Patrick Faber says we have too many unqualified teachers

Last week’s release of the results of the 2013 Primary School Examinations (PSE) revealed that from 2012 to 2013, not much has changed in terms of mean performance. In response to questions about whether it is time to do away with the exam as a true test of student performance, Minister of Education Patrick Faber singled out multiple stakeholders for their importance in ensuring that children perform well. That list includes the Ministry, school managing authorities, parents and the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). With regard to the Union, the Minister of Education knocked their willingness to defend those he believes are ill-equipped to teach our young.

Patrick Faber – Minister of Education:
vlcsnap-2013-06-13-19h08m54s42We have a union in this country, and I’ll get into trouble again for it, that fights for teachers who are incompetent, some of them who are molesters, some of them who don’t do their job in the classroom, and the union officials know it.  But we fight for them. They’re not functioning. There not doing the best job.  But the minute the Principal or the Management or the Ministry tries to bring them up, there is a champion called the union who fights against.  So we need for the union to help to set and to enforce ethical and professional standards in the teaching profession.  We want them to help us to purge out of the system there non-performing or mal-performing teachers.  Send a message to them that there is zero tolerance for that.  And I urge you principals now and teachers, if you have people in your schools who don’t love our children, tell them to get out, because it damages us and affects these scores.

The Minister notes that much of the education budget is spent on teacher salaries. With another increase on schedule, the Minister believes there needs to be some reorganization of schools.

Patrick Faber – Minister of Education:
vlcsnap-2013-06-13-19h08m11s245There’s no real question why we have these issues, you know. Very little is spent on monitoring  and evaluating what goes on in the system, policing the system if you will. Very little.  If  one per-cent of that money is spent on it, that’s a lot.  What do we spend the money on?  Salaries.  We have too many teachers. I’ll go on record one more time to say I’ll get in trouble, you know, but it’s OK.  We have too many schools, and we have too many teachers.  We need to amalgamate some of these schools that are scattered all across the country, where we are paying teachers.  We need to improve on the quality, by taking the monies that we’re saving from paying all of these teachers, and we have to retrain some of them to do other work.  I’m not saying fire people. In fact in most cases they’re not qualified to be teachers, they’re qualified to be something else anyway. That’s the truth.  You heard me say that we’re up to 54% trained teachers at the Primary School level. That means 46% of them trained to do something else. So they shouldn’t cry. Let’s talk about what else we could do that could be of service  to the Education System if we want to retain them, that can improve the quality of Education, whether that means Librarian or Nurse or Secretaries or Bursars, or whatever other support services we can achieve.

Hon. Faber pointed to the Ministry’s strategic plan and development of the school inspectorate and other important assets to fix schools, but each school, he said, must have its own plans for improvement. Chief Education Officer Chris Aird said looking at the comparable statistics from the present year to the previous does not reveal anything new. It is more useful to look at trends.

Patrick Faber – Minister of Education:
There is some level of consistency in the performance in one sense, but there is fluctuation from year to year. There is much fluctuation too in the proportion of students scoring at or above a Grade C or a satisfactory level of performance. In 2009, it was at 47%, climbed to 66% in 2010 and declined to 39% in 2011. It rose to 53% in 2012 and dropped a little bit back to 47%. The overall conclusion in English performance would be that it seems to be unstable and it does indicate that there may be issues to be addressed – there are issues to be addressed. And that said with half of the students scoring C’s or better, this means that half the students are actually scoring less than a C; which is a matter for concern.

National awards for the PSE are upcoming and the Minister says they will look at possible rewards for most improved schools.

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