Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Arrest the Exodus of Mathematics Teachers

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Malcolm X
There is a currently an advertisement on local television which is endorsed by the Ministry of Education which uses popular comedians Icy and Fancy Fat to highlight the importance of mathematics education in the general society. However, while this is commendable given the general fear of mathematics that a significant number of Jamaican students have this has done very little to curb the high attribution rate of teachers of Mathematics across the island.
Given the low remuneration of teachers, and the general poor working conditions those teachers who specialize in Mathematics education are in high demand and are being enticed to leave the noble profession. Additionally, the high levels of indiscipline among students in which teachers have been verbally and physically abused is also another factor which is contributing to the exodus of teachers of Mathematics especially to more lucrative paying jobs both locally and overseas. One cannot lay blame on those teachers who leave the profession for better opportunities since maths counts and at the end of the day we all are desirous of living a comfortable life.
According to Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, some 70 mathematics and science teachers have exited Jamaican classrooms since January, with the number expected to increase. The numbers speaks to the gravity of the problem we face regarding our inability to retain teachers of Mathematics and Science.  In most instances those teachers who have left the classroom/profession are among the most experienced and brightest. As a society we tend to be reactive instead of proactive. We should have put measures in place a long time ago to address this long standing problem. This is certainly not a new issue, and by not giving it the full attention it deserves the problem has only gotten worse.
According to Dr. Chance Lewis of the University of North Carolina- Charlotte, between 60 t0 70 percentages of black male teachers leave the profession after three years. He added that those males who remain after three years are usually promoted to vice principals and or principals.  The exodus of teachers of Mathematics from our schools should be a cause of grave concern for the Ministry of Education, as well as other stakeholders especially since the Education Ministry is pushing ahead with its Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme across the island. STEM cannot be realized without a cohort of experienced and dedicated teachers of Mathematics.
The plight of Jamaicans fear of Mathematics is highlighted in the data from the education ministry which shows that performance in the 2015 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in mathematics declined some 3.7 per cent. Additionally, the decline in students' performances in mathematics-related subjects in the 2015 CAPE results was even worse, as there was a 5.4 percentage point decrease in the average pass rate for combined units of pure mathematics and a 10.1 percentage point decline in applied mathematics. This is unacceptable if we hope to have a first world status any time soon.
A number of principals have expressed concerned and rightly so regarding the implications this exodus of Mathematics teachers as well teachers of mathematics related subjects will have on external examinations and for the future development of the country.
As a society we are going to pay dearly if creative measures are not arrived at and implemented in an attempt to reverse the trend of the exodus of our teachers of Mathematics.    
In the words of Nelson Mandela education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
#education #development #teachers #migration #Jamaica
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo