Jamaica seeks foreign teachers

Students are performing poorly

Bemoaning sub-par performances by high school graduates, one private sector leader is calling for more foreign teachers to be recruited to address the crisis.

Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, executive director of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, says mediocre students largely reflect substandard teaching islandwide, and believes top local teachers should be bolstered by a cadre of competent foreign recruits.

“I have no problem with overseas recruitment, if that’s what it takes to get our children on the right path. It doesn’t make sense for us to talk about using who we have, if they can’t do (the job). You might have to bring people for 10 years until we can get our own people properly educated,” she suggested.

Recalling that many of the teachers she encountered at high school were expatriates, Coke-Lloyd urged that efforts be made to emulate that model today.

It is a sentiment that gets a sympathetic ear from R. Danny Williams, chairman of the board of Jamaica College, one of the country’s oldest schools.

When asked to comment, however, he quickly added a cautionary note, saying that it was hardly likely that Jamaica would be able to recruit many teachers from the sources from which they were drawn a generation ago.

“You will never get many teachers from First-World countries coming here on the salaries we are paying today I would welcome having them,” he said.

Ironically, in recent years hundreds of Jamaica’s best teachers have left to teach in England, the United States and other developed countries, to fill critical labour shortfalls in schools.

It is partly in response to that exodus that Jamaica is now recruiting teachers from some Third-World countries, according to Hopeton Henry, president of the Jamaica Teachers Association.

Describing the phenomenon as a virtual “invasion”, he reported that teachers have been coming mainly from Guyana, Cuba, India and Nigeria. Subjects such as Spanish, chemistry and mathematics were among the ones for which teachers were in greatest demand, he said.

“Having outside participation in areas in which we are weak is important, but there are also areas in which we are strong, and do not need to do much overseas recruiting,” Henry added.

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