Getting licensed before one is allowed to teach has become common place worldwide. Jamaica on the other hand has been lagging behind the rest of the world regarding this best practice. The Jamaica Teaching Council was established to provide the framework to license our teachers. However, there are many misconceptions regarding the role of the Jamaica Teaching Council and this has added to a plethora of misinformation and uneasiness in education circles regarding the Council. Many teachers are opposed to the Teaching Council Bill in its present form because sections of the Bill are riddled with unfairness towards the teaching profession. An area of grave concern which The Teaching Council Bill falls short on is the protection and security of the major stakeholders. The Bill also gives legal powers to the Council to immediately suspend and cancel the registration of a teacher, who is charged for what is deemed a disqualifiable offence; such offences include sexual offences, murder, pornography, robbery, and fraud. The Teaching Council will also seek to encourage excellence and to improve marginal performance wherever it exists. Teachers are and should be concerned about this proposed Act which will become the framework to govern the teaching profession. One of the most troubling aspects of this Act lies in the disciplinary powers that this legislation would have if passed in its current form. Part VII of the bill, which speaks to the professional disciplining of teachers, notes that the Council can, at any time, suspend a teacher without an inquiry. Someone needs to be reminded that we are in the 21st century and this era calls for engagement and the consultation of all stakeholders. How can you suspend or even propose to suspend a teacher without an inquiry? What of the right of the teacher to a fair hearing or legal representation? Other notably areas of concern surrounding the Teaching Council Bill are the composition of the members of the council and the amount of power the Minister of Education would exercise over the Council. How can the composition of a professional body be comprised of a majority of appointees who are not members of that profession? Why are teachers being singled out here? Is it that teachers are of less integrity than any other category of professionals? There is no other category of professionals that this would be possible with. If the government is truly serious about getting consensus and moving forward regarding this Bill then they need to revise that section of the Bill.
A number of teachers have asked questions such as:
- If a teacher has his/her teacher training in one subject area for example, Social Studies and a degree in a separate area, for example, Guidance and Counselling and currently teaches Social Studies will that teacher be licensed at the diploma level and be paid at that level or will the teacher be granted a license in the subject area he or she has a degree in?
The education system as it has a significant number of teachers who have undergraduate and even post graduate degrees outside of their teacher training subject area and it would be quite unfair to penalize such teachers by restricting them to teach only the subject area/s of their teacher training.
- Will a teacher will able to receive multiple licenses in more than one subject area?
- What percentage of a teacher’s salary will the licensing fee be set at?
In its present form the Teaching Council Bill does not have the support of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), or any other teachers lobby group for that matter.
We all agree and accept that the country’s education system is in need of reform and transformation. However, there must be a collaborative and consultative approach engaging and engendering consensus from a wide cross section of the stakeholders in the society especially the nation’s teachers who will be mostly affected by this pending legislation. The education system cannot move forward in an atmosphere of confrontation and war of words.