Tue | Apr 28, 2015

'Time for audacity'

Published:Wednesday | January 30, 2013
Lead researcher at the Caribbean Policy Research Institute Dawn Sewell-Lawson.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Elaine Foster-Allen. - PHOTOS BY Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
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Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

Less than a week after releasing its report card on the state of the country's education system, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) is now taking aim at the main players in the education sector for what it says is their lack of "audacity" to bring about much-needed change.

Addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's offices in Kingston on Monday, Dawn Sewell-Lawson, lead researcher at CaPRI, trumpeted the call for greater "political consensus in the classroom" and the elimination of "nepotism", which she said is rampant in the system.

"It is time for audacity. (Where is the) principal who is willing to stand up to a teacher and say, 'You cannot go for leave because right now this has to happen'?" she asked.

"I have not seen it. What I have seen is a lot of nepotism, a lot of people being scared, a lot of people not wanting to step out. If there is anything that we need, (it is) to make the point that now is the time for audacity. We've got to step out on it," Sewell-Lawson urged.

WEAK SYSTEM OF ACCOUNTABILITY

CaPRI's report card, titled 'Prisms of Possibility: A Report Card on Education in Jamaica', points out that accountability mechanisms for both teachers and administrators continue to be "weak", and that teachers continue to benefit from salary increases regardless of their performance.

The report card also outlines that while school boards are responsible to the minister for hiring and firing of principals, there is no system for the performance of principals.

Yesterday, Sewell-Lawson also pointed out that teachers and other players at the lower level must "be willing to stand up to their peers" in the thrust to effect change.

"We are not just talking about political divergent consensus at the high level as we like to think. There is the dysfunctional relationships within the sector that need to be worked out. There is that individual who approves the leave; is that person able to stand up and say, 'This is where we are going. This is the strategy'?" she questioned.

EMPOWERMENT NEEDED

In the meantime, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Elaine Foster-Allen, in pointing to the issue of teacher performance, agreed that there needs to be greater accountability coming from principals.

Foster-Allen said while she did not believe teachers were performing "that bad", there was need for empowerment.

"They need to be empowered to do what they can do and principals need to hold their teachers accountable. It tells you in the regulation how to do it. It says teachers are supposed to do A, B, C, and where the principals don't hold them accountable, they do all sorts of things."

The permanent secretary said there was also the need for the Ministry of Education to give more support to schools, which she intends to drive.

"I am going back to the education officers and the regional directors - the strategic oversight that teachers require," she said.

nedburn.thaffe@gleanerjm.com