Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Extra lessons hurdle

Lawmakers push back against call for licence waiver for private tutors

Published:Friday | July 1, 2022 | 12:10 AM

Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) advisory board member Maurice Saunders has warned against the “overreach” of the JTC Bill in seeking to mandate that private tutors be certified before engaging in extra lessons.

Saunders, who was making his submission to Parliament’s joint select committee currently reviewing the proposed legislation, argued that tutors must be left to make arrangements as they see fit with regard to certification.

He said private tutors play critical roles in offering assistance in subject areas that may not be widely available but noted that the bill’s definition of a teacher mandates that they, too, must be certified.

The bill defines a teacher as a person who, having been admitted to an educational teaching programme duly recognised in the country in which the person is qualified, has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in education or its equivalent or alternatively and a first degree with a post-graduate diploma in education.

“Leave the people to make their arrangements,” Saunders said emphatically on Thursday.

“There are things other than a certification that counts ... . Jamaicans do well when left as individuals to innovate and initiate for themselves to help to improve their lives and quality thereof without unnecessary governmental interference,” he added.

Saunders said, however, that where opportunities exist, tutors should, of their own volition, be facilitated in course enrolment to become certified or licensed.

Pointing to Section 4(2) of the bill, which exempts teachers who engage in ad hoc or voluntary arrangements, he said it should be expanded to include those who do it for profit.

The attorney-at-law raised additional concerns that the bill may infringe on the rights of teachers and parents based on the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

“We would urge that you have a second and third look at the provisions set out and view the proposed requirement for certification of teachers, which would include the teachers of privately arranged extra lessons to see whether the requirements of the act, when considered against the background of constitutional freedoms and rights, infringe any of the freedoms of teachers, parents, or students,” Saunders said, adding that the proposed law contravened the spirit of the Constitution.

Saunders cast the bill as a bid to “trap” private tutors in certification.

However, committee member Floyd Green rejected Saunders’ position that private tutors should be left to their own devices.

The St Elizabeth South West member of parliament said that the advisory board member had “gone a bit too far” with his suggestion for non-regulation of private arrangements.

“If that were the case, then people could choose anybody to walk into their courtroom to be their lawyer because we could then say it is a private arrangement,” he quipped.

Green said that the bill was the Government’s bid to take responsibility for providing safeguards to the population and guaranteeing minimum standards of service quality.

Committee Chair Fayval Williams, who is also the minister of education, was not in agreement with Saunders’ position. She argued that the country needed to formalise the structures of education.

“We are seeking to let Jamaicans know that there is a minimum requirement ... . At the end of the day, there have to be some level of checks.

“It cannot just be left to say it’s a private arrangement and therefore I should be left to do what I want to do,” she said.