JTC Bill is part of the transformation
Providing quality education for all is the ultimate goal of a meaningful education system.
Stakeholders can be sure that there is no aping of the UK education system in general or, more specifically, the now defunct General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), in the bill’s setup. on the Jamaica Teachers’ Council (JTC), which is currently being debated by a Joint Select Committee of our Parliament.
As we strive to transform our education system to provide quality education to all Jamaicans, we must not lose sight of our individual and collective responsibility to engage and embrace the facts. Omissions and obfuscations do not help the cause of common purpose.
Recent comments by the Dean of the Teachers’ Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ), Dr. Garth Anderson, published in this journal, have confused the abolition of the GTCE with a reassignment of its core functions. Such amalgams are of no use.
To support the cause of clarity, it is important that stakeholders understand that although the WGCE was abolished in 2010, its core functions have not been repealed. Functions have simply been reassigned during a recalibration of specific areas of the UK education apparatus. This is something that is completely normal in the 21st century.
Set the clocks
The Teaching Agency (TA), a new executive agency of the Department for Education (DfE) was given the core functions that previously fell under the GTCE’s mandate on 1 April 2012. These functions included:
• the granting of qualified teacher status (QTS)
• issuing integration certificates
• hear induction calls
• regulation of the teaching profession.
With the exception of reprimands, the Education Act, England, 2011 confirms that all GTCE sanctions remained in force.
With regard to the regulation of teacher misconduct, it is important to understand that the Teaching Regulatory Agency (TRA), which is also an executive of the DfE, is responsible for investigating cases of serious teacher misconduct.
On 1 April 2012, responsibility for regulating the teaching profession in England and maintaining a list of teachers who were prohibited from teaching in that jurisdiction was given to the Secretary of State for Education under the Education Act. Education (England) 2011.
In line with diligent encouragement of broad participation by our stakeholders, the government has twice extended the date for submitting submissions on the JTC Bill. Great efforts were invested to ensure the broadest participation of stakeholders in the deliberations.
To date, submissions from the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), National Parent Teachers’ Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), Ecumenical Education Committee (EEC), Jamaica Association of Homeschoolers, UWI School of Education, University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), Teachers’ Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ) and others have been received. And the door is still open.
The diverse perspectives of the groups who submitted briefs can only strengthen the strength of our legislative process and our democracy.
A long wait
Successive governments have appointed several committees and commissions to look into our education system to identify the reasons for its evident and long-standing underperformance. The shortcomings of our educational system need not be enumerated since they are well known.
It is also well known and accepted that one of the glaring weaknesses of our Jamaican education system is a legislative framework that has simply lost its usefulness.
It is an established fact that the Jamaican education system needs legislative transformation. We have been trying to achieve this necessary overhaul for 13 years. The process was thwarted by stops and starts. We must escape this non-progressive mode. The fact is, Jamaica will not realize its full social and economic potential if educational transformation is continually hampered by limiting distractions and concerns.
The JTC Bill is not an underground plot to criminalize teachers, as some have erroneously claimed. It aims to provide for the establishment of a governing body for the teaching profession and to institute a licensing and registration scheme for all government-paid teachers.
The government is fully aware that law-making is an “us, not them” activity. This is why successive administrations have on several occasions extended a collaborative hand to the stakeholders. This is why significant revisions have been made to the draft bill. And that is why, after nearly a year, this administration is still accepting submissions.
The many iterations of the JTC Bill represent a rigorous application of local considerations, interests and ideas. This is not an exercise in imitation of the UK education system or the inoperative GTCE.
When the JTC Bill is turned into legislation, it will be beneficial for all stakeholders. Teacher registration and licensing, for example, is a global best practice. So our teachers will become much more marketable. The best markets only want the best teachers.
The truth is not everyone can teach. Teaching is not just a vocation, it is a science, which must be carefully developed through the diligent application and reproduction of appropriate skills and standards.
Providing quality education for all is the ultimate goal of a meaningful education system. Any honest discussion of our education system will have to recognize that we have failed to ensure quality at all levels. We must change this unequal and non-inclusive reality.
This means, among other things, that new standards adapted to our unique situation, and simultaneously parallel to international benchmarks, will have to be adopted, and quickly. It’s not bullshit, it’s common sense.
And, let’s not forget, Jamaica is part of a global community. We are signatories to several international declarations and agreements on children’s rights, education and development.
Legislation proposed by the JTC, among other things, seeks to have the legal power to suspend and revoke the registration and license of a teacher who has been charged with certain offenses, including sexual offences, murder, pornography, robbery and fraud. It is well established in education that the most important ingredient in the teaching and learning process is a quality teacher. The proposed JTC bill aims to level the playing field when it comes to local education standards.
Jamaica has produced some of the best and brightest students in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations administered by the Caribbean Regional Examinations Council (CXC). However, pockets of excellence do not make a good education system. Far too many of our children do not reach the levels required at the various levels of the education system. We must stop this long-established slide. Achieving this noble goal will require individual and collective sacrifices. To do this, all of us, big and small, must resolve to trust in our abilities and put Jamaica first.
Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist and senior adviser to the Minister for Education and Youth. Send your comments to Jamaica Observer or [email protected]