No cheers from teachers for Sixth-Form Pathways programme

ROSE HALL, St James —Education Minister Fayval Williams says more than 17,000 students have pre-registered for the Sixth-Form Pathways programme but it appears teachers are not fully on board.

The announcement by the minister was made during the final day of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) 58th annual conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James on Wednesday.

“[It] is telling us that our students see the value in the additional two year of school. Do I hear an amen? Do I hear an amen for our students?” asked Williams to which teachers replied in a deafening tone, “no”.

The programme is aimed at providing an additional two years for students at the secondary level that will see students leaving school at Grade 13 instead of the usual Grade 11.

In September 2004, the Ray Davis-led task force on educational reform stated that while improvements were made, there was a chronic underachievement of the system about the large number of students performing well below their grade level. As such, several recommendations were made to include an extension of the school experience from 11 to 13 years.

Despite the recommendations, there was no implementation until last year.

There was also a similar recommendation made in the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission report of 2021.

“Will we continue to deliberate or will we begin the process of implementation so another 18 years do not catch us comparing with another 18 years and bemoaning the fact that we have not implemented the recommendations,” stated Williams.

The minister added that, “The Ministry of Education and Youth exists to help, not to hinder in much the same way that madame president [of the JTA La Sonja Harrison] said that the JTA has facilitated change, not impeded it. Thank you, Madam President, for giving us that assurance in your inaugural speech. I look forward to working with you. And to say that we both serve a common cause that has seen our students grow and flourish that have seen our teachers grow and flourish.”

Williams said, too, that her ministry is committed to having dialogue with key stakeholders, school communities and the wider public through a variety of communication channels to get support for the continued transformation of the education sector.

“The focus will be on the implementation of the recommendations, many of which would have appeared in prior reports. This has been one of the main criticisms of the Ministry of Education — the lack of implementation, despite the many in-depth analyses that have been done,” stated Williams.

The minister also pointed to the importance of the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill to which she said dialogue will be had.

Harrison during her investiture ceremony had opposed the bill, which she referred to as a “noose around the neck” of the nation’s educators.

“And I want to assure you and the members of the JTA that when we look across the world, especially in the many states in the USA, a country that employs many Jamaican teachers, their licensing regime and the counsellor commission that forms the governance structure are not dissimilar from the licensing regime we’re trying to create here in Jamaica. In fact, in California, a state to which many of our Jamaican teachers migrate, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing consists of 19 members 15 voting members and four ex-officio or non-voting members. Of the 15 voting members, six are classroom teachers, one school administrator, one school board member, one school counsellor, one higher education faculty member from an institution for teacher education and four public members,” stated Williams.

“This is in recognition that education has the widest cross section of stakeholders than I daresay any other profession and that these stakeholders must be represented at the table,” she said.

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