Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Is the Teaching Service Commission still relevant?

That is the question being asked by both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and president of the National Primary Schools Principals’ Association, Lance Mottley.

Mottley raised the concern during the Government’s Spotlight on Education consultation on Thursday night as he called for principals to assist in the hiring of school staff, as is done at denominational schools.

“If we are talking about transforming education and having the kind of transformation we are talking about and having the kind of impact we want going forward in the 21st century then, principals must have a critical role in the selection of those persons who will compose the staff”, Mottley stated.

This, he said, puts into question the role of the Teaching Service Commission given the thrust to develop the education sector, which he noted must start from the top.

Mottley’s point was supported by Dr Rowley, who noted that the question “hits at the heart of the country’s constitution”.

“Those service commissions came into being in the context of protection of the population. I could posit now that after 50 years, it might very well be that they are not protecting the population but obstructing the population”, according to Dr Rowley.

However, the Prime Minister made it clear that the issue was a political one and, “it might be weightier than the political environment is capable of”.

Dr Rowley said the commission cannot realistically service the thousands of teachers in the system.

Dr Rowley explained, “the managerial role that is required for that population of teachers to be properly and effectively managed cannot be dispensed in the management system that exists now but whether we can change it is a different story but the answer on whether it needs changing is yours”.

Dr Rowley added, “While we can say glowing things about a lot of teachers, the selection of some teachers might have been a mistake in some cases”.

He agrees that principals will be able to better identify people who are willing and capable of doing the job, noting that there is a difference between “certificate” and “aptitude”.

During his feature address, the Prime Minister also expressed concern about the lack of male teachers in the system.

In total there are 13,906 teachers at Government and Government-assisted schools, of which only 3,325 are male teachers while there are more male students than female students. He said more had to be done to encourage men into the school system in order to balance the quality of education for children.