Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says he will be working assiduously to effect a number of critical changes to the country’s educational framework, in an effort to create a quality system, which will benefit the children of Jamaica.
Speaking at a press briefing at his Heroes Circle offices in Kingston, on December 12, Rev. Thwaites pointed out that one such change relates to the transfer of teachers throughout the education system to areas where they are most needed.
"We have to transform the system and we can no longer do it at a slow pace. We can no longer postpone it, if we are going to benefit from the investment that we continue to make every year,” the Minister emphasized.
He pointed out that since teachers are tenured to the school Boards and not the Ministry of Education, a real challenge is presented when a teacher is to be transferred to another school. He said this has created an imbalance in the system in many cases, resulting in an oversupply of teachers in some areas, but an obvious shortage in others.
"Where, for example, we may have an oversupply of teachers and another school nearby needs teachers, we don’t have the ability to move them from one school to the other and this is an area of change that has to be on the agenda going forward,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites informed that data unearthed by the Ministry’s statistician show that there are currently some 1,100 “fully-paid” teachers in the system, who are either under-utilised or not working at all.
"But, we cannot move them to the places where we really need them under the present regulations. Now, this is not an efficient approach,” he lamented.
"If a school needs a Math teacher, for example, it isn’t possible to just send a Math teacher, where you have an extra one, to another school and supplement it there. What we have to do is to find a specialist from within the Ministry or from a separate pool and then offer that person either a full time or part time post, which constricts your ability considerably,” the Minister added.
He said the Ministry is currently in discussions with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) to determine a way forward.
“We do not wish to remove any benefit from any teacher – let that be quite clear – but at the same time there must be flexibility to meet the needs of the children. After all, the education system is not for the benefit of any Minister or for any staff member or teacher. It is for the benefit of the children and the upliftment of the nation,” the Minister said.