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Teaching Profession

The post-emancipation formation of an educational system led to the obvious need for teachers and to the recognition that primary school teachers must be trained locally, since the supply of foreign missionaries and British-trained "imports" could not possibly keep up with demand. It appears that most "homegrown" teachers in the early years after emancipation gained access to the profession through a kind of apprenticeship system in which they served as "pupil-teachers" or "monitors" in local schools. This seems to have grown out of the missionaries' practice of singling out promising young men and training them as class leaders and lay preachers (cf. Sherlock & Bennett 1998). In 1836 the Mico Charity established the Mico Institute (now Mico College) "for the benefit of African slaves made free and engaged in the work [of teaching]" (Sherlock & Bennett 1998). The Institute was coeducational when it opened but soon accepted only men. Initially, most teachers were male, but by 1900 three teachers' colleges for women had opened (Bethabara Training College in 1861, Shortwood Training College in 1885, and St. Joseph's in 1897), and the proportion of women in the profession had risen to nearly half. By the 1960s the percentage of women in the profession had risen to roughly 75 percent (Hamilton 1997).

A major issue within the profession (and the MOE&C) has been to increase the number of certified teachers in the schools, and there is some evidence that efforts to rectify this are starting to have some effect. There is a high rate of turnover among teachers, however, especially among the best and most highly-qualified ones, partly because salaries are low and teachers reach the top of the pay and rank scale relatively quickly, and partly because the profession has traditionally been a route for upward social and economic mobility, especially for lower-class and rural persons.

Another concern has been the almost complete lack of male teachers at the primary level (and to some extent at the secondary level). In the past males may have been more likely than females to use the profession as a stepping stone to other careers, but since the 1950s fewer and fewer men have entered the teachers' colleges, and those that have tended to concentrate in the upper secondary level. Some feel that lower literacy rates and lower levels of academic achievement along with higher rates of behavior problems among boys may be due to the lack of male role models in the schools. This lack of male role models, in turn, may exacerbate the problem because boys may see the profession as a female domain. Whatever the reason, Jamaica is certainly not alone here, and there seems to be little that can be done to dramatically increase the number of men in the primary schools, although measures meant to encourage participation in secondary- and tertiary-level education may help to increase the pool of potential male teachers.

The Professional Development Unit of the MOE&C actively promotes in-service education programs for teachers and is an important part of efforts to ensure that all teachers in primary schools meet minimum standards. The Unit also seeks out and disseminates information on fellowships and scholarships that provide teachers and would-be teachers with access to advanced study in education. Some individual primary schools have established arrangements with nearby teachers' colleges and/or UWI and Jtech to provide in-service training and programs similar to the In-service Diploma in Education that existed during the Education Thrust of the 1970s. The MOE&C is constructing a website for primary teachers that will provide information on a variety of things of concern to teachers and may facilitate the flow of information and ideas among teachers throughout the island. Aside from ensuring that all teachers have the necessary training, the biggest problem facing Jamaica is getting adequate numbers of teachers into rural and remote areas of the island in order to overcome the lack of parity between rural and urban schools.

The vast majority of teachers belong to the Jamaica Teachers' Association and its affiliated Jamaica Association of Teacher Educators, whose members come from the teachers' college faculties. Some teachers are represented by the National Union of Democratic Teachers, and there are a host of specialized teachers' organizations like the Jamaica Association of Music Teachers. There are also many non-Jamaican, i.e., Caribbean and Commonwealth, organizations that represent teachers and their interests, including university and college faculty and staff. Teachers also join in formal and informal associations to represent their interests at the school, parish, and regional levels.

The Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts (formerly the Cultural Training Center) is a rather unique cultural and training institution. The school's aim is to produce creators, performers, and educators who will disseminate knowledge of artistic technique and of Jamaican/Caribbean historical and social development and its relation to local and regional culture. There are two courses of study: certificate (two years) and diploma (four years); certificates and/or diplomas are granted in music, dance, drama, and art. The curriculum is structured so that all students take a common set of foundation courses in their first year. In the second year they rotate through all of the subject areas; the third and fourth years are for specialized training. Graduates find employment in all sorts of cultural and artistic organizations and in the primary and secondary schools. Some primary and secondary teachers use the Manley School's diploma and certificate programs to get specialized training in arts and cultural education. The school was originally founded in 1995 by the government of Jamaica for Jamaicans, but it now draws students from the whole Caribbean basin and beyond.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceJamaica - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education