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Our Teachers and our School Leavers Illiteracy Problems


Permalink 04:46:22 pm, by Melba
Categories: Education, Commentary

Our Teachers and our School Leavers Illiteracy Problems

It was only September last year, 2009 that many Jamaicans were in shock at the revelation (like it was news) that many of our school leavers are in fact leaving school illiterate. It was reported that as many as a quarter of the students leaving primary schools are illiterate or reading below their grade level. Last Sundays, February 21, 2010 I was surprised to read the Gleaner’s headline, “Teacher overload - 1,500 extra educators in public schools”. The article went on to explain that the Ministry of Education is reporting that approximately 1,500 extra teachers are in the nation's schools. According to the article the established pupil-teacher ratio for a primary school is 35:1 and for a secondary school it is 25:1.


First of all let me establish that I’m not saying that over crowded class rooms is the only factor for our high school leavers illiteracy problems, I acknowledge that the problem goes much deeper. However I do believe that it contributes greatly. A teacher has the responsibility to motivate, teach, assist, control and correct several children at the same time. The younger the children the more individual attention is needed. The more pupils in a class the more likely it is that one or more will be overlooked. 


Children learn at different pace. An effective teacher must find that balance that will keep all the students learning. At the same time the teacher needs to find time for individual stimulation for the quick as well as the slow learners. During all of this, discipline must be maintained and the well being of those students must also be taken care of by the same teacher. Personally I do not think that a 35: 1 pupil-teacher ratio is satisfactory for a primary school. 


Like everything else in Jamaica at present, our education system is in crises. For one reason or the other many students go through the school system unnoticed. By the time reality sets in it’s too late. We have some very dedicated teachers however we also have some who have given up because of the inability to cope. Then there are those who just don’t care. We need more accountability being placed on our teachers. Lesson plans must be set and completed within specific time frames. We need realistic pupil-teacher ratio throughout the system so that teachers can adequately manage. Teachers also need to be provided with the tools with which to carry out their duties.


As I said earlier there are other factors that contribute to the nation’s literacy problems, one being the responsibility of parents, but that’s for another post. One thing is for certain education or rather the lack there of is at the root of a lot of our problems. Our teachers play a key role in molding our nation’s future. We need to nurture them in an effort to increase the success rate among our children. As the Prime Minister pointed out in his budget presentation, of the 39,000 students who graduate from high school, only 14,000 will access tertiary education and approximately 25,000 of them will have no employment options and no other constructive engagement.


Jamaica is about to enter into a loan agreement with the IMF. It is common knowledge that the IMF usually imposes very stringent measures on countries that they lend money to. Is cutting back on the number of teachers in the public sector one of the IMF stipulations? Can we afford to sacrifice our children’s education in order to access this money? Already the national adult literacy rate stands at 80 per cent and from all reports is in jeopardy of getting worst. 

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Bruk Pocket Jamaican

"Recently, this Jamaican won the 10 million special lottery for a dollar. As soon as the office of the Lottery Corporation was open on the following day, he was there to collect his winnings.

Graciously, he presented his winning ticket to the clerk and in his best English uttered his request "Me cum fi collect the 10 millian dallars, si me ticket ya".

After reviewing and checking the ticket with his manager, the clerk returned and requested on how he would like his payments. The Jamaican replied "Mi wan all a de moni now". "Unfortunately, Sir" the nervous clerk responded, "The procedures are that we can only give you one million now and the balance equally over the next 20 years".

Furious and agitated, the Jamaican asked for the manager, who re-iterated "Sir, my assistant is correct, it is the regulation of the corporation that we initially pay you one million dollars now with the balance paid to you equally over the next 20 years".

Outraged, the Jamaican slammed his hand on the desk and shouted in anger, "Oonu tek me fi idiat, me wan all a de moni now or oonu gi me bak me rass dallar!!"


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