The Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Irwin LaRocque has urged the region’s teachers’ union to place emphasis on standards to meet demands for a competent workforce in the Community.
His call came as delegates of the 25-member Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) met in Guyana for the first time in 20 years, from August 5, for its 36th Biennial Conference, to strengthen the bonds of solidarity among teachers of the region.
At the conference’s ceremonial opening at the National Cultural Centre, Secretary-General LaRocque said, “Our Community needs a workforce that is healthy, competent, and literate with strong basic skills and which can adapt to a rapidly changing labour market and technological world,” a release from the Caricom Secretariat said.
As a consequence, he stated that there was need for “more than passing assurance” that persons functioning as teachers are certified to teach, thoroughly prepared, and maintained performance standards.
“This assurance can be ascertained through the introduction of a set of measures that will enable the regulation and management of quality within a framework of professional teaching standards and, consequently, improve status of the teaching profession.” Secretary-General LaRocque stated.
Among the specific measures he suggested were teacher career policies and programmes stimulating the profession; the provision of incentives to attract the best prospective candidates; established entry-level professional standards; and certification and licensing in accordance with established professional standards.
The Caricom Secretariat said that noting that the principal requirement in the effort to bring teaching more in line with other established professions was a deliberate focus on the quality of teachers and their teaching, the Secretary-General added that teachers’ quality was a direct outcome of continuing professional education.
Against this backdrop, he said the need was urgent for standardisation of programmes that offer initial professional qualifications. This assumed added importance given that the Caricom Single Market and Economy allows the free movement of teachers, he noted.
He assured teachers that the Caricom Secretariat would continue to support the process of improving the quality of education in all Member States, and added, “We should all work towards the improvement of the teaching profession so as to achieve world class status for our Caribbean teachers, in both public and private schools, guided by the Regional Standards developed by Caricom.”
According to the Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA), President Donald Ramotar also spoke at the opening and called for standards of practice outlining academic and professional benchmarks developed for educators within the Caribbean to be implemented expeditiously.
Ramotar, who was last year appointed to a United Nations (UN) steering committee tasked with reviewing the world’s education system, said that Guyana has been in consultation with a cross section of education stakeholders from other nations for the establishment of Teaching Councils. The president explained that the overall goal was to promote the professional development of teachers, provide professional leadership in teaching, aid policy formation, regulate, build and maintain the competence of the profession, evaluate and improve its status and promote cohesion between training and practice. “These are all critical elements which when attained, will place our teachers squarely among the top respected professions where they actually belong,” GINA quoted Ramotar as saying.
Referring to the progress being made in improving the region’s education system, the President said, “We have now developed for ourselves a more harmonised approach to teacher education and training which guides each of our nations in establishing common standards in promulgating underlying policies in relation to teacher education and training.”
GINA said that President Ramotar had announced last year an automatic scholarship for the nation’s top performers when Guyana won four out of the eight CXC top awards, and had called on the Teachers’ Union to play its part as an active partner in defining a clear vision for the future of teachers.
Brigadier David Granger, Leader of Guyana’s Opposition, in his remarks, lauded the CUT as an outstanding exemplar of the ideal of Caribbean integration, while saying that the Caribbean Union of Teachers is respected throughout the region for its struggle for more than seven decades for the improvement of working conditions of teachers and professional standards. He noted the appropriateness of the conference theme, “Improving the professional status of teachers in the Caribbean.”
GINA said that the two- termed President of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) Colin Bynoe expressed the hope that the conference would aid in regaining the much needed professional status in the teaching profession and the paramount position it holds over several other occupations. He said, “It seems as though… the community of teachers that we have right now… certain professional ethics within this community seem to be eroding… our professional status is being challenged.”
Representatives of each of the 25 teachers’ unions also delivered remarks and greetings before the opening ceremony closed.