TRINIDAD and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan yesterday bemoaned an acute shortage of Tech/Voc (technical/vocational) teachers in the nation’s secondary schools, as he reacted to plans for 3,000 On-the-Job (OJT) trainees to join the school system, announced last week by Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training Fazal Karim.

Further, the country lacks sufficient trainers at tertiary level to train a cohort of secondary school Tech/Voc teachers, he lamented. The shortage is in areas such as Electrical, Plumbing, Welding and Food and Nutrition, he said.

He said that while the country’s primary schools do not face any teacher shortage (and may even have a surplus), in contrast in secondary schools there are shortages in the areas of Science and Tech/Voc Education.

He said the Tech/Voc shortage arose with the end of John Donaldson Technical Institute’s (John D’s) Tech/Voc training programme a few years ago.

The country now has a shortage of Tech/Voc teachers in secondary schools and likewise in turn led to a shortage of youngsters qualifying in Tech/Voc in secondary school thereby creating a dearth of persons likely to become the Tech/Voc teachers and trainers of tomorrow.

“Tech/Voc positions remain vacant for years and years until the whole department is virtually forced to shut down. When they stopped training Tech/voc teachers at John D, more than a decade ago, there is no institution currently that effectively trains persons to become Tech/Voc teachers. Those existing tech/voc teachers retire and move out of the positions and we don’t have people to replace them,” related Sinanan.

“So if you go from school to school, all those former senior comprehensive schools, and you speak to the principals I’m sure they will tell you they have three four and five vacancies in the Tech/Voc subjects.”

Sinanan said, “The Tech/Voc problem is a serious one. We have been making a lot of noise to the Ministry about it. We spoke to the Ministry from even before this Government and alerted the Ministry to this reality. They had said MIC (Metal Industries Company) was supposed to come on-stream with some kind of Tech/Voc teacher training programme, but we are not too sure what happened there. They said that UTT (University of Trinidad and Tobago) was supposed to have a programme for Tech/Voc teacher training which they introduced but apparently a lot of people are not accessing it, for all kinds of reasons. He suggested this is due to the B Ed (Tech/Voc) degree’s range of offerings being too limited.

“The bottom line is that we have a problem whereby we have lots of vacant positions in the Tech/Voc areas, and of course children can’t access the Tech/Voc programme and the principals are very often actually forced to effectively shut down the Tech/Voc departments.”

Sinanan said this was a serious problem that needed to be highlighted.

“We feel — but we don’t have any hard evidence — that it is part of a concerted effort to remove Tech/Voc education from mainstream schools, and separate it completely, a position that we are totally opposed to. We have expressed those sentiments repeatedly to the Ministry of Education.”

He said Germany and South Korea removed Tech/Voc from their mainstream school system 30 years ago but have since come full circle to realise that Tech/Voc education belongs in the school system and in fact should be introduced from as early as in primary school.

News Day