– calls for review of lunch break restrictions; student-to-teacher ratioThe Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has called for the Education Ministry to retract a memo that was circulated to schools, suggesting that teachers supervise children during their lunch break.This was ventilated during a recent press conference held by the union. According to GTU President Mark Lyte, the memo sought to take away the lunch break allotted to teachers by right. Lyte called for the memo to be retracted, noting that it is a breach of the labour laws.“Because this is now incorporated in a memo, we recognise that schools are now asking teachers to supervise via a rota (rotation) system. We are saying that this is a direct violation of the labour law which says that our teachers and all workers in general are required to have breaks,” he explained.“I want to highlight specifically that the breaks allow our teachers to get the necessary opportunity to recuperate from the mental and physical stress that they go through managing children for a session. So if this is taken away, we believe it would have a serious impact on the mental state of our teachers. We’re asking the Chief Education Officer to retract this memo,” he declared.Zeroing in on a section of the memo, which allocates 20 students to one teacher, Lyte also repeated calls for this to be reviewed.Lyte denounced this development as attempts to frustrate teachers and the union that represents their interest.“We also have in that memo a specific mention to the number of students expected to be supervised by one teacher; 20 students to one teacher. Now, even in the classroom, this is not realistic. In our school system, we do have classes as large as 30 to 35 students. I was told of one recent situation where a teacher was managing 71 students in one class. We want to know why the Ministry is reluctant to reduce the class sizes for proper management,” Lyte added.The GTU has, for some time, been calling for a reduction of the student-to-teacher ratio implemented by the Ministry of Education. It has been argued that reducing the ratio would make classes more manageable, and learning more effective.The ratio had, in a Memorandum of Understanding, been listed as 15 students to one teacher for nursery. For Grades One and Two, it was listed as 20-to-one, while Grades Three to Six carried a 25-to-one ratio. In the case of secondary schools, the ratio is listed as 25 pupils to one teacher, while it is 15 pupils to one teacher in practical instructional centres.GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald had previously said that classroom teaching would be more effective if there were smaller class sizes, which would benefit both teachers and students.McDonald reported that in the Education Act, it was passed that there be a reduction of students in one class, but the GTU is calling for these figures to be further broken down, to effectuate advanced teaching techniques.According to McDonald, it is known that when students enter a class, there is a combination of different personalities; various levels of learning capabilities, ranging from ‘highflyers’ to ‘weak’; and a number of necessities that each possess.As such, she had said that the task of meeting these requirements to ensure each student is equally catered for is thus left to the teachers to manage. She had pointed out that, in most instances, this poses a challenge.In addition, McDonald alluded to situations wherein parents have complained about their children not receiving ample attention from their teachers, since their books were not being ‘marked’ frequently and they were lagging behind.
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