Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Give JTEC teeth now and leave UCJ alone

Published:Thursday | October 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael-Anthony Dobson-Lewis, Guest Columnist

THE TERTIARY education landscape in Jamaica has become very dynamic, hence the need for regulation and accreditation. Regulation and accreditation are two distinct and discrete processes which are imperative for tertiary education and they are non-negotiable. Both processes have their specific sets of standards which should be adhered to.

In my 'letter of the day' titled 'Colleges, students must share blame in accreditation mess' which was published in The Gleaner August 29, 2014, I clarified the misconceptions that is out there by many stakeholders, including students, staff and administrations. Many don't understand the processes of registration, approval and accreditation, all of which is solely done by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ). I must also say that there are institutions that just don't want to follow procedures and processes. Many would want things an easy way. Quality is non- negotiable and cannot be compromised. Tertiary education in Jamaica must be regulated now.

Regulation is not a function of the UCJ and so in 2012 The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC) was set up which is to be responsible for the regulation of tertiary education institutions. At the moment J-TEC is unable to regulate tertiary education institutions. I have even heard that there is no money to fund its operations. I further heard that the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill must first be passed as J-TEC will fall under the JTC. I can't seem to accept that excuse. J-TEC is to regulate all tertiary-education institutions in Jamaica, which include universities and colleges and not professions, so it is broader in scope than JTC.

I, therefore, call on the Government, through the minister of education and other stakeholders to move with urgency in giving J-TEC the power to carry out its needed functions in this very dynamic sector at this time. Funds and other resources should be released now. J-TEC, as the watchdog for tertiary-education institutions needs to be awaken from slumber, and be given teeth and power to bark and bite where necessary. I urge the powers that be to leave UCJ alone as it is carrying out its mandate. I would support their need for more resources, including human resources.

I am a proud graduate of the School of Education at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and so I was happy to have read about the memorandum of understanding between the UWI, through the Joint Board of Teacher Education, and the Teachers' Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ), where the colleges will be offering a UWI Bachelor of Education degree as the colleges cannot award/grant degrees. I would hope that in the future UWI will no longer offer the Bachelor of Education degree at Mona but instead fully divest it to the teachers' colleges and concentrate only on offering graduate level programmes (master's and doctoral degrees in education including the Doctor of Education, as not everyone wants to pursue the Doctor of Philosophy).

I would ask that as a nation we make better use of our limited and available resources more effectively and efficiently. Who inspects tertiary education institutions at present? I am recommending that J-TEC, the regulator for tertiary education, collaborates with the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) in regulating tertiary institutions. All tertiary institutions need to be inspected like primary and secondary institutions against similar standards used by the NEI. I must congratulate the NEI for the great work they have been doing so far in inspecting so many primary and secondary schools and making those instructive recommendations for improvement with the aim to become effective schools.

We all want our tertiary-education institutions to be effective in their management, governance, leadership, policies, practices and procedures which many of them currently lack, which also affect accreditation which is the External Quality Assurance (EQA) mechanism used by UCJ for accreditation of institutions and programmes. How many of our tertiary institutions have an Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) mechanism in place? How many have Academic Quality Auditors (AQA) and regular internal academic auditing taking place? How many have an Academic Board, Curriculum Committee, Students' Affairs Committee, Research Committee, Staff Development Committee?

I hope we will now see the need for urgent regulation of tertiary education in Jamaica. J-TEC is badly needed and UCJ must retain its independence. Regulation and accreditation are two distinct and discrete functions.

Michael-Anthony Dobson-Lewis,Senior Lecturer in Education,Faculty of Education and Liberal studies, University of Technology, Jamaica