Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has hinted at a possible review of the provisions of Jamaica’s Education Code of Regulations, commencing next year.
The code outlines a series of procedures, which must be followed for disciplinary procedures, addressing issues such as natural justice, and the right of representation and appeal, for the process to be completed.
Speaking at the JTA’s Roll of Honour Award Ceremony at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel on Thursday (November 8), Rev. Thwaites, in noting that the Code has long been the “guiding principle” of the relationship between administrations and teachers, said it “obviously is in need of reform and upgrading in order to protect all and to provide accountability”.
“Security of tenure is to be matched with accountability in any profession. This is a simple principle of efficiency that applies anywhere, and we must make sure that it is also applied in this most noble and this most responsible profession (of teaching),” he argued.
Rev. Thwaites also cited the need for more specialist teachers within the education system, particularly at the early childhood level. He lamented the emerging prospect of a number of graduating student teachers, who may not be able to secure employment immediately or any at all, for varying reasons.
“We need those teachers in the profession. Less than 20 per cent of early childhood institutions have trained teachers. We (also) need a good special education teacher in most of our schools. Primary schools with (student populations of) 2000… are too large…and there has to be a realignment of the skills of our teachers to serve where they are needed and not necessarily where they have been originally tenured,” he contended.
In this regard, the Minister of Education emphasized the need for education to be regarded as the number one priority area of investment in Jamaica by interests at all levels of the society.
He said that there is need to improve outcomes at all levels of the system, citing the less that acceptable passes in national and external examinations. He said that only about half of those emerging from early childhood institutions can pass the readiness test for Grade One, with no more than 50-odd per cent achieving mastery at Grade 4 and significantly less than that, in numeracy.
“We all know the results of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations…then you will realize the imperative for change, for innovativeness,” he stated.
In light of this, Rev. Thwaites said stakeholders in education must lead the sector’s transformation, and urged the JTA to take up the mantle in this regard.
“Ministers of Education come and go; and, therefore, all we in the political directorate can do is to give guidance on policy on behalf of those who we represent. But it is those who have given their lives and pledged their careers (to education)…it is to you that we must turn…for the new era to emerge.
“It is this pilgrimage of good purpose that will lead us to the achievement of our (Vision) 2030 (National Development Plan) goals and towards the strong, alert, cognitively adept, socially appropriate, spiritually conscious nation that we all yearn after,” Rev. Thwaites contended.
Retired Principal of the Mandeville Primary and Junior High School in Manchester, Byron Farquharson, was this year’s 43rd inductee into the JTA’s Honour Roll. He was presented with the Berger Paints-sponsored Roll of Honour Award by the company’s Regional Managing Director for the Caribbean, Warren McDonald, and a special Citation, by JTA President, Clayton Hall.