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JEFF BROOMES: Students’ development must be paramount


JEFF BROOMES: Students’ development must be paramount

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IN LIFE, one never gets all one wants and rarely what one deserves. One invariably only gets what is negotiated. In a highly educated and democratic society, this fact rings even more true.

There was a time that the Ministry of Education and the respective representatives met regularly to address matters of professional focus. These allowed for an environment of respect to prevail. The recent public disrespectful displays of threats, ultimatums and counter claims leave one to believe that, unfortunately, these meetings are either unproductive or no longer take place.

The teachers’ representatives see their role, maybe justifiably so, as seeking to get the very best available benefits for their members. This is how they survive and any deviation may be detrimental to their very existence. And, without meetings and negotiations, they must fight.

Unfortunately, but understandably, they oftentimes intermingle defending with protecting.  Hence, while they may promote the notion of evaluation, they choose to limit it to what is best

for them. The river’s edge stops at formative evaluation and the water is never allowed to engulf summative evaluation. As a result, true accountability is subjugated.

We hear them promote the pleasant example as the defining rule which more often than not is the mere aberration. At these times, one is forced to recall Philosophy 101 which simply states that though all men are human beings, all human beings are not men. 

In schools, the variety of programmes cannot run without teachers, and that is a given.  In any school of approximately 60 teachers, ten to 15 carry the burden, while three o’clock cannot come soon enough for most of the others. Some do not see it as their duty at all, and I have always found that quite disappointing.

System’s weakness

School leaders in the main, it seems, are more focused on ensuring teacher comfort zones and downplaying teacher weaknesses and shortcomings. Honest and genuine evaluations are rarely presented and children get less than they deserve. Should they carry all the blame?  I say no!

When high levels of absenteeism and tardiness are identified, instantly, enemies are created.  Fear of the teacher representatives and the believed non-support from above impact principals’ actions. As a result, the system is replete with examples of persons receiving permanent tenure who clearly are not deserving, some even over the principal’s objections.

One can easily see the weakness in the system when it is recalled that a senior jurist actually told a principal (me) that if he can’t say something good he should say nothing at all.  That, to someone charged with the responsibility of supervision and evaluation! Sad, but true!

Should children’s development and progress not be paramount? Non-performing teachers should be properly evaluated, assisted and, if still failing, be dropped. This should be the clear and unmitigated responsibility of the Ministry of Education, but when does that ever happen?

Additionally, illness often takes educators away from the classroom for many weeks, and they cannot be replaced. For every week that they are out their classes are not taught (as many as 30 lessons per teacher). This results from the archaic 28-day rule that cuts against student learning and should not stay.

 Student and national development must be paramount!

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also serves as vice president of the Barbados Cricket Association and director of the West Indies Cricket Board. Email: [email protected]