents are already facing. ... I have heard of cases where children in preparation for GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) have been going to extra classes for three years, so what we would like to know is what is going on in the ordinary classes. Why this is happening?" Thwaites stated.
The education minister added that a review of the contact period between teachers and students is one of the measures his ministry will be looking to as a means of fixing the problem.
"We have to insist that we do it right the first time, and this is why the Jamaica Teaching Council legislation is so important because we cannot transfer teaching from the regular contact hours," Thwaites told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.
Thwaites argued that teachers should not use extra lessons as a means to earn extra cash.
But president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, Paul Adams, told The Gleaner that the money the teachers collect for extra lessons are just merely contributions.
"The fees that they charged are contribution, they are reasonable. These teachers sacrifice their time with their family to provide lesson for the children," he argued.
Some schools charged as high as $500 per student each week for extra lessons, which could amount to hefty sums of money for the teacher in charge of the class. For example, in a class with 40 students, it would amount to $20,000 per week or $80,000 per month.
Thwaites questioned: "Is 190 days sufficient contact period for our children having regard to where we are, having regard to the global challenges, having regard to the fact that in some classes too much time is spent on restoring order?"
Adams said the parents normally request that teachers provide additional lessons for the children and so he would not object to it.
He dismissed that some students are sabotaged because they are unable to pay, saying they are also included in the classes.
Meanwhile, Marcia McCausland-Wilson, president of the National Parent Teachers' Association, said extra lessons, in most cases, are offered to children whose parents can afford to pay and so they are normally ahead in their schoolwork.
"The weaker students in the class who need the lesson, but can't afford to pay, do not get extra lessons most of the times. There are a few teachers who will have extra lesson for the entire class but not the majority," she lamented.
McCausland-Wilson said her association has received complaints that the topics taught in extra lessons are normally being introduced there for the first time, adding that an investigation would be done.