The need to recruit teachers into Initial Teacher Education and Training (ITET) is a worldwide occurrence. However, for the Caribbean region, the challenge is made worse when looked at in light of the fact that trained Caribbean teachers are being recruited to serve in other countries and regions.
Mike Baker, the British Broadcasting Cooperation’s (BBC) education correspondent in his 2002 article entitled United Kingdom ‘poaching’ Jamaican teachers, pointed out that between 2001 and 2002 six hundred teachers (600) left the island to work abroad, mostly in the United States and the United Kingdom. During that same period, the United Kingdom government issued six thousand (6,000) work permits to teachers from outside the European Community.
The global demands for teachers including those from the Caribbean offer the region both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge in that new teachers need to be attracted, recruited, educated and trained and an opportunity, in that, trained teachers who seek economic independence can achieve it by practising their craft in an economically buoyant community.
While there are many strategies for encouraging the recruitment of people into ITET, given the social, cultural, political and educational context of each Caribbean state, it is not easy to discern what will and will not work. Pulling on the results of a number of regional studies, here are some suggestions.
1. Undertake innovative and strategic approaches to policy development in the area of ITET. Policies are needed that would direct actions and guide innovations, thus boosting people’s trust in the process and product of ITET.
2. Formulate policies to address the nature and kinds of academic qualifications offered and the standards at which local teacher education and training institutions operate.
3. Develop policies on the process of recruitment into ITET and on the promotion of teaching and the identification of appropriate target populations for recruitment.
4. Offer competitive and internationally recognized bachelor’s programmes in education.
5. Develop a clearly articulated alternative paradigm for career structure and its underlying values in the region, coupled with efforts to improve the economic status of teachers. In countries where teaching is thought of as extremely important, teachers are relatively well compensated hence teaching is viewed as a relatively well-paying job, the supply of new teachers is high and there is a low-level of attrition.
6. Enable ITET programmes to be framed in a reflective model of teaching which encourages the development of skills and knowledge in content areas, professional studies, and practical teaching, grounded in the real world of the school and classroom.