The 5th of October each year marks a significant occasion in the teaching profession. It is a day when societies world-wide are called upon to reflect upon the responsibilities that they have accorded teachers and the support that has been instituted to enable optimum performance of the profession.
The Jamaica Teaching Council, its co-sponsors and partners are proud to salute our teachers, who historically have been the corner stone for nation building and have made vital contributions to national development. We owe a debt of gratitude to those teachers who have assured educational achievements for learners who might have otherwise failed in the education system. Today we call upon our teachers to continue to build the nation through their commitment and untiring service.
The international theme for World Teachers’ Day, “ Teachers for Gender Equality” is timely. In Jamaica, the two key gender issues. are the under-performance of boys in education and the sparsity of men in the teaching profession. These issues are multidimensional and national response must reflect the scope and complexity accordingly. Already the Ministry of Education is planning its strategy for the education of boys. Successful relevant innovations of teachers have been reviewed, and sharing of experiences was facilitated through a joint Jamaica and the Commonwealth Secretariat national forum on the education of boys that was held in July 2011. In reality, the education system is not producing a sufficient number of qualified men; a situation that is compounded by the reluctance of those who are suitably qualified to enter the teaching profession. Consequently, we do not have enough men to make a significant difference to the male/female ratio (1 man to 4 women ) in the short term.
There are socio-cultural and economic issues driving the gender biases in our schools. The perception is that the cultural practices in the upbringing of girls build characteristics that are more consistent with the expectations of the education system. From the early years girls are given responsibility for household chores and are encouraged to read. Alternatively, boys often, are given greater levels of freedom and fewer responsibilities. To compound the issue, the get rich quick mentality has undermined the long term investment in education, particularly in respect of boys.
The socio-cultural and economic issues influence classroom behaviour and most times impact negatively on boys’ achievement. A critical approach to improve the achievement levels of boys and girls is for all teachers to understand the gender issues and to organize enabling learning environments.
The JTC, since its inception has been on a determined path to professionalize the teaching profession. It is ironical that we hail the teaching profession as the noblest profession and simultaneously permit unqualified persons to teach. If we must uphold the dignity and the nobility of the profession then we must ensure that those who enter and remain in the profession are committed to its upliftment. It is in this spirit that the Jamaica Teaching Council, worked with teachers, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and other stake holders to establish the draft Standards for Educators. The document is available to every teacher in Jamaica so that teachers may participate in the process to establish the standards against which they are able to assess themselves.
The professional standards will bring tremendous benefits to the profession. Teachers are better able to assess their performance and direct their teaching towards excellence, pre-service and in-service teacher training will be more consistent with needs and expectations of the education system and teacher appraisal can be more objective.
Registration and licensing of teachers will put the profession on par with other professions and will undoubtedly give the teaching profession a higher social acceptance.
In any workplace, the recognition of excellence is a motivating factor. For the Jamaica Teaching Council it is most fitting to commemorate World Teachers’ Day by recognizing and honoring excellent teachers in all 60 Quality Education Circles. The teachers will be recognized in Church Services to be held in the QECs island –wide on 9 October 2011.
We have forged stronger partnerships with the private sector in Jamaica, continued our participation in the regional initiatives for raising the standards of the teaching profession and have expanded our international partnerships, so that we stay abreast of developments that will put our teachers on the cutting edge of the profession.
Dear teachers, we will continue to strive for excellence in the profession. By the year 2015 when the whole world will be called to account for performance on the Education for All goals, together, we will stand out as a professional body par excellence.
May God bless you all and continue to give you the strength and love needed to educate the future generations of Jamaica in face of all diversities among learners.