Kaieteur News – The President has announced that when he returns from planned overseas engagements, he will engage with teachers on consultations. It was clarified that the teachers’ union is not being precluded from being part of the consultations.
There is no harm in consulting teachers and also in involving unions in this process. But it must be structured and it must also be made very clear that these consultations are no substitute for negotiations.
The education of the country’s children is too important to leave this issue to chance. Failure to distinguish between consultations and negotiations can lead to tragic consequences for public education.
Education is the cornerstone of any nation’s progress, and its significance cannot be overstated. For a country to thrive, it must invest in its educational system, ensuring that it remains relevant. In this pursuit, consultations with teachers play a pivotal role in shaping educational policies. However, recent developments in the field of education have raised concerns about ad hoc decision-making and the need for negotiated benefits for teachers.
Consultations with teachers offer a direct channel for the government to gain valuable insights into the thoughts and demands of those who are at the forefront of education. Teachers’ experiences, perspectives, and expertise are invaluable resources that can inform the development of enlightened educational policies. These consultations can serve as a bridge between policymakers and educators, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the education system.
The Ministry of Education has formulated a National Education Strategy. One hopes that this was done after due consultation with teachers and that the task of developing the strategy was not left to technocrats who are divorced from the day-to-day running of classrooms.
Educational strategies should also guide interventions. However, recent developments suggest that ad hoc decision-making may be seeping into the education sector. Decisions such as proposed interventions to arrest the poor performance of students in Mathematics, allowing cross-streaming and not making it mandatory for Form 5 students to rewrite subjects passed in Form 4 at the CSEC examinations, may hardly evoke controversy. But if these plans are part of a disjointed policymaking, then it does not augur well for the future of the education sector. Such fragmented measures can undermine the stability and coherence of the education system, potentially hindering students’ overall development.
It therefore needs to be asked: why were these decisions taken prior to the planned consultations? Would it not have been much better to have consultations with teachers and their union prior to announcing these plans? Does this not make a mockery of the planned consultations?
While consultations with individual teachers are essential, it is equally important to recognize the role of the teachers’ union in advocating for their members. The union plays a crucial role in ensuring that teachers receive fair and equitable treatment, including negotiating benefits and working conditions on behalf of their members. Thus, it is essential to maintain a clear distinction balance between consultations with teachers and negotiations with unions.
The government should make it clear that consultations with teachers are not intended to replace or supersede the rights of the teachers’ union to engage in collective bargaining. Negotiations with unions are a fundamental aspect of ensuring that teachers are fairly compensated for their hard work, and their voices are heard in matters concerning their profession. Disregarding collective bargaining can lead to frustration among teachers and hinder educational deliverables.
Bypassing negotiations with teachers’ unions is a real possibility. The PPP/C government has demonstrated time and time again its unwillingness to engage in collective bargaining with the union representing public servants.
This approach has not been applied to teachers. It must not do so now since this can lead to tensions and disputes, ultimately affecting the quality of education and the morale of educators. It is crucial to avoid the slippery slope of unilateral decisions, especially by a ruling party whose governments have a history of showing little regard for collective bargaining.
In the quest to reform and improve the education system, consultations with teachers are invaluable for gaining insights into the field’s challenges and opportunities. However, it is equally important to recognize the role of the teachers’ union in advocating for its members’ rights and negotiating fair benefits. The government should distinguish between consultations and negotiations to ensure that educational policies are well-informed, fair, and sustainable. In doing so, we can work towards a stronger, more effective education system that benefits both teachers and students, ultimately contributing to the nation’s progress.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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