Creativity needed to address teacher migration Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 25, 2002

EDUCATION is essential and crucial to the developmental process of a nation and many contend that it is the key to development.

One only has to look at countries that have made impressive and dramatic economic, scientific and technological advancements for proof to back this argument. The U.S., Japan, China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Europe and the former Soviet Union owe their achievements largely to an effective and sound education system.

Although they have different political and socio-economic systems, they and some developing countries considered technologically advanced all have a common denominator - a sound and effective education system derived from policies that have vision.

In Guyana all sections of society have acknowledged the importance of the education system in the developmental process and the need to improve it, even though opinions vary on the way forward, which is healthy for a developing democratic nation.

An education system is not only charged with imparting knowledge and skills, but also has the crucial responsibility of inculcating correct attitudes and inspiring patriotism among young people. Its failure to carry out those responsibilities effectively could have dire consequences for a nation.

The Government, which has responsibility for the education system here, has been continuously allocating greater resources to all areas, including infrastructure, training and improved salaries for teachers.

However, despite the improvements, the system has been plagued by migration both internally - where teachers leave and go for more lucrative jobs within the country - and externally where they go to "greener pastures" abroad.

Only recently many teachers attended a recruitment seminar for probable migration to the U.S. This must be viewed with concern for its repercussions, especially by the decision-makers of this nation.

President Bharrat Jagdeo last November, at the commissioning of the Virginia Primary School, acknowledged that education was the key to development and emphasised that while improving infrastructure was important, "what goes on in the classroom is even more important." Of course the teacher is the key element in the classroom, therefore the migration of teachers must be addressed with the appropriate degree of urgency.

The argument that remuneration has to be based on economic resources is logical, but the current situation demands going further, because everyone agrees that teachers need a better remuneration package. Therefore, the logical step is to adopt creative and innovative ways in achieving that objective, rather than saying this is what can be afforded - full stop.

The Guyana Teachers Union is advocating that the way to go is to give non-financial incentives and this should be considered.

Perhaps, now is the time for all stakeholders to put aside all prejudices, take a comprehensive look at the problem and come up with a long-term solution.