Mon | Apr 24, 2017

Stop riding on JTA's back

Published:Monday | September 29, 2014 | 9:00 AM

Owen Speid, Guest Contributor

It is quite clear that many in journalism circles in Jamaica would undergo immense struggle finding topics on which to write if there was no Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) around today. The media seem unrelenting in its nitpicking of the JTA and its members.

I read, with interest, the article by The Gleaner's Gary Spaulding, 'No end in sight of a JTA ceasefire' in The Sunday Gleaner of September 7, 2014. I find his article to be ill-timed, offensive, lacking in substance and distasteful to say the least.

In this article, Mr Spaulding also failed to disguise the disingenuous side to his character. He could not hide from the fact, however, that the education sector, guided by members served by the JTA, showed wide-ranging improvement in the examinations done by our nation's children over the past year. We all know that one year's results cannot make a trend, but we also know that the foundation we give to our children in Jamaica makes them competitive, if not better than children across the globe.

Mr Spaulding questioned the perks that "accompany such positions" as the president-elect, immediate past-president and president of the JTA. I wonder how that became a part of any concern of a journalist who is not a part of the organisation.

It is the rights of organisations to determine if it wants to offer "perks" to its leadership. What if a newspaper decided to give its top journalists some perks? Would Mr Spaulding fit in quite nicely and enjoy those perks without a murmur? Indeed Mr Spaulding, the past two years are the only ones in which there was any controversy at the JTA leadership race. Bear in mind that there were decades of leadership races before the last two that went on without controversy.

I have always maintained that there is no good school without good parents and parenting. Mr Spaulding and his colleague journalists need to just take a peek at the list of top-performing schools in Jamaica and examine the level of parental involvement in those schools.

If more persons would stand up and put pressure on the stakeholders in education, including parents, there would be no need for the senseless teacher and JTA bashing that goes on in the media from day to day. All good social scientists will tell you that parenting and the home are critical components in the development of capacity in persons. Mr Spaulding must remember that learning begins in the home so it must share the responsibility in a significant way.

I would like to say to Mr Spaulding and company that performance-based pay is nothing more than an ideology. Which sector in Jamaica is really performing? In Jamaica, the education sector is the one that has been showing the greatest growth, certainly over the past few years. This was achieved because of the resilience of the teachers in general.

Performance-based pay

At a time when many sectors in our society are achieving less than one per cent growth, the education sector can boast improvement of up to 13 per cent in some areas. I am saying to the well-learned people of this country, be careful about how you all make mention of performance-based pay.

A responsible media should spare no effort in getting all stakeholders in the education sector on board. They should also be aware that when they target one stakeholder as they are targeting the JTA and its members, then they, in effect, absolve the other stakeholders of their duties and responsibilities. Just have a read of Esther Tyson's article entitled, 'My Year at Tarrant High' in The Sunday Gleaner on the same date as Mr Spaulding's. This article shows that when all parties come together and the relevant stakeholders contribute, positively great things can be achieved. The JTA is only one arm of the education sector.

The media should look at placing some fire on the other relevant stakeholders and stop allowing them to ride solely on the backs of JTA members.

Owen Speid is an educator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.