JTA president criticizes government’s STEM plans

President of the Jamaica Teachers Association, Owen Speid, has criticised the government’s decision to build six STEM schools to operate outside the current education system.

Owen Speid, president of the Jamaica Teacher’s Association. (Photo: Courtesy JTA)

The acronym STEM means science, technology, engineering and Mathematics. Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Sunday (Nov 24) that the government, in partnership with China, will be building six schools that will focus on STEM areas.

Speid believes this move will cause a further exodus from the regular system of teachers, who will be attracted by higher salaries.

“It seems to me as if there is a plan to lure the STEM teachers into that system, by maybe paying them some more money. We’re saying that if you do that, then it’s going to cause a strain on the regular school system,” he said. If you pull them away from the regular set up, you’re going to be left with neither root, branch, nor stem, in the end for these regular children,” Speid said.

He believes that the money being spent to build these news schools could be better used to develop the current school system. “I went to a high school, and when I went there, I saw that the grade seven block was all partitioned by blackboards,” he said, adding that the lack of resources in the school system continues to be an issue.

He added: “We are so good at sports, yet Jamaica doesn’t have a sporting university. GC Foster is just there lying down waiting. We should be seeking to develop the property at GC Foster, give them the infrastructure, and change it from college to university. That way we’ll have more foreign exchange because people from abroad will want to come because a university is different from a college.”