Government is willing to facilitate teachers’ unions in establishing a service commission for teachers.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart gave this assurance last evening while addressing the 39th Annual Conference of the Barbados Union of Teachers at Solidarity House.
Stuart told the gathering: “To the extent that the establishment of a service commission for teachers can accelerate the process of fuller professionalisation, I give the assurance as Prime Minister and as Minister of the Civil Service that the Government, working with all the relevant stakeholders, will do everything in its power to facilitate the achievement of that goal.”
He said the creation of a Teaching Service Commission was proposed in 1974 by the then Prime Minister Errol Barrow and was part of a set of recommendations carried to the House of Assembly and discussed in the constitution debate.
“Thirty-nine years later, an ineluctable responsibility devolves on the union and other stakeholders to complete this maturation process for the full professionalisation of a body of workers whose contribution to the development of Barbados lays just claim to both our profound gratitude and our continuing respect,” he stated.
The Prime Minister added that the National Advisory Commission on Education, in its 2009 report, also recommended the establishment of a Teaching Service Commission to govern the teaching profession. He disclosed that the report set out in some detail its possible composition, responsibilities and functions.
“I am pleased at the detailed diagnoses of and prognoses for the teaching profession in Barbados which are now available in that report. All that is required now is the will of stakeholders to complete the final stages of professionalising a service on which the well-being of our nation critically depends,” he surmised.
The body would be responsible for advancing the teaching profession, having in its mandate, regulation, professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and effective teacher management information systems to ensure informed policies and practices.
As in the case of other professions, this body would be internally driven with the educational practitioners being at the centre of the process. The body would establish and manage professional teaching standards that would facilitate and maintain excellence in the teaching profession, leading to improvement in the status of teaching, the Prime Minister explained.
Acknowledging that teaching differed from other recognised professions, Stuart pointed out that teachers, as public servants, were subject to the same rules and regulations that governed other public servants. He noted that these conventions had little focus on the professional aspects of teaching.
He added that some teachers could enter the field of teaching without being trained, with training being accessed as many as 10 or 20 years later, in some instances. He further stated that there was no compulsory requirement in Barbados for teachers to participate in any continuous professional development, as is the case with some other professionals such as doctors.
“It stands to reason, therefore, that if teaching is to be brought into line with the established professions, then there is need for a calculated focus on the quality of teachers and the quality of their teaching. Against this background, any attempt to improve the professional status of teachers in Barbados must be achieved through the establishment of a mechanism for quality assurance and control with regard to the delivery of education…
“I believe that just as other professions take responsibility for enhancing their credibility, the teaching profession must do the same,” Stuart emphasised.
The theme of the two-day conference is “Improving the Professional Status of Teachers: A Necessary Imperative”.