Teacher migration in Jamaica: Exploring the causes, effects, and solutions

Deatricia Ming and Celia Christian

August 30, 2022

Ms Deatricia Ming
Ms Celia Christian

Every sector requires a healthy attrition rate to carry out its regular and vital processes; this in turn allows optimal performance. The concern arises when attrition rates are accelerated to the point where short notices are given for resignations, as this prevents proper planning and hampers the ability to replenish critical human resources. In instances like this, there are myriad issues, chief of which are the uncertainties and the grave challenges to structures that this mass migration will pose.  

Exploring the Causes-The movement of Jamaican teachers: The new trend?

Dubbed as the “modern day exodus”, in Jamaica the word “migration” in 2022 is almost synonymous to the word “teacher.” The mass movement of teachers has seemingly crept upon the nation like the rising sun and caught many by surprise. For instance, the teaching fraternity was in shock when news came that Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) past president and principal of Rousseau Primary was lured to a more lucrative overseas teaching job. Clearly teachers across the island have mustered up the strength, will power and for many the experience needed to explore opportunities on the overseas job market. When speaking to teachers who migrated or have an interest to do so, it is evident that the root causes for teacher migration vary. Nonetheless, in the grand scheme of things there were some common threads that underlie most teachers’ reasons for migrating. Teachers have put forward the popular push factors as their reasons for migration.  These are elucidated in the table below.

Dubbed as the “modern day exodus”, in Jamaica the word “migration” in 2022 is almost synonymous to the word “teacher.” The mass movement of teachers has seemingly crept upon the nation like the rising sun and caught many by surprise.

Through the lens of teachers: The causes of teacher migration

The lack of resourcesThis in many cases results in less than satisfactory working conditions for teachers. Teachers have expressed that this causes a negative impact on their teaching abilities. In addition, this affects students’ learning. To treat with this cause, many teachers try to fill the gap by using their own monies to buy school supplies.  
Unattractive remuneration packagesThis is a major push factor for the mass teacher migration in Jamaica. Many teachers are unable to provide for their needs sufficiently and to live comfortably today amidst high inflation rates.  
Poor leadership and management abilities displayed by school administratorsSome leaders lack interpersonal skills needed to effectively communicate with their staff. This approach has caused some teachers under their guidance to feel unappreciated and undermined.  
Little to no psychosocial support for teachersTeachers play a vital role in society; they themselves need support at times to carry on. That affective domain is an area of concern as some teachers feel that there is not enough being done to tend to their psychosocial and emotional needs.  

Exploring the Effects-The movement of Jamaican teachers: A crisis?

For many years teacher migration has been a debated topic with most trying to understand the root causes. However, is attention given to the adverse effects of this brain draining phenomenon? In this article three negative effects will be discussed.

The loss of valuable experience

Experience is one of the critical ingredients needed to get any job done well. During the college years, teachers are exposed to the different theories of teaching and learning, but the real teaching experiences are garnered in the classroom. This is when teaching and learning becomes practical, and the ‘teacher’ is made. These rich and invaluable experiences have contributed to a history of high-level performances among many students, as teachers through their practices have created methods and solutions, not taught in colleges, of how they can facilitate students’ learning effectively. Additionally, these experienced teachers are oftentimes flexible, adaptable, and in most cases possess the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the needs of any student. When the system loses these experienced teachers, the problem becomes more than just a quantitative issue and more of a qualitative one. This is because there is a loss of brilliant minds, critical expertise, as well as a cadre of professionals who can be mentors of our future generation of teachers. 

When the system loses these experienced teachers, the problem becomes more than just a quantitative issue and more of a qualitative one. This is because there is a loss of brilliant minds, critical expertise, as well as a cadre of professionals who can be mentors of our future generation of teachers. 

Weakened school structures and lost relationships with students

The idea that teachers are easily replaceable is a farcical one. Oftentimes, recruited teachers are the ones who are seasoned and play major roles in the structure and smooth running of the school. Such teachers include heads of departments and others who supervise school programmes. When these teachers leave it causes a disruption that weakens the structures of schools. Most times, the skills these teachers exhibit are cultivated over time, hence, appointing new teachers may boil down to just ‘filling vacancies’. In addition, for many children, especially those living in violent homes and communities, the classroom provides them with a family structure. Consequently, they create strong bonds with their teachers. For most of these students, the relationships with their teachers have a positive and long-lasting effect on their social and academic development. The migration of teachers erodes these solid relationships.

