Caribbean Region: access, quality, and efficiency in education

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Qualitative and quantitative improvements in education were identified as the key elements of the new government's program during its first term in office The two most important aspects of the program were universally free secondary and college education and a campaign to eliminate illiteracy. Educational reforms were intended to redress the social inequalities that the system of secondary education had formerly promoted and to create greater access for all Jamaicans to the preferred government and private-sector jobs that typically required a secondary school diploma.

The reforms of secondary education had positive but limited effects. Greater access to education was the main accomplishment of the reform process, but limited funding may also have lowered the quality of education for the increased numbers of students attending secondary schools. Nevertheless, the introduction of universally free secondary education was a major step in removing the institutional barriers confronting poor Jamaicans who were otherwise unable to afford tuition.

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After changes in its literacy policies in the early s, the PNP government in formed the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy JAMAL , which administered adult education programs with the goal of involving , adults a year. Although in specific data were lacking, increases in the national literacy rates suggested the program be successful.

Literacy rates increased from The educational system in Jamaica was quite complex in the s. The public school system was administered principally by the Ministry of Education and regional school boards. Four major labels pre-primary, primary, secondary, and higher education were divided into a number of different types of schools. The pre-primary level was made up of infant and basic schools ages four to six ; primary education was provided at primary and "all-age" schools grades one through six.

Secondary schools included "new" secondary schools, comprehensive schools, and technical high schools grades seven through eleven as well as trade and vocational institutes and high schools grades seven through thirteen. The twelfth and thirteenth years of high school were preparatory for university matriculation. The government also administered a school for the handicapped in Kingston. Although education was free in the public schools and school attendance was compulsory to the age of sixteen, costs for books, uniforms, lunch, and transport deterred some families from sending their children to school.

Public school enrollment ranged from 98 percent at the primary level to 58 percent at the secondary level in the early s. Schools were generally crowded, averaging forty students per class. There were also some privately run schools in Jamaica, ranging from primary to college. The total enrollment in private schools was 41,, or less than 7 percent of total public school enrollment.

Most private-school students were enrolled in university preparatory programs. Both public and private schools were characterized by numerous examinations that determined placement and advancement.


This testing material was originally British, but by the s the Caribbean Examinations Council was increasingly the author of such tests. Several colleges and universities served a limited number of Jamaican students.

These included the largest campus of the University of the West Indies UWI , the College of Arts, Science, and Technology CAST , the College of Agriculture, various teachers colleges and community colleges, and a cultural training center made up of separate schools of dance, drama, art, and music.

Located at Mona in the Kingston metropolitan area, the UWI was the most prominent institution of higher learning on the island, offering degree programs in most major fields of study. As a regional university serving the needs of all the Commonwealth Caribbean islands, the UWI also maintained campuses in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.


Approximately 5 percent of the Jamaican population participated in university studies, although some students pursued their academic training outside the Caribbean. In the government announced plans to begin reorganizing higher education, including the eventual merger of CAST and the College of Agriculture into a polytechnic institute or a university. In the early s, the government reoriented its development strategies for education, emphasizing basic education in grades one to nine and human resources training.

The government's plan stressed rehabilitating and upgrading primary and basic education facilities, improving the quality and efficiency of basic education, implementing a full curriculum for grades seven to nine in all-age schools, and establishing an effective in-service training program for teachers. Problems in secondary education were also identified, such as the existence of a complicated, secondary school system that produced graduates of varying quality and wasted scarce financial resource.

The goals of developing the human resource potential of the population intended to provide educational opportunities for students to prepare them for the types of jobs available in Jamaica. According to Prime Minister Edward Seaga, elected in , a major policy in the area of primary education was to ensure that primary school graduates achieved functional literacy.

Secondary education was restructured to provide students with an education sufficient to meet the requirements of upper secondary school. The government reported in June that only 9, of 82, students in lower secondary schools were receiving an acceptable level of education. Announced in , HEART aimed at providing training and employment for unemployed youths finished with school. In , roughly 4, persons began job training or entered continuing business education classes.

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In six specialized HEART academies provided training in agriculture; hotel, secretarial, and commercial services; postal and telegraph operations; industrial production; and cosmetology. Nearly 1, persons completed agricultural or construction trades programs administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Youth and Community Development. The HEART program called for the eventual construction of 12 academies capable of training youths at a time in various skills.

The program's critics charged, however, that funds could be better spent on community colleges. Education became increasingly politicized in the late s, mostly as a result of the scarcity of resources. Spending on education declined to about 11 percent of government expenditures in the early s, after peaking at nearly 20 percent of the budget. Issues of increased pay for teachers and renewed tuition expenses at the UWI threatened to make education a national political issue. In Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands, economic and budgetary restraints are having severe impacts on Primary and secondary schools.

The primary economic problems currently facing the Caribbean nations include high internal debt, a large trade deficit, swollen interest and inflationary rates, chronically elevated unemployment levels, as well as low worker productivity, all of which could fuel political unrest and escalate violence. The debt continues to hamper economic growth by weighing heavily upon resources that could be put to more productive uses.

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The debt overhang also limits the extension of credit lending to the private sector, particularly towards medium and small borrowers. In order to improve the economic growth, policies aimed at sustainable growth, such as a greater investment in education, have to be implemented to increase human capital and the labor force's productivity. Lack of available funds means less resources, such as supplies needed to enhance learning in the primary and secondary schools, and repairing and building new infrastructure such as schools and roads. The burden of providing these needed supplies falls on working families in countries where employment is as high as twenty percent.

It is imperative that in order for the debt overhang to be eliminated, policies must be put in place to reduce unemployment, to invest in training and to increase productivity hence the Island competitiveness. It is a known fact that corruption is one of the cancers which continues to inhibit growth and thereby prevents the countries from going forward. The Jamaican Governor General succinctly puts it as follows:. While corruption is by no means a phenomenon confined to Jamaica, it is considered by many to be the largest single impediment to our country's attainment of sustained economic growth and development.

Therefore, governments must first tackle corruption in order to reduce its debt burden which will enable investments in education and consequently decrease in unemployment. This would be perhaps the most obvious way to facilitate the island's emergence from the chronic problem of poor and uneven economic growth.

In order to improve institutional capacity development and to upgrade academic quality, the planned activities include: training for the education and administrative staff of partner HEIs, interactive workshops, work for energy models and future scenario development and training in survey methods. Besides improved academic quality in energy access and efficiency education and improved management practices, expected results for the PROCEED project include increased mobility for students and staff and improved study programs that are required by the national and regional labor markets.

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Project kick-off meeting, December Contact Media. Finland Futures Research Centre. As small island developing states SIDS , the partner countries have limited access to international energy markets, their resources are scarce and energy efficiency is low. Furthermore, as they are dependent on imported fossil energy sources, the countries are highly sensitive to outside shocks such as changes in energy supply and prices at the international level.

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Thus, the partner countries have a strong interest to look for more secure and stable sources of energy supply, mainly from renewable energy sources.