By Monique Washington
The school year began Sept. 5, but some classes will be without teachers for a while, according to Palsey Wilkins, Principal Education Officer.
On Tuesday, Wilkins told the Observer the shortage of teachers occurs almost every year as teachers enrol in college, retire or leave. She explained that the shortage occurs mostly on the secondary level and the process of staffing teachers is now taking place. She pointed out teacher placement is in collaboration with the government Human Resources Department and the Education Department.
“It is an involved process, we have to look at human resources, spaces to be filled and the best persons to fill those spaces,” Wilkins explained. “Education is complicated, it spans early childhood to primary school, high school, sixth form and the multipurpose centre. We look for the highest grade that we can get. That is why it is not easy to fill a spot and you have to look overall for the best fit.”
Wilkins said on the secondary level they look for teachers who have received a distinction in a specialized subject area.
“If you are going to specialize in that subject area you must be the best,” Wilkins explained.
Wilkins told The Observer an Education Department policy requires that after two years of classroom teaching, a teacher should go on to college. If they intend to remain in teaching, it leaves some classrooms without teachers. Every year, a prospective teachers’ training course begins in late June and ends in July and takes two weeks. These classes train prospective teachers.
Although teachers attend the training sessions, that does not secure a teaching position because there are other factors, Wilkins explained.
“That is where we show you [teachers], that is where we create an awareness of what needs to be done, how you go about doing things,” Wilkins said. “It is mandatory to attend that course. Teachers must have the necessary qualifications, the basics. The basics are English, math, social studies, science subjects and other subjects. Teachers have a five subject minimum. It is not just the qualification we look at. We need to see if they have a passion for teaching, their attitude and their qualifications.”
Wilkins indicated six teachers who completed the prospective teacher training course will replace eight teachers that left for college.
When asked about the effects the teacher shortage will have on students, Wilkins noted the schools have made provisions and “have placed the most crucial teachers at this point.”
Wilkins promised teachers will be hired to fill the shortage, but it will not happen overnight.
“We are still in the process of placing teachers, staffing is not something you can do in one day and get it done,” Wilkins explained. “With teaching we look for the best. That is why we get such good results because we try to choose the best.”