My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why JA$100,000 Salaries needed to STEM Mathematics and Science Teacher shortage in Jamaica

Friday, December 4, 2015

Why JA$100,000 Salaries needed to STEM Mathematics and Science Teacher shortage in Jamaica

Jamaica we have a serious mathematics Problem. No I’m not talking about integration and differentiation.

Rather I’m referring to the mass exodus of Mathematics teachers for greener pastures even a student’s continue to fail mathematics as reported in the article “Not Adding Up! - Math Teachers Flee Classrooms Leaving Students In A Bind”, Published Sunday October 11, 2015 by Ryon Jones, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This as many of the Mathematics teacher are either taking up lucrative jobs in Engineering or accounting firms or jobs abroad that pay them a lot more as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Why Technology Companies are Seeking Engineers”.

Ironically, this is because there is a shortage of qualified Engineers in Jamaica as well as an unwillingness to pay Engineers the Full Salary as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Jamaica facing an acute Shortage of Qualified Technicians and Engineers for upcoming Projects”.

For such companies they're willing to employ Mathematicians, as well as teacher with a Science Degree, as they have the knowledge that they need but aren't asking for huge salaries. The typical UTECH student is looking for anywhere from JA$100,000 per month to JA$200,000 per month.

Teachers with Mathematics or a Science Degree from a Teacher College with two (2) years experience, typically used to salaries of JA$35,000 per month to JA$60,000 per month, will see anything that is double e.g. JA$60,000 to JA$120,000 as fairly decent if not good salary.

Salaries this low in Teaching means that Engineering firms are willing to hire Mathematics and Science Teachers, as they can afford their much lower salary demands.

So where does this leave the High School students?? And does this mean an opportunity for graduates of the Teacher's Colleges?

Declining passes in Mathematics in Jamaica – Why the poor GSAT, CSEC and CAPE Passes

According to the Ministry of Education, this brain drain is already affecting rural High Schools badly:

1.      3.7% decline in 2015 GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) Mathematics
2.      5.4% decline in 2015 CAPE Level Pure Maths 
3.      10.1% decline in Applied Maths

These failing grades were the subject of a Jamaica Gleaner editorial in June 2015 as reported in the article “Editorial: Solving The Maths Problem”, Published Friday June 19, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

In response, the Minister of Education, Rev. Ronald Thwaites has launched a two (2) year Math Pilot Programme in May Pen and the surrounding communities in Clarendon to provide Mathematics training for parents as noted in the article “Education Ministry Launches Math Pilot Programme”, published Monday September 28, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

The pilot program, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Embassy of Japan, will see researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas teaching some 1,600 households Mathematics over the two (2) year period.

The idea is that if parents can be taught Mathematics and reinforce the importance of Mathematics to students, it would help to improve Mathematics scores at the GSAT, CSEC and CAPE levels. The aim is to achieve 85% mastery of numeracy in the Grade Four Numeracy Test up from the current 65.7%, an 8.1% increase from 2014 figures. 

Mathematics and Science Teacher shortage in Jamaica – Why JA$100,000 salaries and benefits needed to retain Science Teachers

Coaches and trainers will be most likely be Teachers already in Teacher Colleges but under the PATH (Programme of Advancement through Health and Education) Programme.

Teaching material will be drawn from the NCNP (National Comprehensive Numeracy Programme) for the parent workshops and home visits as noted in the article “Parents to get maths lessons”, published Friday, September 25, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

But this doesn’t solve the Mathematics teacher problem. As can be seen from the comments of many of the Principals, the Mathematics and Science Teacher exodus is affecting them badly.

The most recently released CSEC Exam results showing that some schools are doing so badly at Mathematics that students that sit the exam fail to pass or even get a Grade 1 as noted in the article “Several Schools Failing To Achieve Grade One In English, Math - Education Ministry”, published Tuesday October 20, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

Just ask President of the principals association, Heather Murray. She is also principal of Hampton School and according to her, getting a qualified Mathematics or Science teacher is like working voodoo, quote: “I lost two (teachers) since year, and another one to England last year, and we didn't hear until the very last minute when they got through, because they don't have a very long window of time to tell you. We were fortunate, because we were able to replace the math teacher, but we didn't get a physics teacher until October, so we started the term without one”.

And where exactly are they going?   

Salaries like Engineering needed for Teaching – Housing, Land and Education benefits for Teachers

Engineering companies and abroad, where they get much better salaries, making the JA$35,000 per month pale in comparison to quote Hampton School Heather Murray: “To get a CAPE math, physics or chemistry teacher is not easy at all as they go to the business companies like the engineering companies. I have had to depend on a retired chemistry teacher for the last five years”.

And who can blame them, as JTA (Jamaica Teachers' Association) President Norman Allen points out, as those salaries are what Teacher should really be getting, quote: “I am not discouraging any teacher who sees an opportunity that is going to provide for them a better way of life, in their view. So the system has to be a little more tolerable, understanding, and I might even add knowledgeable. Because if persons recognise the issue facing the system, I think they would be a little more understanding”.

Logically, this would mean an opportunity for the Mathematics and Science Graduates of teacher's Colleges such as MICO University College.

Ironically many who enter MICO University College do not qualify to do the Mathematics program because, interestingly, they did not pass Mathematics as note in the article “Math Teacher Problems Hurting Students”, published Thursday March 26, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

So as long as they current crop of Mathematics and Science Teacher graduates can handle the extra work, there are GSAT, CSEC and CAPE students will to be taught, to quote JTA President Norman Allen: “I know it is difficult; it is going to be added work, because they would have been just out of college, and for areas like CAPE and CXC, it is going to be a lot of work to get these persons ready. But we can't dispel the fact that the teachers' colleges are turning out trained math teachers”.

Already as the initiators of this push, the Minister of Education is calling for increased corporate support for Mathematics Teacher scholarships at the Teacher Colleges as reported in the article “Thwaites Calls For Corporate Math Support”, published Friday November 27, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

The Ministry of Education has also made a push for more STEM (Science, Technology, Energy and Mining) academies with Sydney Pagon STEM Academy in Braes River, St. Elizabeth being the first at a cost of JA$100 million per year as noted in the article “Education Minister Wants More Students to Attend Sydney Pagon STEM Academy”, published December 4, 2015 By Marlon Tingling, The Jamaica Information Service.  

But begin overworked for JA$35,000 to JA$60,000 per month is not appeal to Mathematics and Science Graduates from MICO University College, especially as so few of them even initially qualify to do Mathematics or any of the Sciences in the first place.

Perhaps it’s time for an increase in Mathematics and Science Teacher salaries as well as Housing, Land and Education bursaries for themselves as that is the only lever that the Minister of Education is yet to pull!!  

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