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Education ministry addressing under-deployment of teachers

Published:Monday | August 31, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

The struggle to correct the costly over-supply of some categories of teachers, as well as the misalignment of others, is gaining traction as the Government steps up efforts to improve the quality of education offered in Jamaican schools.

"We're redeploying staff as a broader issue within the ministry. What we have is a lot of people employed, traditionally with ill-defined roles. For example, we have about 2,600 to 2,800 under-deployed teachers. So far we've been able to reassign about 400 and many of them have taken on roles that aren't specifically teaching roles," Education Minister Ronald Thwaites disclosed during a recent Editors' Forum held at The Gleaner's North Street, Kingston, offices.

"For example, we are deploying a number of teachers who are willing and it has to be according to their willingness, given the code, the tenure to assist in the Parenting Commission and the health and family life curriculum. And, therefore, it is by internal adjustment of staff rather than taking on anyone else. Although I should mention that we have 400 JEEP (Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme) teachers this year, and some of them, particularly in the early childhood sector, would be engaged in filling out some of these administrative tasks," he said.

Thwaites went on to explain that taxpayers were paying dearly for the abuse of study leave by educators pursuing high education in areas not related to their core teaching responsibility.

He disclosed: "Teachers, for example, up until recently, have been allowed to qualify themselves in any subject - whether or not related to their area of teaching responsibility. And to be able to receive scholarship assistance, at least to half of their tuition, probably two to three years' study leave, for which a replacement teacher had to be found; along with the leave, earlier discussed, costing the taxpayers over $3 billion a year."


Outdated Education Code


Despite being hobbled by an outdated Education Code, among other things, the education minister made it clear he was committed to correcting the situation, with the help of the teachers.

"We do not have the power historically and currently to change that, (but) we are going to change that now (because) that makes no sense and is not to take away any entitlement or any rights for any teacher. We (are) not trying to take away anybody's leave, anybody's capacity to study, but it must be done within the context of their employment, rather than at whim. We are seeking the full support of the JTA (Jamaica Teachers' Association) in making the necessary changes to ensure flexibility of assignment and fulfilment of the professional aspirations of our teachers.

"I would like to be able to take our under-deployed teachers, not put them out of work but retrain them - those who aren't specialists in early childhood - and increase the numbers of teachers in early childhood education. When we came, there was less than 20 per cent of trained teachers in all of the early childhood institutions. This year, we will come close to 50 per cent."

However, with a draft revision of the Education Code of Regulations now before the chief parliamentary counsel, while the proposed changes will, for the most part, impact the teachers, it will also seek to make other persons entrusted with the education mandate but who operate outside the classroom more accountable.