Is this why we cannot attract and retain locals in this field?
I must admit that I wanted to be an accounting teacher. In fact, when I enrolled in college in 1986, I was pursuing a double major in education and accounting. I did a few educational courses and I was also doing field work. However, in the end, I knew I can make more money being a full-time accountant than being an accounting teacher so I replaced my second major of education with business management.
I am not an expert in education but I will write on this noble profession based on my observations and personal experiences. I am a father of five of children and as a result I have the greatest respect for teachers. I do not know how they do it but they sure have a way of making our children understand and learn their work.
Teachers play a role in all of our lives. At some point in our lives, a teacher taught us something but yet we take this profession for granted. Many of us have no respect for teachers. We have respect for doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and the wealthy folks but isn’t it our teachers who taught them.
Pay Them Well
As I indicated, one of the reasons I chose not to continue was because of the paycheck. I know I am an advocate of pursuing what your passion is and so the paycheck should not be a factor in determining your choice of career. However, teachers deserve more. If we can pay politicians a hefty salary and pension then we certainly should be able to pay our teachers more.
I know that this is a common issue throughout the world whereby the teaching profession is at the mid or bottom pay scale but it does not mean it is right. If we want to attract people especially locals in the classroom, then pay them a decent salary.
Make the Environment Conducive For Our Teachers and Students
Our politicians and the employees in the various ministries and departments in government are working in air-conditioned offices. Our teachers, on the other hand, have to work in hot classrooms. I have no problem with politicians and civil servants having air-conditioned office but we should also ensure that our teachers also have the same.
Our newest school in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is Long Bay High, and teachers and students have to function in hot classrooms. How can they function effectively? Install air-conditioning units in the classrooms. Invest in education.
I have five children and it is not easy so imagine a teaching having to deal with over 25 students in a classroom at one time. This is unfair to our teachers and students. Our teachers should not be overburdened with so many students at one time. We need to establish a reasonable student-teacher ratio policy in the classroom and be rigid with it. We do not have to accept all the students that apply to enter public schools.
Our government system is too generous. People are using this country and the system and our response is we signed an agreement with United Nations to provide access to all students. There are many private primary and high schools in this country so access is not an issue. Stop overcrowding the schools.
The majority of the locals are attending private school. Some of them cannot afford them but they are making a sacrifice. Those persons that are on work permit should pay a fee to go to public school or pay to go to a private school like most locals do.
If the government wants to continue with this trend, then they need to recruit additional teachers as many of the public schools are overpopulated with students and understaffed with teachers.
Put the Local Teachers on Contract Too
Because there are very few locals in the profession, we have to import teachers to the TCI who are given a contract for a fixed period of time and then a gratuity is granted at the expiration of the contract. There are some teachers who were blessed to have multiple renewals of contracts and likewise multiple gratuities. (Let me take this opportunity to thank the teachers that came to our shores to teach our students.)
The same way we are able to attract others here by giving them a gratuity and a housing allowance, then perhaps we should consider placing all of our teachers (locals and expats) on a contract and give all of them a gratuity and housing allowance. It should not hurt the government financially as there are only a few locals in the work force. I know some will say that is not how government works. Well, change the policy to make it work.
Promote Higher Education and Reward Them
I think all teachers at minimum should have a Bachelor of Arts in Education. However, teachers should be encouraged to pursue their master’s degree and they should be compensated for this. Teachers should be rewarded based on their qualifications and experience. I believe this will encourage more teachers to pursue higher education. There is no incentive if all teachers are getting pay the same thing despite the qualifications and experience.
The ministry of education needs to have a one-to-one discussion with the teachers and the principals of the various schools. Listen to their concerns and implement their solutions. The teachers and the principals have the answers. Make them a part of the decision-making process. Do not ignore their suggestions. Too many times, our politicians and various department heads think they have all of the answers and they don’t. Listen to the people on the ground.
Encourage teachers and principals to provide constructive feedback without the fear of being victimized.
Treat all educators equally. Do not promote division between locals and expatriates. The principals, the teachers, the parents, the students and the ministry of education need to be unbiased.
Teachers should not be taken for granted. We are where we are today because of our teachers. I believe a lot of people want to be teachers in the TCI but they are being discourage by family, friends and other teachers. We complain greatly about foreigners taking over but yet we are discouraging our own not to pursue the profession. For those of you that really want to pursue teaching, I say go for it and stay in the profession. You are making such a powerful impact. I say to the government, do not take our teachers for granted. Pay them well and give the locals the same benefits as others. After all, it is only a few of them and you have the power to change any policy. Do not take the teachers for granted.