TEACHERS’ DAY MESSAGE 2004


Today as we observe teachers’ day it is a signal honour for me to present a most deserving and fitting tribute to the architects of our nation. I applaud the efforts of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association who are the pioneers of Education Week. Over the years, the association has been relentless in pursuing initiatives that protect the interests and welfare of teachers and facilitate their professional growth and development.
The choice of theme for Education Week – Reflecting on the Past, Repositioning for the Future – is another demonstration of the JTA’s commitment to the transformation of education into the key driver of growth and sustainable development in Jamaica. As we strive towards a world-class globally competitive education system in which every child can realise his or her potential, we do so, cognisant of the fact that the pockets of excellence we have achieved are due largely to the dedicated efforts of our teachers. This is your day. Bask in the glow of your accomplishments.
However, while you reflect on your achievements over the years, you must draw upon the lessons of experience. As professionals, you know for example, that one size does not fit all and that more customized approaches to teaching and learning are needed. We recognise that there are some performance gaps and that much effort is needed on the part of every stakeholder to close those gaps. But despite this, the majority of our teachers have remained steadfast and committed to the business of national development through quality education. So, as you reposition yourselves for the future, bear in mind that you do so in the context of critical challenges, such as globalisation, the AIDS pandemic, increasing drug abuse, crime and violence; increasing levels of unemployment and new information and communication technologies.
Education remains a primary means of contending with these challenges and the teacher is at the centre of efforts to establish the common foundations for the acquisition of skills, knowledge, culture, respect for positive achievements and regard for public order and codes of conduct that are essential for safeguarding the economic, social and cultural integrity of our nation.
A changing world environment that puts new emphasis on knowledge and learning skills also expands the horizons of the teaching profession. Rapid technological advances have made information more readily accessible and teachers are now exploring the best pedagogical use of these new tools, more learner-centred teaching strategies, and new forms of open and distance learning, while engaging in lifelong learning for themselves.
Although these new strategies place the learner at the centre, it must be understood that the teacher is still indispensable in guiding the learning process beyond mere transmission of information to the manipulation of knowledge that translates into positive action. Not everyone can teach effectively and no matter how sophisticated certain tools of the trade become, they cannot replace the human contact, understanding and judgement of a professionally trained teacher. Our teachers therefore remain essential partners in the transformational learning process and they deserve more than ever, greater respect and support from the wider community.
Today, on behalf of the government and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, I salute those who have chosen to devote themselves to this vocation, recognising that many do so in the face of mounting challenges and searing criticisms.
As vanguards of excellence, we must never allow the pockets of negatives and the gloom and doomsayers to detract us from our task of protecting the interest of our children. Bear with us therefore, as we seek to make the system and conditions better for you, our teachers. Help us work towards a clear vision, mobilising a cadre of willing partners to forge a strong Jamaica.
As you celebrate, bear in mind that he who lives for God’s honour and glory seeks neither praise nor reward, but in the end he is certain of both.
This is your day! Enjoy it!

JIS Social