Educators question ministry's data on teacher shortage

JAPPS President Linvern Wright, JTA President Winston Smith and Campion College Grace Baston
Serious questions have been raised about the data used by the Education Ministry to analyse the extent of the teacher shortage for the new school term.
President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPPS), Linvern Wright, and President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Winston Smith, believe the methodology has resulted in an inaccurate assessment.
Both associations have warned of chronic teacher shortage for the new term due to mass resignations.
However, the ministry responded this week to declare that fewer than 90 teachers have so far tendered their resignations.
Mr. Wright argues that the way in which the ministry gathered its information is limited, and this has impacted its conclusions.
He said no canvas of school principals had been done by the ministry "to get a sense" of the extent of the situation. 
"We are not sure how the statistics are going because really and truly, if you do a canvas among principals about people who have indicated that they want to go, what you don't get - which is really problematic - is that teachers don't send in resignations normally until they are sure about what is going on, if they are going overseas or wherever else they're going," he asserted, adding that any data which did not take this into consideration cannot be reliable.  
JTA President Winston Smith acknowledged that principals have monthly access to the Education Ministry to share this data, but said this does not happen, particularly because much of the information principals have at that time would be anecdotal and not "hardcore evidence". 
"Until we have a resignation in hand, we can't say definitively, in an official capacity at a ministry meeting [that] this teacher has resigned." 
Grace Baston, Principal of Campion College, has recommended one method to resolve the impending teacher shortage. 
She suggested that the Education Ministry should allow teachers who are on leave but willing to work during this period, to fill the gaps.
These are specially talented and experienced educators whose skills are in demand and who are willing to share, she clarified. 
She said that arrangement had existed in the past but the ministry decided teachers should not be paid twice - for collecting their leave pay and then being paid to fill in as locum tenens.  
But Mrs Baston contended that it should not make a difference to whom the money is paid since the ministry will have to expend those fund regardless. 
She said a resumption of this arrangement would allow schools more "wiggle room" to address their teacher shortage.  
The educators were speaking on Radio Jamaica's Beyond The Headlines on Wednesday.

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