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Teacher truancy—a major education problem

Monday, February 29, 2016

In the T&T Guardian article “Bad parenting partly to blame—TTUTA” (February 24, 2016), TTUTA president Devanand Sinanan goes to great lengths to partly blame parenting for the ills with today’s students but without identifying who the other responsible part is. 

TTUTA advocate Sinanan is always prone to taking the moral high ground and extolling the great virtues of the TTUTA. He does this, however, without mentioning the complicity of his members in any education problem, without accepting any blame for classroom disruption and poor school and student performance. Does he cite the other part of the problem—the teachers—and their truancy from the classroom?

How can Sinanan’s teachers control the classroom when they are too often not there? Teacher truancy is a major un-addressed education problem here and Sinanan and the TTUTA not only do nothing about it, but actually exacerbate the problem. 

According to a previous Guardian newspaper report there are over 200 disciplinary actions pending against teachers, many going back years. The purported reason no action has taken place is constant obstruction and delay tactics by this same union. 

It appears that the tail is wagging the dog here.

In this same issue of the Guardian on blaming bad parenting is an article entitled Dr Tim on PM’s ‘monsters’ remark. Here, the former MoE talked about the foundation of any progressive school system and recalled his attempt to “restore an education system that was failing on many levels.” Why did not Dr Tim correct the truant teacher problem—clearly a major cause of failure.

Highlighting the effect on teaching goals is a current New York Times article on teacher truancy in India. From the Times “To prepare more than 200 million primary school children for jobs in a modern work force, India passed legislation a decade ago that more than doubled education spending, increased teacher salaries and reduced class sizes.” 

Indian education officials expected a subsequent rise in school performance. What they found greatly disturbed them.

The Times article goes on to state: “But children’s already low performance has fallen. Pratham Education Foundation, a nonprofit that conducts an annual household survey, reported that in 2005 about 60 per cent of fifth graders in rural India—where most people live—could read at a minimum second-grade level, but that in 2014 less than 50 per cent could.”

After controlling for many variables, the experts determined that “teacher truancy is among the more prominent causes of that failure.” Teacher truancy is also a big part of the problem here and the TTUTA is complicit in perpetuating this problem. 

The regressive, reactionary stance of the TTUTA has to be changed and the teachers and their union have to understand they are employed to serve the needs of the people and not the people serve the needs of the union. The tail cannot be allowed to continue to wag the dog.

One may ask why the T&T government and the ministry allow this situation to exist. It appears that the Ministry does not have the power to enforce teacher discipline. It further appears that in order to effect reform and change, the constitution would have to be changed. Don’t hold your breath if you expect this to occur soon, if ever.

In lieu of forcing a direct confrontation with the teachers and its union, why not offer the teachers a deal? We will greatly increase your salaries, if you get behind the change needed to build a “progressive school system.” 

This can also be expected to have the added benefit of increasing the quality of teacher candidates. From 2004 to 2015, over $40 billion have been invested in education. What is there to show for this investment other than a failed education system?

Leonard Bernstein, DMD
Sydenham Ave, St Ann’s


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