Cloud of gloom over teaching profession
Oneil Madden, Guest Columnist
Tertiary teacher-training institutions are harvesting the consequences of gloomy turnout because of what is reflected in politically degrading declarations, economic devaluation, and trends in 21st-century professions.
At the outset of the orientation session for one of Jamaica's well-known teachers' colleges, just fewer than 50 students from both full-time and part-time groups turned up on the first day.
Over the past months, there have been consistent unfortunate statements that have been echoed in our media which have polluted the minds of those members of our society who are called on to shape the world.
Indubitably, Jamaica has a crisis as regards job opportunities. However, the availability of jobs for teachers is not stagnant. Though the age of retirement has been increased, there will come a time when those teachers will have to say goodbye to the classroom. Additionally, there are still teachers who are resigning from their jobs to work elsewhere. Furthermore, teaching is no longer local; it has evolved globally. It is ironic that many aspiring teachers have to suppress their passion in order to study in other faculties when the world is experiencing a shortage of more than a million teachers.
The Ministry of Education has its objective of achieving full literacy; certainly, this is a process that will not be realised in the blink of an eye. The education system will need 21st-century specialists who will conduct action research in order to know how students learn and how to cater to their diverse needs.
This same ministry needs to retract its fatal statements that have caused many to defer their acceptance into teachers' colleges and provide the numerous options that are available to this never-dying profession.
Although the Ministry of Finance and Planning claimed that Jamaica has been on target with the International Monetary Fund, our dollar has not ceased to devalue. Many sectors have experienced a cut in their budgets. Consequently, with this stringent development, tertiary institutions have to discover ways to keep their operations afloat. Inevitably, in many cases, this will affect the students as they will continue to see an increase in their tuition fees.
In the same breath, the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) has been the dominant loan agency that many students apply to for financial aid. However, will the SLB provide every applicant with a loan? Even those who qualify for one?
Financing tertiary education has become very burdensome. Thus, associations that have an interest in tertiary education need to explore feasible options of financing our great young minds.
There has been a rapid increase in the types of professions that are needed in this century. There is a grave need for specialists in the fields of information and communication technology, mathematics and the sciences.
Many of our teachers' colleges do not offer in-depth programmes in these required fields. This, of course, is a likely reason for the shadowy attendance of new students. I must underscore, however, that a Bachelors in Education degree is quite exclusive and it does not limit certified teachers to only the four corners of the classroom.
As the realities of economic pressures befall us, many persons are prioritising and carefully planning for their future. It is often said that the teacher's salary is insufficient.
My proposal to stakeholders of teachers' colleges is that they operate within the trends of the times. They ought to conduct feasibility studies and explore other programmes that they can offer to young adults. Moreover, they should be very strategic in their forward-thinking plan. If this is not done, in a few years, we may have to close the doors of many years of legacies.
Oneil Madden is director of communications (apptd) of the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students.