The government has come out and said that only 16 percent of all mathematics teachers are qualified and new data obtained by the Jamaica Gleaner revealed that the figure is closer to 10 percent. There are 1048 math teachers at the secondary school level and 10 percent of that translates to approximately 105 teachers.
Maths results at the CSEC level have seen a decline each year, for the last three years. Islandwide math passes stands at less than 40% of all students who took the exam in June 2012.
One of the reasons for such low pass rates has become clearly evident. Teachers can only teach and deliver lessons on things that they know and at the moment we only have 10 percent of math teachers being able to do this.
The solution to the problem is clearly evident. We must invest more in the training of maths teachers to make them more qualified and specialist teachers of mathematics should not hold less than a bachelor’s in mathematics in order to teach the subject. We don’t want them to have just a bachelor’s degree; we want them to have this degree in the area of mathematics or statistics, which will enable them to have the content.
The second stage of the solution is to train these individuals in the art of delivering maths lessons; otherwise known as mathematics pedagogy.
Having a mathematics degree in the private sector pays better money than in the public sector and this may result in the government having difficulties attracting qualified mathematics teachers. Increasing the salaries offered to maths teachers is one option to attract individuals into the area. Another is to providing free mathematics degrees for individuals who would then be bonded for approximately five years.
Mathematics is an important area of study for the future of any society who wants to progress educationally and economically. If the current trends continue, we will see further declines in the pass rates of our pupils. We have to do something to halt this decline and we have to do it immediately.