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'Utilise our teachers better' - Retiring principal says best educators should lay foundation for nation

Published:Monday | July 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Principal Reford Hinds speaks with students at Donald Quarrie High in Harbour View, St Andrew. - FILE

 Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

Just over a month away from retirement, Donald Quarrie High principal Reford Hinds is calling for greater emphasis to be put on the placement of teachers in the nation's schools.

Hinds, who has spent most of his adult life in the education system, argued that the majority of qualified teachers in the system are employed at the secondary level when their skills would be best utilised at the early-childhood and primary-school levels.

"The Jamaican education system is turned on its head. Our brightest teachers and our best teachers should be in the pre-primary and primary stages of education in Jamaica, so they can lay a foundation that would make every child who comes up to the secondary level able to take advantage of secondary education," Hinds told The Gleaner last week as he acknowledged the severe struggles he and his fellow principals have faced in getting the best out of students entering high school.

As he sat down with The Gleaner, he said this was one of the main reasons children were performing below average in high schools.

Meanwhile, he wants more to be done to get a greater number of mathematics teachers trained in their area of specialisation.

Hinds, who has been the principal at Donald Quarrie High School since 2004, said of the nine mathematics teachers at his institution, only one has a degree in mathematics.

He lamented that of the 108 students who sat the subject last year, only four managed to pass.

Hinds' mission

Hinds said part of his mission throughout his tenure at the school was to strengthen the math department by having workshops between teachers and noted mathematicians and getting the necessary resources to bolster performance, but more needs to be done.

Another area to which Hinds said he had to dedicate the greater part of his tenure was discipline. He said when he got to the school, which is mainly populated by inner-city children, there was widespread violence and indiscipline.

The outgoing principal said he had to create special programmes to enlist the community's and parents' help to mitigate the violence and, over the past four years, there have been great gains.

In addition, he said he had to work hard at changing the school's laissez-faire culture.

However, Hinds said his biggest achievement was getting more students to sit and pass the Caribbean Examinations Council exams.

As he completes his final weeks in the public education system, Hinds said he was not sure what he would be doing after August but he wants to continue making a contribution to the education sector.

"I don't feel that I should just go home and put up my foot reading the newspaper and looking at my wife watching television just yet. I have more to offer," he noted.

At 60 years old, Hinds said his parting wish is for more parents and teachers to show greater interest in children's education. He said teachers, in particular, need to pay more attention to their roles as life-changers.

Hinds' final bit of advice to young teachers in the classroom was for them "to be committed and love the children".

He said: "As teachers, we shouldn't see children as they are, but what they can be with our help."