LETTER OF THE DAY - Teachers' colleges must change model
THE EDITOR, Sir:
It is hardly debatable that teacher-training institutions across the island have helped grow the Jamaican economy for decades. We dare not even hint at turning our backs on them or at denigrating them.
We must continue to applaud and support them. There will always be a significant role for them to play in the education of our people and the building of our economy.
Notwithstanding these self-evident truths, let us take a realistic look at the state of the local economy and the existing market trends in the global economy.
A confession: I have a soft spot for teachers - six of my siblings were trained as teachers, taught, and three are currently teaching in Jamaica at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels. I, too, have served as a teacher. Consequently, I deeply empathise with the administrators of teachers' colleges whose rate of attrition is unsettling. Yet I must affirm the following:
First, too many teachers are graduating from colleges who are unable to find jobs anywhere. I have a relative whom I assisted to earn a bachelor's degree in education. Even after a year, he still cannot find a job anywhere. He is one of more than a thousand, perhaps, based on the number of jobless teachers that showed up at a job fair about a year ago.
A second point worth noting: We are training too many teachers. Contrariwise, we need to train according to projected market demands.
We can romanticise teaching (as a respectable profession) all we want, but when it comes down to it, each prospective tertiary-level student must ask himself/herself: Will I be able to find a job when I graduate? The present reality is that hundreds cannot, because of the glut in the market. Some are wisely opting for other educational opportunities. I applaud them and urge institutional leaders to learn from their marketplace.
On a third note, the education model in Jamaica needs revamping. Jamaica needs more technically trained (technicians, engineers, etc.) job seekers and others trained in entrepreneurship. In this global and highly technological global economy, those appropriately trained in these areas will be able to eke out a living through technology, because some will find employment in these fields that are demanding more workers. Meanwhile, others will create their own jobs and become employers. We need to transform perhaps two or three teachers' colleges into polytechnic institutes - one in western Jamaica and another in the central region. These would serve Jamaica better at this stage of our development.
Let us adopt a flexible educational model that synchronises education with market trends. To do otherwise does not represent the highest and best use of Jamaica's precious human resources.