Education CoI recommends licensing of teachers

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THE recently concluded Commission of Inquiry into the local education system has recommended a license system for teachers to improve the level of service they are rendering to the system.

This was a recommendation of the five-member commission, chaired by former Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar. The report said that, consideration should be given to the implementation of a license system for teachers, since this will ensure greater discipline and management of those educators.

“This will require a complete rethink on how teachers are trained, certified, appraised, managed and disciplined. Every teacher should have an incentive to maintain his or her license to teach.” The report stated that consideration should also be given for the renewal of such license on a five-year basis once, “certain criteria for professional development, mental and physical assessment are fulfilled.”

Outside of licensing teachers to foster professionalism, the report also pointed to the adequate use of educators in the area most needed. Placement of teachers should be carefully addressed, the report noted, since the COI found that schools allocated the most academically inclined students usually benefit from more qualified teachers. This was noted as an unfair distribution of educators. It was suggested that, “an incentive scheme could be considered to attract teachers to low-performing schools and those in the Hinterland,” for instance.

The COI went on to state that consideration should be given to an improved system, where teachers receive their pay soonest after their recruitment. “Evidence was provided to show that some teachers have had to wait more than six months after they had assumed duty before they were paid,” the report said. Where teachers are expected to perform in far flung and more secluded locations, mostly within the hinterland, the COI recommended, “A full-fledged investigation” into the cost of living in those areas so that teachers’ allowances can be reviewed and adjusted based on evidential data.

It is accepted that teachers in hinterland communities are functioning in a vastly different environment from the coastland and the city; in that case, an investigation was also recommended into their living conditions. “Consideration should be given for a full investigation into teachers’ quarters.” It was reported further that, several such quarters are poorly maintained and lack basic furnishings. “In one hinterland community there were several non-teachers occupying the best rooms in the building, while a few teachers were in need of accommodation and two teachers were occupying a room that was poorly ventilated. Such was considered a huge disincentive for teachers in the hinterland.”

Also, the COI said to encourage teachers into the hinterland, consideration should be given to temporary holding and close-ended appointments or contracts for at least two years rather than one year. “Such would allow them to be available for training, which should be mandatory, during the long vacation. Also, it has been reported that renewal of appointments or contracts for such teachers takes a long time and subsequent payment much longer.” Teachers could also be promoted for remuneration purposes, with the option of remaining in the classroom. This, the report said was the desire of many of the educators before promoting the operationalisation of a proposed “Master’s Teacher Scheme”.

COI chairman Caesar, during the handing over of the report, had told the media that the COI team was seeking government’s serious consideration to adjusting the compulsory retirement age from 55 to 60, with a possibility for extension to the age of 65, depending on the annual submission of good health certificate. While provision is made for teachers’ voluntary retirement, the chairman had said that the system could continue to use willing able-body retired teachers for support.