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Gleaner Editors' Forum | JTA says performance-based pay not workable

Published:Sunday | September 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Gleaner Writer

The leadership of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) has balked at a suggestion that the salary paid to teachers should be tied to the educational outcomes of their students.

The leaders of the 25,000-member union underscored the urgent need for improved salaries for teachers, but insisted that performance-based pay was not a workable solution.

Byron Farquharson, secretary general of the JTA, described the suggestion as an attempt at "divide and rule" and predicted that performance-based pay for teachers would not work because the "playing field is not level".

To support his assertion, Farquharson said there are schools that, either by "perception, or perhaps reality", get the best crop of students.

On the other hand, he said there are inner-city schools where teachers are working twice as hard but "you may not see the results in CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) or CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) passes."

"The class size in one school is larger, the input I got in terms of student (is) significantly lower. How are you going to measure output? We're not factories," Farquharson said during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's central Kingston offices last Thursday.

"But in terms of value-added, commitment and output ... when you go into some inner city schools and see how teachers walk over, through and under to get there. What is performance? Is it exam?" he questioned.

Declaring that the work of a teacher is difficult to measure, Dr Garth Anderson, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, noted that there are several factors outside the teacher's control that can impact the educational outcomes of students.

Further, he suggested that policymakers should move away from the traditional way of valuing education.

"Some [students] may not make one [subject] in five years of school. You might have more people being asked to excuse themselves from institutions," Anderson said.

His comment was in reference to the decision by Calabar High School to bar students with an average below 60 per cent from entering fifth form. The Ministry of Education has since directed the school to reverse the decision.