The government has signalled its intention to gradually reduce the number of teachers by not replacing those lost through retirement or resignation, having so far identified 440 schools said to be overstaffed by more than 1,000 teachers.
The move is being made in keeping with measures agreed by the Jamaican Government under the four-year loan programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
As part of the growth agenda in education, the Government agreed to rebalance student-teacher ratios within and between schools, restructure scholarship programmes, and institute greater cost recovery at the tertiary level. It also calls for mandatory retirement of teachers at the normal retirement age.
However, in dealing with the adjustment to address the issue of overstaffing, the Ministry of Education said careful monitoring and evaluation was being done because some of the schools have special programmes.
The initiatives being undertaken include a freeze on the hiring on new teachers in schools that are overstaffed to allow the number of existing teachers to decline by attrition, the ministry said in emailed responses to queries by Wednesday Business.
The ministry has also been moving towards the standard-isation of the pupil-teacher ratios as follows: primary schools, 35:1; high schools, 25:1; and technical schools, 20:1.
It said the required ratios will be achieved through attrition and non-replacement of teachers as well as through the voluntary relocation of teachers where possible.
REMINDERS TO BE SENT
The ministry said its regional offices will remind schools of staff members who should be retiring at least six months before the start of the school year so that adequate preparation can be made to fill vacancies created. It added that in cases where schools are overstaffed, approval will not be given for any vacancy to be filled externally.
"The rationalisation of the student-teacher ratio is important as the largest proportion of the budget is for compensation," the ministry said.
"In a situation of fiscal constraints, the system has to be efficient in the use of the allocated resources so that other areas can benefit more. Rationalising the pupil-teacher ratios will result in reduced expenditure on teachers and increased efficiency and effectiveness. Savings accrued can be reallocated to other areas such as early-childhood care and development," it added.
Rebalancing of the student-teacher ratio will be ongoing and will be concluded when the objectives are achieved, the ministry said.
Consistent with the IMF agreement, the ministry said it has also started to review existing guidelines for the awarding of scholarships, focusing more on needs while not neglecting merit.
It said that consideration will be given to providing non-monetary awards to top achievers who are not financially challenged while providing financial support to those who are in need of assistance.
The ministry added that greater links will be forged with the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education in identifying beneficiaries for scholarships.
"This involves all scholarships offered by the Ministry of Education. In fact, the focus on need in the awarding of scholarships has already started with the PetroCaribe scholarships," it said.
In an effort to reduce/contain cost, the budgets to tertiary institutions, especially the universities, have remained constant over the last two years.
"These institutions are being encouraged to find creative ways of containing costs and increasing revenues," the ministry said.
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