Brain Drain

The country makes deliberate attempts to invest in its human capital resource with the aim of having a substantial rate of return on its investment. However, when teachers migrate, the country receives little or no return on these investments. Additionally, the country becomes more vulnerable to ‘brain drain’, while the recruiting countries, which in most cases are already developed, benefit from the investments made by Jamaica. This practice drains the country’s coffers and mitigates its chances of delivering quality education to its citizens and undermines the country’s attempt to achieve developed nation status by the year 2030.

Exploring the Solutions

Teacher migration: Reducing teacher migration and re-inviting migrated teachers

The disruption of teacher migration causes direct and indirect consequences in the already fragile Jamaican society. Fortunately, all hope is not lost, with the right tactics, proper planning and policies, Jamaica could retain and re-invite most of its teachers. The solution proposed is called the “7-step approach”, this approach will yield greater results if they work in tandem. Such a noble task cannot be done with just a single-handed approach. If Jamaica is to ensure the continuity of its education sector the “7-step approach” below should be considered. 

Step 1- A new philosophy of education- Adjust the current philosophy that informs how education is viewed, prepared, packaged. With a new philosophy of education, teachers will be valued and included in the planning and the decision-making process. This will take on a decentralized approach that will give schools the opportunity to plan in a more efficient way which in turn may reduce the burden placed on teachers.  

Step 2- Increase in salary– The salary provided for teachers must be improved to an acceptable standard where teachers are able to cater to their own needs as well as those of their families. Improving teachers’ salaries will improve commitment and efficiency within the school system and reduce the migration rate in the sector.  

Step 3- Incentivizing teaching through the “Value added system”– Teachers must be rewarded based on performance, especially on the value they have added to individual students, (that is the impact they would have had on students’ learning over a given period using standardized and diagnostic evaluation and assessments). This element represents a performance-based model of motivating teachers for exceptional efforts that often go unnoticed especially in non-traditional schools.  

Step 4- Audit and distribute resources frequently- There must be an effective unit within the ministry that will be responsible for auditing and distributing resources in an equitable manner. This will take into consideration allocating resources to schools based on their needs. This will provide teachers with better working conditions and adequate resources.

Step 5- Housing and vehicle benefits for teachers once made permanent in a post– Another approach is to provide benefits for teachers who are permanently employed. This strategy promotes longevity in the profession. Once a teacher becomes permanent, he or she should immediately have housing and vehicle benefits.

Step 6- Yearly classroom resource grants and benefits– Teachers should be provided with a special grant on a yearly basis to purchase resources for classroom activities and learning aids. This is important in providing well needed resources to execute lessons in an effective and efficient manner. 

Step 7- United Front- It is important that a symbiotic relationship exists between the JTA and the Ministry of Education Youth and Information (MOEYI), that is, a united front instead of antagonistic forces. The element of unity is fundamental to achieving the goals and mandate of the MOEYI. Under this circumstance both entities would collaborate and be better able to meet the needs of the teachers and the education system. 


The migration of teachers has posed various challenges to the education system. The causes and effects outlined throughout the article show that the country’s education system is in a vulnerable position and may be further compromised if this issue is not addressed effectively. The aforementioned 7-step approach puts forward a framework that has the potential to secure a better future for our education system, one in which schools are adequately resourced, and teachers suitably compensated and respected. 

Deatricia Ming and Celia Christian are trained teachers who have been working at the Primary level for fifteen and eight years, respectively and just completed their master’s degrees in Educational Planning and Policy at The University of the West Indies.

6 thoughts on “Teacher migration in Jamaica: Exploring the causes, effects, and solutions”

  1. Samuel Pottinger

    Now that we speak up, I am banking on them to start the seven steps so we can reach the vision we as a nation have for 2030.

    1. Allison Montegomery

      Indeed Mr Pottinger embracing these steps should help to improved educational outcomes and eventually impacting Vision 2030 positively.

    1. Allison Montegomery

      Indeed there are several variables that impact teachers and the entire education sector. Thanks for contributing to the conversation Kimberley.

  2. Tashen Gordon-Williams

    I love and appreciate the 7 steps solutions to help alleviate the problem of teacher migration in Jamaica, especially step 1. This step is very important, as it might even help to highlight and make indepth recommendations for he other steps mentioned. Love the article. Let the conversation begin.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *