Jeffrey proposes overseas career stretches for productive teachers
Stabroek News
June 20, 2004

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Managed migration, or, `career stretch' as Minister of Education Dr Henry Jeffrey calls the migration of teachers on a more structured basis, is not an idea meant to prevent, but rather to facilitate an overseas career for teachers who have performed well.

In a presentation to the Caricom Secretariat on Guyana's position on the issue of managed migration, Jeffrey said the government could be more proactive in arranging teacher recruitment and putting re-engagement incentives in place.

Since the intention is also to maintain contact, he said the government could make arrangements with reputable recruitment agencies in the host countries. Teaching careers abroad could then be counted as service done in the originating country, on some equitable basis, to allow for, easier re-engagement at any career point while opportunities could be provided for the payment of pension contributions and thus the receipt of pensions in the originating country.

It might be possible, too, he said to organise for leave periods to be worked out and remunerated in the country of origin. "This might intermittently introduce new advanced experiences into the education system and facilitate, for example, the introduction of a system of summer and other remedial classes."

He recommended that Caricom continues the discourse for compensation with the receiving countries starting with neighbours; open discourses with recruiters to devise a system more geared to the region's interest; establish a career linkage and pensions and service contribution system which will allow teachers to relocate or make contributions to the education system with minimal disturbance.

The recommendations, Dr Jeffrey said, were crafted to suit the specific conditions of Guyana but they may have wider applications. Many of the recommendations, he said, were already being done at the regional and other levels to make the recruitment process more fair and transparent.

He noted that in Guyana after decades since the institutionalising of teacher training, just about 50% of the teachers in the education system were trained. The plan is to increase this to 80% by 2015 but other ways, such as the `career stretch', could be seen as one suggestion to improve output.

Some of the policy implications will require devising performance appraisal processes for teachers and managers based upon the required standards; instituting a rigorous system to see that appraisals are completed in a timely fashion; that references are given based upon the authorised system; and outlining and implementing an entire system of teacher support taking into consideration the new technology.

In a background to the steady heavy migration of teachers from the country, Jeffrey said the loss of teaching staff, particularly trained teachers, is common to most open societies, largely because teaching does not command comparatively sufficient material rewards and status. Poor countries such as Guyana are at the bottom of the rewards table.

The emigration problem does not only apply to teachers, he said, adding that teacher remuneration is quite reasonable in terms of the national effort. Although all efforts should be made to improve the remunerative and working conditions of teachers, he said the size of the national income - US$860 per capita - is insufficient to seriously mitigate the problem.

He feels comparatively larger increases in remuneration would have very little impact on the emigration of teachers. In the case of Guyana, he quoted a 2002 World Bank public expenditure review on the issue of teachers' incentives:

"Regarding the retention and performance of teachers, more training is at best a very partial solution. In fact, training at the university may have led to an increase in emigration. Similarly, the solution cannot be a further general increase in salary levels. As part of the solution to the teacher retention and performance problem, Government will need to recognise the importance of teachers' roles by giving them more voice in school management by designing sensitisation campaigns that boost teachers' social status, and by financially rewarding them for achieving predetermined, measurable goals ..."

Noting the regional nature of the emigration problem, Caribbean education ministers at a meeting in Bridgetown, Barbados in 2002, requested the development of a draft protocol/code of practice for the recruitment of teachers in the Commonwealth. The matter was further discussed at the 15th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Scotland in October 2003 and elsewhere.

He said that if the Caribbean's intentions were achieved they should make the recruitment process more open and transparent, provide those who wish to emigrate with a better deal, allow national governments to become a major stakeholder in the process of recruitment and possibly provide some additional compensation for the country of origin.

Jeffrey said in these globalised times, when large numbers of teachers are trained because of the emigration opportunities, the government must adopt new strategies to maintain and improve the standard of teaching and the quality of education delivery bearing in mind the country's specific socio-economic condition.

`Career Stretch', Jeffrey said, differs from the attempt to manage emigration because it does not view and does not treat a career move to another jurisdiction as necessarily emigration but seeks to develop and keep in place professional links, which might provide incentives for re-engagement at some future date.

He said as a result of emigration Guyana is left with the less experienced teachers and the proposals so far will not solve this problem.

In practical terms, a normal teaching career is about forty years long, and teacher competency peaks after about twenty years but because of emigration, Guyanese teachers remain in the system for about twelve to fifteen years. The problem is how to gain teaching quality that would have been attained after twenty years in less than twelve years.

Jeffrey believes that technology, in-service training, distance support, cluster monitoring and mentoring, the establishment of more and improved learning resource centres, rigorous staff development, improved inspection, a decentralised management system in which promotion and pay are based on performance rather than length of service, can do much to aid this effort.