Tue | Jul 23, 2019

Letter of the Day | Teachers biggest barrier to learning

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

For all the positive strides that have been made over the past 15 or so years through the Education Transformation Programme, hardly anything has been done about the elephant in the room – what has to be one of the most glaring weaknesses in the education system.

As a teacher, both by love and profession, it is an embarrassing pill to swallow to have to admit that one of the greatest problems in education is teachers.

I am certainly not suggesting that the quality of our teachers is the ONLY problem we face, for there are countless other important factors that must be considered, including inter alia, the role of parents; overcrowded schools/classrooms; indiscipline; stagnant budgets; and negative social attitudes to education.

BRIGHTEST MINDS

Notwithstanding all these, until we are able to attract and retain the best and brightest minds into this noble profession, we will forever be doomed to the ignominy of substandard performance, if not abject failure.

In my estimation, the historical roots of this predicament were borne out of the reality that teaching was the easiest route of matriculation into tertiary education. The persons rushing in droves to teachers’ colleges were never the ones who were in the top percentile of academic performance, but rather those who did not do well enough to gain acceptance into the traditional degree-granting institutions of the day.

I was quite bewildered myself when, upon entering teachers’ college, one of the interviewees looked at my transcript and other documents, and asked, “Why are you coming here? Why not go to UWI? These grades are more than good enough.”

The three years I spent learning the art of pedagogy only served to concretise what I feared from the interview. The majority of the students were so bereft of content and critical-thinking skills that the lecturers had to spend most of their time teaching, rather than teaching us how to teach! Sadly, it’s got worse!

The excellent teachers who are already in the system, and those entering, are being regularly poached through more lucrative offers in faraway lands.

The Primary Exit Profile curriculum is headed in the right direction, but do we have the teachers who are capable to deliver it to the students?

We must arrive at a consensus on what the profile of the 21st-century Jamaican teacher should look like. We must then encourage these persons, the best and brightest, to enter the profession. Pay them handsomely, hold them accountable, provide them with the requisite support, and watch our education system become world-leading in a way that none of us imagined possible.

MANLEY WISDOM, JP

Pastor, Educator