LETTER OF THE DAY - Longer school year won't advance education
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Although education officers and technocrats operating under the Ministry of Education must be commended for their efforts to improve the performance of our students at the varying levels of our school system, they ought to be more critical and reasonable in their processing of policy decisions.
Recently, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites announced that plans are being discussed to extend the academic year. It has also been reported that the Jamaica Teaching Council has been institutionalised by the education ministry to regulate the prospective licensing of teachers.
Minister Thwaites, licensing our teachers and extending the school year are truly misdiagnosed panaceas for our educational ailments. We need a more even distribution of educational resources and frequent professional development workshops for teachers where best practices can be shared and pedagogical skills can be honed.
Furthermore, there should be a greater dispensation of resources for specialised literacy instruction and an adapted curriculum design that allows extensive parental support and community involvement in our schools.
Minister Thwaites, your ministry has skirted around many of the pressing educational issues, and it has thrived on lambasting our teachers. In fact, this has led to the spread of demoralising comments about our teachers. The truth is, many of us cannot truly understand the work of a teacher unless we have been in the classroom and have personally experienced the constant struggle with students, their parents and a depressing school environment.
Why should teachers agree to a wage freeze for the next five years? Haven't we long endured a meagre salary which is totally disproportionate to our daily workload? Should we really concede to such a negotiation and still oblige the minister's possible decision to extend the school year?
Stop attacking our teachers and attack the root of the problem, Minister. Certainly, there are teachers who are underperforming and those who are not applying themselves in the profession. However, our rationale for the substandard performance of students has been myopic.
There is more to our students' failure than underperforming teachers. Take a look at the parents, the very mindset of some of these students, the resources in our schools, and the cultural norms that we have endorsed. It goes deeper, much deeper.
SHAWNA KAY WILLIAMS
PRO, Mico Guild of Students