The opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) spokesman on education, Guibion Ferdinand, has expressed concern about the future of the teacher certificate programme at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC).
The programme offers training to persons who want to become certified to teach at either primary or secondary school level.
Guibion Ferdinand told the Times that thus far he has been hearing that the regular teacher training programme is not being offered this September.
“At this point – we are in August, it is not being offered because there has been no enrollment, nothing going on – so it is clear that this programme is not being offered this September,” the opposition Senator explained.
The former school principal said the programme has been offered for as long as he can recall.
“There may have been different numbers depending on the needs of the schools, but this programme has never been stopped for as long as I have known myself,” Ferdinand declared.
He said it was strange that the programme is being stopped completely.
Attempts to obtain a response from the Ministry of Education were unsuccessful.
Ferdinand said he has recognised that much discussion is not taking place about the matter which he described as a serious issue.
He asserted that if teachers are supposed to deliver quality education, it is expected that they would be trained.
“Education is an area where you are dealing with very delicate people – children; minors, and you need to ensure that your teachers are trained, ” the Senator stated.
Ferdinand expressed the view that the effect of not having a teacher certificate programme would be that some who applied would not be able to get in to SALCC and would have no option but to leave.
He observed that school principals will give priority to trained teachers.
“As a former principal, if I had to choose between two persons with similar academic backgrounds I would go for the trained person – the person who is certified, and so it means that the teachers who are untrained and cannot get into Teachers’ College, they may have to find another job,” Ferdinand told the Times.
He added that untrained teachers will not be able to move up in the system because of not being certified.
According to the opposition Senator, the certificate programme also offers an opportunity for a teacher to develop personally.
He explained that once a teacher is trained, he or she becomes more marketable.
“Our teacher training programme here is among the best in the OECS so any teacher being trained here is not only being trained necessarily to remain in the school, it is a step upward for you as an individual,” Ferdinand stated, while noting that trained local teachers have found employment overseas.
He said it was short sighted on the part of the government to think that Saint Lucia has quite a few trained teachers.
“They are thinking about our local context but it really is necessary to look beyond just our local schools,” he observed.
Ferdinand explained that the regular teacher certificate programme at SALCC usually runs for two years, offering training in psychology and other areas as well as practical teaching skills.
He said there is also a research component where participants are required to write a thesis.
Ferdinand said the programme is recognised by the University of the West Indies, with between forty and eighty trainees in each batch.
“I can understand if the numbers are cut because of implications for cost but education has to be a priority,” Ferdinand declared.
“I need to ask the government: Where does education fall on their priority list as a developing country?'” He said.
The opposition Senator stated that the labour party introduced universal secondary education and made it possible for tertiary education to be accessed.