Sun | Jun 26, 2022

Fayval Williams | Dispelling myths surrounding the JTC Bill

No provisions to purge, criminalise teachers

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2022 | 1:29 AM
Jamaica Teaching Council Bill is not a punitive tool that is intended to purge the present teaching cohort and or criminalise teachers as some are contending.
Jamaica Teaching Council Bill is not a punitive tool that is intended to purge the present teaching cohort and or criminalise teachers as some are contending.
Fayval Williams
Fayval Williams
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Education is the primary vehicle of social and economic mobility for the vast majority of Jamaicans. Sadly, the longstanding underachievement of our education system continues to stymie the advancement of the very majority who are critical to the realisation of this country’s true potential. A complete change is needed.

With less than 70 days before we celebrate our 60th anniversary as an independent country, we all need to embrace the necessity for a well-functioning system of education. Simultaneously, stakeholders in education, that is, all well-thinking Jamaicans, need to pull out all the stops to support the far-reaching changes that are needed to make certain that this nation truly becomes “a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”. We will not achieve this critical objective if we reject new thinking, strategies and approaches.

The fact is, in spite of several national appraisals of our education system and cogent recommendations, we have failed to do the needed implementation in too many critical areas, primarily because we will not let go of many faulty ideas and strategies. It is time to act!

DETRIMENTAL MYTH

Actions need to be guided by correct information. We live in a time where misinformation is spread in the twinkling of an eye. The Andrew Holness-led administration, in which I humbly serve as the minister of education and youth, is very committed to providing all stakeholders with accurate information to enable them to make informed decisions.

It is within this context, and that of the critical need for a well-functioning education system, that I am alerting education stakeholders to be wary of misinformation being circulated in respect of the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill. Iterations of the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill have been in a state of uncertainty for close to 18 years. I ended this almost-two-decades-old uncertainty when I tabled the bill in the House of Representatives on February 1 of this year. The bill is now being debated in a joint select committee. The Andrew Holness-led administration is a firm believer in consultation. For that and reasons all related to the protection and strengthening of our democracy, all who are interested in public discourse which centres on national growth and development were invited to make submissions. Four groups have done so to date.

The bill is not a punitive tool that is intended to purge the present teaching cohort and/or criminalise teachers, as some are contending. Quite the contrary, the bill seeks “to recognise and promote teaching as a profession; to contribute to improving the quality of teaching and learning in Jamaica by regulating the entry and standing of members of the teaching profession; to establish and maintain the registers of teachers and the Roll of Instructors; to establish and maintain professional standards for teacher competence and practice; to regulate the professional conduct of teachers to ensure, in the public interest, that teachers are fit and proper persons to teach; to create an enabling environment for the continuing professional development of teachers; and, for those purposes, to establish a body to be called the Jamaica Teaching Council; and to provide for connected matters.”

RAISING STANDARDS

The Orlando Patterson-headed commission on education transformation recommends raising the standards for those who qualify as a teacher. It is not difficult to understand why. Numerous studies globally have identified a quality teacher as the most critical ingredient in a child’s learning.

The Jamaica Teaching Council, among other things, will have the power to suspend and/or cancel the registration and licence of a teacher who has been charged with sexual assault, murder, robbery, fraud and other disqualifying offences.

It pained my heart when I saw the front page of The Gleaner last Sunday. Sadly, a news item about a ‘teacher facing multiple sex charges with underage girls’, has ceased to be cause for consternation.

There is also an unfortunate-but-popular belief in our country that ‘anybody can teach’. ‘Try a likkle teaching, nuh’, is the advice that is often given to students who fail to meet the qualifying standards for their career path of first choice. Many end up in our teacher training colleges, graduate, and then do serious emotional damage to the children placed in their care and protection. For those in the profession without the minimum qualification as stipulated by the bill, the next step would be to work with them to bring them to at least that level for the greater good of our nation.

In accordance with the intent of the bill, we should strive, at all times, to have the best, brightest and most caring persons entering teaching.

- Fayval Williams is the minister of education and youth and member of parliament for St Andrew Eastern. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com