Mon | Dec 11, 2023

'Almost crucifixion'

JTA warns of tying council funding to teacher licence fees

Published:Thursday | February 3, 2022 | 12:11 AM
Winston Smith, president of the JTA.
Winston Smith, president of the JTA.

President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, Winston Smith, is cautioning the Ministry of Education and Youth not to use fees for the licensing of teachers to help fund the operations of the proposed Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC).

His comments follow the tabling of the Jamaica Teaching Council Act, 2022, in Parliament on Tuesday.

The bill seeks to establish the Jamaica Teaching Council and define its functions; repeal the functions of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) relating to registration, discipline, and assessment of the qualifications of teachers; and repeal certain provisions of the Education Regulations of 1980.

The bill will also regulate the practice and professional conduct of teachers.

In a Gleaner interview on Wednesday, Smith said that one of the issues of concern for the JTA was the question of how the entity would be funded.

The bill states that the funds and resources of the JTC “shall consist of such sums as may, from time to time, be placed at the disposal of the JTC by the Parliament; all money paid to the council for the licensing of teachers and the grant of an authorisation to teach ...”.

Smith said the JTA has a major problem with the funding arrangement in the bill.

“If you are saying to me that funding the agency is dependent on fees collected from teachers, then you are exposing teachers to almost crucifixion,” he said.

The JTA head contended that the proposed regulatory body for teachers should not be dependent on financial resources coming out of the pockets of teachers, noting that the fees could escalate to satisfy the funding requirements of the entity.

Smith is also urging those with responsibility for setting licensing fees to ensure that the cost is not prohibitive. He stressed that the JTA would resist any sum that would place a burden on teachers to obtain or renew their licences.

The JTA has commissioned a team to go through the bill “with a fine-tooth comb”, according to Smith, to ensure that the previous concerns raised by the JTA have been addressed.

He urged lawmakers to carefully examine the proposed law and debate the bill without partisan considerations.

The bill sets out the functions of the JTC, which is to register and license teachers; grant authorisation to teach; investigate the fitness to teach of any person who is or who is seeking to be registered and licensed, among other things.

Section 24 of the proposed law states that a person shall not practise as a teacher unless the person is duly licensed or is an instructor.

A person who contravenes this provision and teaches without a licence commits an offence and is liable, on summary conviction in a Parish Court, to a fine not exceeding $500,000.

The proposed statute also makes it clear that a person who is not a registered teacher, licensed teacher, or an instructor should not use any name, title, description, letters, or abbreviation that implies or is calculated to lead persons to believe that the individual is a licensed teacher, registered teacher, or an instructor.

Contravention of this provision also attracts a fine of $500,000 on conviction in a Parish Court.

The bill also outlines the eligibility requirements to be registered as a teacher. This includes if the JTC is satisfied that the person has attained the age of 18 years; attained the prescribed qualification for registration as a teacher; has the English language skills (both written and oral) prescribed as suitable for registration as a teacher; is a fit and proper person to teach; and meets any other prescribed requirements for registration as a teacher.

The bill also highlights the eligibility requirements for a licence. A registered teacher is eligible for the grant of a licence under the law if the teaching council is satisfied that the registered teacher continues to be fit and proper.

Under the new legislation, teachers will be granted licences to teach for a five-year period, which is renewable for a similar period.