Education Minister Fayval Williams speaks in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer recently. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
EDUCATION Minister Fayval Williams dispels any questionable remarks regarding the definition of teacher outlined in the Jamaica Education Council Bill.
During an interview with the Jamaica Observer Recently, Williams expressed confidence that educators should have the qualifications necessary to effectively teach the nation’s children.
Section 24 of the bill defines a teacher as a person who has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in education or its equivalent, or a first degree with a graduate degree in education in a recognized teacher education program in the country where the person is qualified.
“It’s a minimum standard to be a teacher. You’re talking about people coming into classrooms and taking students up to age 18 into our secondary schools,” Williams said.
“You want the best, you want people who know the material well and would have passed the material at a high level to teach our students and so that’s a minimum standard,” she added.
Williams explained that educators have made a concerted effort to acquire teaching qualifications.
“If you look at what exists now in the teaching profession over the years, believe it or not, our teachers have improved. There are very few teachers who don’t have a bachelor’s degree right now in the teaching profession,” she said.
Referring to teachers who have yet to graduate, Williams noted that the legislation provides for a 12-month transition period.
“When I look at the cadre of people in the early years sector, many have a first degree, believe it or not; but there are still maybe 50% of them who don’t. Now we have to work with these people to get them to stand up,” she said.
“The government should take greater steps to ensure that we have government-funded nursery schools or infant departments. We are not saying that individuals cannot have the basic schools in the communities, but in these basic schools we should see more and more trained professionals,” she said.
Last month, the Jamaica Teachers Association and lawmakers sparred over several provisions of the bill, including the definition of a teacher and specific academic requirements to continue or enter the profession.
In a detailed review of the bill, the JTA questioned whether the intent was to massively rid the profession of pre-trained teachers, given that most, if not all, elementary school teachers are unlicensed – the proposed starting point for entry into the profession.
JTA President Winston Smith said the teacher definition would “eliminate” all teachers who currently only hold a degree.
“If this bill, in its current form, is allowed to pass, it will in effect remove those with a teaching degree, the person who has qualifications from the VDTI (Vocational Training Development Institute) and persons holding a certificate in education. This bill, if passed, will remove these people as soon as it is signed into law,” he said during the session of the joint joint committee to review the bill.