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Teacher overload - 1,500 extra educators in public schools

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall and Rasbert Turner, Gleaner Reporters

The local public-education system has an oversupply of teachers. No joke. In fact, the Ministry of Education is reporting that approximately 1,500 extra teachers are in the nation's schools.

However, the ministry says it has no plans to immediately start dismissing teachers, despite the programme by the Bruce Golding administration to restrain its public-sector wage bill through a transformation unit, which could result in hundreds of government workers being sent home.

"Some schools have a shortage of teachers while others are oversupplied, and that is an issue we are trying to address. Using the established teacher-pupil ratio, there is an oversupply of teachers in the public-education system," Colin Blair, director of communications at the Ministry of Education, told
The Sunday Gleaner

He said a recent audit confirmed the oversupply of teachers, despite the frequent reports, particularly at the primary level, of unhealthy teacher-pupil ratios.

Not unusual

Checks by
The Sunday Gleaner
revealed that some primary-school classrooms with 50 or more students are not unusual, despite the education ministry's guideline of 35 students to one teacher at that level.

But Blair said while the 2008-2009 student-teacher ratio conducted by the education ministry showed some schools understaffed, it also showed several schools with more teachers than the established ratio.

A case in point is the Old Harbour High School in St Catherine, which the ministry has found to have an oversupply of nine teachers.

Other schools in St Catherine display a similar trend, with Waterford High having one teacher to every 17 students instead of the ministry's guideline of one teacher to every 25 students at the secondary level.

Blair stressed that while the ministry moves to address the issue, there are no plans to deprive any teacher of his or her job.

"We are in discussions with our regional directors to deal with the problem on a timely basis," Blair said.

"The teachers did not employ themselves and the issue will be addressed in a sensitive manner," added Blair, as he sought to quash reports that the nine extra teachers at Old Harbour High School were on the verge of being sent home.

Basil Benjie, Jamaica Teachers' Association regional officer with responsibility for the school, told
The Sunday Gleaner
that he had received reports that the extra teachers at Old Harbour High would be dismissed.

"We are aware of the ministry's decision to cut the teaching staff at the school. This, we understand, is due primarily to the teacher-pupil ratio, which differs in institutions; however, we will be doing everything legally possible to protect the tenure of our teachers," Benjie said.

No drastic action

According to Benjie, the education ministry had already written to the administration of the school instructing it to bring its teacher-student ratio in line.

But Blair was adamant that the ministry has no plans to take any drastic action, even as it continues its examination of the teacher-pupil ratio in schools.

The disclosure by the education ministry of an oversupply of teachers is in stark contrast to data released one year ago by the Ministry of Labour.

According to the labour ministry, an analysis of the demand for specific jobs and occupational groups for the period May 1, 2002, to June 30, 2008, listed job openings for teachers as constituting one of the leading areas of career opportunities in the market.

The labour ministry said its survey showed that teaching has been the single greatest area of labour demand in Jamaica, with advertisements for vacancies running in the hundreds each year.

At that time, Lorraine Salmon, senior labour-market analyst with the Ministry of Labour, said while some vacancies may have been for short periods, the demand for teachers has been unusually high since 2003.

The labour ministry also found vacancies for lecturers and teachers of technical subjects.

Pupil-teacher ratio at selected schools

  • - Too many teachers (too few students per class)

Cascade Primary and Jr High

Sydney Pagon Agricultural High

Mandeville Infant

Convent of Mercy 'Alpha'

José Marti Technical High

Waterford High

Kingston College

Manning High

William Knibb Memorial High

Kingston High

Ferncourt High

  • Too few teachers (too many students per class)

Albert Town High

Cedric Titus High

Black River High

Howard Cooke Primary

Richmond Park Primary

Leeds Primary

Victoria Primary

Alpha Primary

Mountain View Primary

Pondside Primary

Bimamwood Primary

Claremont All Age

St Mary's College

  • The established pupil-teacher ratio for a primary school is 35:1.
  • The established pupil-teacher ratio for a secondary school is 25:1.