Kristen Gyles | Does the JTC bill put the cart before the horse? | Comment

If I break my leg and choose to see the nearest bush “doctor” for treatment, paying him the agreed price, should he be locked up or fined for my interest in his services? If I desperately need a chef to host my private event and am referred to Miss Betty, who cooks the best food in town, but doesn’t have a handler’s license, should she be jailed for having cooked my food? Should she be fined for lowering the standards of the culinary profession?

A review of the Jamaica Council of Education (JTC) bill leaves me wondering, again, what is the obsession with tinkering with people’s ability to make basic choices about the products and services they use. While the bill certainly seems well intentioned, it is overkill. Public education teachers expect to be scrutinized in some respects, but why are private tutors and independent schools subjected to the same rigors?

Students are different and speak different languages ​​called learning styles. In many cases, students seek out teachers who they know speak their language. If a student wishes to use the services of a private tutor, trained or not, he must be able to do so. I don’t know why this needs to be regulated. The government only needs to ensure that untrained and uncertified teachers (or “instructors,” as the bill identifies them) do not pose as trained and certified. Some things can and should be left to people and the money they spend.


So given all of that, I’m really not convinced that the bill is necessary.

The bill aims to regulate people’s entry into the teaching profession and establish clear professional standards for teachers.

Clear professional standards already exist for teachers. Ask any pre-trained or undergraduate student-teacher how much they earn and they’ll be instantly reminded that they are paid at a significantly lower level than their trained colleagues. In some cases, these teachers are also missing out on the perks associated with the job, which are simply reserved for the most qualified breed of teachers.

The reason for the pay difference is no secret – if you want the full pay, get the full set of qualifications. This is often used as an incentive to get underqualified teachers to upgrade their qualifications.

So there are pretty clear professional standards. Teachers are well aware that they are expected to hold a Bachelor of Education or a Bachelor’s degree in a chosen subject along with a degree in Education. The million-dollar question then seems to be: if the professional standards are clear, why do so many teachers fail?

The answer is simple: many teachers never planned to become teachers. They were adopted into the profession by schools that suffered from a severe shortage of teachers. But why would there be a shortage? Why don’t qualified students flock to normal schools?

Let’s see, at the end of this month, teachers will receive yet another pittance for their efforts to control noisy classrooms of children whose behavior sometimes stinks more than overflowing sewer pits. They face disrespectful criticism from parents who themselves cannot control their own children. They have to justify every form of punishment they inflict on the students, who are just home angels (apparently). Oh, and they often end up having to buy teaching supplies out of pocket that their respective schools don’t provide. Man, the teachers are quite living the dream.


The problem I am highlighting here is that the teaching profession is simply not very attractive. Teaching has become something of a last resort for many students who cannot afford to study in other fields or have difficulty enrolling in other fields. In cases where trained teachers are scarce, schools have no choice but to turn to trainee teachers or pre-trained teachers to meet the demand. After all, having a teacher who learns on the job is better than having none, and it’s also better than having a math class in the school auditorium with 80 other students because a teacher has to teach three courses at the same time.

If only fully trained educators were employed as teachers, this would literally be the result. There is a shortage and the schools have to work with the available manpower. It’s not that deep.

So what is the purpose of this bill again? Make underqualified teachers realize that they are not really teachers and weed out independent tutors who are not registered or licensed to teach? So, in the midst of a teacher shortage, we want to launch a massive teacher weeding project? Looks like we’re putting the cart before the horse. If teachers are leaving the profession at a faster rate than new teachers are entering it, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on serious retention strategies first before moving on to improved teaching standards?

The best way to raise the standard of education in Jamaica is to pay teachers to acceptable levels. This will increase motivation and pride and enable teachers to cover the costs of the very programs they must complete to achieve full certification within the profession. Creating additional barriers to entry into the teaching profession seems like a great way to further exacerbate the teacher shortage.

On the positive side, after the mass exodus of weed teachers from the profession, the government may retain enough unpaid salaries to give the remaining teachers a pay raise. On the dark side, a few of the 80 students they will be teaching at any one time will likely be sitting in the back of the auditorium pounding on desks or playing scrimmage football. Wish them good luck.

Kristen Gyles is a free-thinking public affairs thinker. Email your comments to [email protected]