Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth:HAVING TAUGHT at almost every level in education, from kindergarten to the tertiary level, and having served in positions from pre-trained teacher to principal, Arthur Comrie has given almost half a century of dedicated service to education. So much so, the Jamaica Teachers' Association this year, bestowed on him the Golden Torch Award for 48 years of service.
Comrie said he first discovered his love for teaching when he started working as a pre-trained teacher at the Giddy Hall All-Age School in 1965.
"It started with my first experience as a pre-trained teacher in 1965. I realised that it is beautiful to transfer knowledge and assist youngsters - and not only youngsters, but people - to learn. I say people because I have taught all ages," Comrie said.
Comrie, who has taught across the island in rural and urban settings, said the approach for students in rural Jamaica has to be different from those in urban communities.
"The way you teach the child in the country is different from the child in the city. For example, in the earlier days at Giddy Hall, we did a lot of project teaching, where we used the main crops that the parents grew - like peanuts, peas, corn - and formulated projects. We made the plots right at the school (and we) monitored, recorded and discussed (the findings)," Comrie recalled.
The educator defends the education system, saying that his experience of working in education locally as well as having worked and studied overseas have shown him that Jamaican education has come a far away in a short time.
"Experience has taught me that when you hear people talking about 'nothing is going on in education', 'our educational system is not doing what it should,' that is not true, and I think you will have that coming from people who don't understand education and how youngsters learn.
"First of all, through my experience, the Jamaican education system has come a far way in a very short time as compared to my experience in the United States and in England to some extent," Comrie told Rural Xpress.
opportunities for students
He said despite financial constraints, there were far more opportunities for students, including adults, to equip themselves with the necessary assets for educational advancement.
"More of our people are becoming more literate and qualified, in other words, matriculating for further studies and qualifying for jobs, to the extent that the country cannot find jobs for them," Comrie told Rural Xpress.
He added that the quality of education is supported by the demand for Jamaican educators overseas. He said, however, that there are additional skills that Jamaican teachers could make use of to make themselves more marketable on the international scene.
Comrie said in order to maintain a high quality of education in Jamaica, there needs to be constant discussion on and development of educational practices.
"Education and the process thereof is a very dynamic thing - dynamic in the sense that you cannot allow it to be stagnant, and that's why you'll have problems. It needs constant research development and practice and constant discussion. It's not a dead subject," he stated.
In addition to the years that he spent in the school setting, Comrie has been involved in community projects and church-related outreach. In between his various stints in various educational institutions, he served the St Elizabeth Cooperative Credit Union, an organisation he now serves again.
Comrie, who retired from the classroom after his last position serving with the HEART Trust/NTA at the Black River Centre, now a part of the South-West TVET Institute after having served there from 2008 to 2012, now dedicates his days to the credit union, his church, performing his duties as a justice of the peace, and writing books, two of which he has already had published: The International Teacher and Bess Secret: Story of YS Falls.
Comrie said he is now working on another.