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Pay teachers more to improve math grades - Hrabowski

Published:Sunday | December 2, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dr Freeman Hrabowski-Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, United States, Dr Freeman Hrabowski, has challenged the Jamaican authorities to put science, engineering and mathematics at the forefront of the education system.

Hrabowski has also challenged the authorities to use those subjects as tools to create jobs and drive economic growth.

"As you are good at track, you can be good in maths and science," said Hrabowski. "What makes the difference in any society beyond our understanding the context through the arts and humanities will always be the strength in science and engineering to create the jobs. And that's where you need to go in your culture," added Hrabowski.

At the same time, he said he sensed from going around Jamaica that the best he could find was a culture where students majored in engineering or one of the natural sciences at the undergraduate level and then left to pursue careers in other areas.

"How should you think about innovation? How do you convince more Jamaicans to think about science and engineering, in addition to the arts and humanities?" asked Hrabowski while addressing the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ)/Gleaner-sponsored '50UnderFifty Business Leaders Shaping Jamaica's Future' gala awards banquet at the Wyndham hotel, New Kingston, last Thursday.

Noting that Jamaica has the potential to go as far as it wants, he said the island's vision should not necessarily be about creating scientists and engineers who would change the world.

"I challenge you to come into this world of science and engineering because whether China or India or America, science and engineering along with arts and the humanities will be very important," he said.

"If you are talking about health care, if you are talking about the environment, if you are talking about energy, if you are talking about intelligence - all of these (subject) areas will be required."

Asked what revolutionary steps he would take to improve educational outcomes in mathematics and the sciences at the secondary level, given the less-than-acceptable performance in Jamaica, the Maryland university president said first, he would double the pay of all teachers and triple the remuneration of mathematics and science teachers.

Everybody needs money

Responding to the audience's somewhat surprise reaction which might suggest that he was poking fun, Hrabowski said, "You'll be amazed. I say that with great seriousness. Even though you may scale back on the proportions, it does help. Everybody needs some money, right?"

Second, he would highlight the best teachers. Third, like they have been doing at the University of Maryland, he would invite private-sector firms into schools so that they can get applications.

"Children in your schools are bored. They need to know how the work compares to the world, (how it) applies to whatever they have to do," he explained.

Fourth, "make the teachers know that they are special, probably more special than anybody else. Everybody goes through the teachers. How do you celebrate your teachers? Teachers should be revered in any society," he said.

In addition, he said he would allow teachers the chance to work in companies during the long summer holiday time to learn more and make extra money.

Hrabowski also cautioned the business community to stop focusing on peers who have migrated in search of greener pastures.

"I think you need to stop talking about people who have left, quite frankly, because every time I hear someone in Jamaica mention that I talk more about the ones who stay because the ones who stay are making such a difference," Hrabowski said in answer to a question.

"There is something to be said about taking pride in self, taking what you've learnt from around the world ... bringing it back and making this place better. What you have to do is ... bring to the attention of the world the best in all the ways that you have it. You've got it here, sell it," he declared.

The 50UnderFifty business leaders, honoured in celebration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence, were awarded in 10 categories - the entrepreneurs, shot callers, imaginators, power brokers, innovators, educators, financiers, leisure tycoons, producers and game changers.

The 50 persons were expected to have demonstrated strong leadership qualities in their respective fields throughout the years and associated with a business in operation for at least three years.

Individual businesses were also expected to be net jobs generators and the leaders able to demonstrate impact on the Jamaican society through advocacy and/or corporate social responsibility.