JTA boss wary of technology replacing teachers
Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) president La Sonja Harrison says that while artificial intelligence can greatly enhance the teaching/learning process, it must not replace human teachers or interpersonal contact with students in the classroom.
“Information and communication technologies (ICT) should never replace the relationship between the learner and the teacher. If the pandemic taught us nothing else, it taught us that we need our teachers in the classroom with our students,” said Harrison, while addressing the just-concluded annual conference of the JTA in Montego Bay, St James.
The new method of utilising ICT in teaching/learning has since been further enhanced with additional measures, which include last November’s provision of the Huawei Idea Hub Interactive Classroom System to two high schools in St Andrew and Clarendon.
In her address, Harrison cited a January 2016 article on artificial intelligence in Education International magazine, which she used to drive home her concern about the rise of technology integration in various sectors, including education.
“The then general secretary of Education International, Fred van Leeuwen, questioned what a robot-run world could mean for generating jobs for humans, especially when it comes to education. He concluded that while robots and new technology are increasingly deployed, they must help educators improve teaching and learning,” said Harrison.
NOTHING SHOULD REPLACE TEACHERS
“As midwives of the education system here in Jamaica, we must ensure that this remains our reality. Nothing can, and should, replace the teacher here in Jamaica,” Harrison added.
“As an association, we further support the position that all teachers should be properly trained and consulted, re the use of said technologies. My call, therefore, is to let us be awakened to the larger picture, to think global while we remain authentically Jamaican,” she added.
On the issue of teacher migration, which she acknowledged is a global problem, the JTA president said that there is an urgent need for a structured educational mandate to guide the teaching profession in Jamaica.
“The absence of a philosophy of education that is articulated so that each and every Jamaican understands and is committed to it, has resulted in systemic deficiencies manifested in the symptoms we see and experience daily. The most topical issue in our society today, and one not unique to us, is that of teacher migration. I cannot help but wonder if there is not a sinister plot to ultimately lead to the collapse of the education system as we know it worldwide,” said Harrison.
“If this is not so, why is there a continued dismissal of several governments worldwide to the call of teachers to not only improve their compensation package; but the conditions under which we work?” she asked.
“These calls, to a large extent, have fallen on deaf ears. If our nation’s children are our greatest asset, how come? While teachers are leaving our shores to fill vacancies created in other nations, in general, there is an exodus from the profession,” Harrison said.