Thursday, November 5, 2015
In a previous post I had said that I would put forward my own ideas on how to fix our very broken education system. Before I do so, please understand that I don't put forward these ideas as the only way to fix the system, They happen to be my personal ideas. However, others may have completely different ideas that may be better than mine. At the end of the day, I really don't care whose ideas are best; what I care about is that we fix the @#%&*system and fix it now!
Okay, having got that out of the way let's start: I have said it often ... if you want to understand a problem go back to the beginning. The beginning in this case is the teachers. Our teachers are grossly under paid, and by and large under qualified. The starting salary for a T&T teacher is around TT$5,0000 per month. (That's around US$778 per month). Why are we so surprised that we don't get good teachers when we pay them peanuts?
I would have a starting salary for teachers of at least three times that and, of course, with the higher grades being increased proportionately. But (and it is a big "but") no teacher would be able to access this higher salary unless and until he/she meets the following criteria:
(1) He/she must be fully qualified. In my language this would mean that every teacher must have at least an undergraduate degree from a recognized university, a teaching diploma and have completed at least two years as a trainee teacher. (Teachers who have been teaching for more than two years would be exempted from this last provision) So, in other words, it will not matter if you have been a teacher for more than thirty years and are currently a school principal; if you don't have the academic qualifications you are not qualified. If you want to qualify you will be given help to do so. But no unqualified person can get the new salary.
(2) There will be performance criteria for every teacher in the new system. If a teacher fail his/her performance review (which will be at the end of every school year) two years in a row then he/she will be summarily dismissed. There will be no more security of tenure for incompetent or absentee teachers. And there will be no appeal from such a dismissal.
(3) Every teacher in the new system will have to sign a new contract containing these terms. If a teacher does not or will not agree then there would be no problem. He/she just will not get the new salary. He/she can stay under the old system without penalty. But there will be no new persons hired as teachers under the old system. In other words, the old system will gradually be phased out.
I can hear the objections: TUTTA (the Teachers Union) will never agree to that (you will say)and will insist that all teachers get the new salary under the old system otherwise they will go on strike. My response would be to let them do just that. My proposal does not interfere with present rights. It simply proposes that we recognize that we are not educating our children to an acceptable first world, twenty-first century standard and that we simply can't afford to let things slide further. And know this: the present salary structure for all teachers/educators (from the primary school teachers to the high school ones) is woefully inadequate. And throwing money at the problem will not fix it. the problem is poor, inadequate teaching. And we get that because since dinosaurs roamed the earth we have not paid our teachers properly and as a result we do not have properly trained teachers because very few bright and competent persons will go into this underpaid and undervalued profession. That is not to say that we don't have ant bright and competent teachers. I'm sure that we do, but they are as scarce as hen's teeth!
Finally, what I have proposed here is a broad outline of how I would fix the system. There are obvious details to be filled in. For example, the annual review process will have to be very carefully set out and thought out if obvious possible injustices are not to occur.
But if we don't start at the beginning and fix the system then don't be surprised if things simply continue to get worse. There is no "bottom" for countries. Haiti has proven that time and again. Things cannot get better by the waving of a magic wand, and guess what? News flash: God is not a Trini! Things will get worse if we don't start to fix them now. And "now" must mean now!
Posted by Robin Montano at 12:48 PM