One of Jamaica’s greatest assets is its educated population and improving school system. Jamaica based its educational system off of that of the United Kingdom, its former colonist. Primary education is free and compulsory for the first 6 years. Secondary education and beyond is not free, and attendance is lower. Jamaica has, however, made great improvements in its secondary education in recent years, as part of the focus of a recent program supported by the World Bank.
The recent effort with the World Bank to improve education identified several key challenges. These include “shortcomings in teaching and learning quality, equitable access, and enrollment at the higher levels of the secondary system.” Jamaican early childhood education has an enrollment rate of 62.7%, much higher than any of its neighbors in the Caribbean. Early childhood education, coupled with a net enrollment rate of 90.6% in primary school has led to Jamaica’s literacy rate improving from 50% in 1974 to 87% in 2016. As demonstrated by the graph, gross enrollment is actually declining, as students in the past all took advantage of the primary education system. Now more people get through primary education and have begun to enroll in age-appropriate schooling.
To improve enrollment at higher levels, Jamaica embarked on a program of both investing in facilities, as well as training faculty and staff. From the World Bank report, 90% of schools have instituted improvement plans focused on improving student learning, and new school buildings have gone up all across the country, leading to an end in the “double-shift,” where schools would have two separate sessions a day. Jamaican schools now offer classes focused on tourism and hospitality, demonstrating the awareness of Jamaican education officials to the economic needs of the country. Furthermore, 95% of teachers in Jamaica have met the requisite standard and are registered in Jamaica. However, there is still much room to grow, as only about half of teachers and administrators are licensed at a rigorous and professional level.
The combination of World Bank advice and a variety of public and private organizations has led to a comprehensive program for reforming many facets of the Jamaican education system. Jamaica is an excellent example of the importance of developed nations assisting less developed countries in expanding their education systems. The guidance from the world bank has helped reenergize a stagnating school system. Coupled with a dedicated Ministry of Education, Jamaica has begun to see its educational system improve beyond the primary years.
To what extent is World Bank involvement beneficial? Or should Jamaica be solving its problems independently?
Is education investment enough? Are there reforms in other areas that will also help to improve human capital growth?