Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) President La Sonja Harrison says that while artificial intelligence can greatly enhance the teaching/learning process, it should not replace human teachers or interpersonal contact with students in the classroom.
“Information and communication technologies (ICT) should never replace the relationship between the student and the teacher. If the pandemic taught us nothing else, it taught us that we need our teachers in the classroom with our students,” said Harrison, while addressing the JTA annual conference that just concluded in Montego Bay, St. James. .
Since then, the new method of using ICT in teaching/learning has been further enhanced with additional measures, including the provision last November of the Huawei Idea Hub interactive classroom system to two secondary schools in St Andrew and Clarendon.
In his speech, Harrison cited a January 2016 article on artificial intelligence in Education International magazine, which he used to highlight his concern about the increasing integration of technology in various sectors, including education.
“The then Secretary General of Education International, Fred van Leeuwen, questioned what a world run by robots could mean to create jobs for humans, especially when it comes to education. He concluded that while robots and new technologies are being implemented more and more, they should help educators improve teaching and learning,” said Harrison.
NOTHING SHOULD REPLACE TEACHERS
“As midwives in the education system here in Jamaica, we must ensure that this remains our reality. Nothing can or should replace the teacher here in Jamaica,” added Harrison.
“As an association, we further support the position that all teachers should be properly trained and consulted regarding the use of such technologies. My call, therefore, is that we allow ourselves to be awakened to the big picture, to think globally while remaining authentically Jamaican,” he added.
On the issue of teacher migration, which she acknowledged is a global problem, the JTA president said there is an urgent need for a structured educational mandate to guide the teaching profession in Jamaica.
“The absence of a philosophy of education that is articulated so that each and every Jamaican understands and commits to it has resulted in systemic deficiencies that manifest in the symptoms we see and experience on a daily basis. The most topical issue in our current society, and not exclusive to us, is that of teacher migration. I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a sinister plot to ultimately lead to the collapse of the education system as we know it around the world,” Harrison said.
“If this is not the case, why is there an ongoing dismissal by various governments globally at the call of teachers to not only improve their compensation package; but the conditions in which we work? she asked.
“These calls, to a large extent, have fallen on deaf ears. If our nation’s children are our greatest asset, why? While teachers are leaving our shores to fill vacancies created in other nations, overall, there is an exodus from the profession,” said Harrison.