Making Teaching And Learning Attractive
August 26, 2003
WITH the reopening of the new school year just a few days away, attention is being focused once again on Guyana's education system.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, critics continue to say that the system is rundown, that our teachers aren't as qualified as they should be, and, in any case, that teaching in Guyana is no longer that attractive.
Surely not all of it is true.
But in addition to the list of negatives, we're hearing that more teachers have been recruited to work in Botswana.
Then, of course, the teacher pay rise talks are only now coming to a satisfactory conclusion.
The last time we dealt with this issue, we looked at the criticisms of the education system from the perspective of foreigners continually trying to lure Guyanese and Caribbean teachers to Africa and North America.
The point was, and remains, that migration isn't necessarily the best yardstick by which to underscore the "poor" state of a country's education system.
Not that efforts by New York City's Board of Education and by the Government of Botswana to lure more Caribbean teachers to their schools are anything to applaud. Working in one of the world's most fascinating cities is an opportunity any career teacher from a developing country would want to grasp. Yet, as Paul Adams of the Jamaica Teachers' Association suggested a couple of years ago, the Caribbean has to address issues such as salaries, facilities, teaching materials, and opportunities for professional growth, if they want to keep their teachers.
Our position has always been one for making teaching and learning more attractive. Thus, it is our hope that the Ministry of Education is seeing criticisms as challenges to speed up the implementation of its comprehensive reform plan to attract, retain and motivate quality teachers in the nation's schools.
The challenge is to make teaching more attractive and rewarding through a learning-and-achievement system that includes market-driven compensation and multiple career paths.
The ministry must enable the individual teacher to build his or her skills profile, but the teacher has to bear in mind, too, that an entitlement to professional development does not mean an entitlement to depriving a student of full-time classroom instruction.
At this juncture of Guyana's development, when even the developed world is attempting to lure our young, talented teachers away from us, government has a daunting but vital task to recruit and retain the most capable and motivated individuals into the Guyanese teaching profession.
Yet we believe it is meeting that challenge. The Education Ministry's Strategic Plan 2003 - 2007 aims not only to make the environment more conducive to student learning but also to producing more competent teachers for the system and to giving them better support.
And, yes, the Plan is also designed to reduce the loss of valuable human resources in the system.
We are confident that CPCE, NCERD, UG and teacher education institutes in the regions will rise to the challenge to improve the level of teaching, even as the Ministry of Education addresses the other components of teacher discontent.