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Jamaica has a strong record of basic education improvement programs

By Omar Wahab

Jamaica has a strong record of promoting primary education but the country’s education system still struggles to reach higher levels of literacy and numeracy across socio-economic groups.  

The IDB is supporting the Jamaican government’s Education Transformation Process through a US$60 million loan program and expects to provide an additional US$30 million in 2012. The project will help increase school attendance from 78% to 85% while improving students’ reading, writing and math skills. It will also help set up a maintenance fund for school infrastructure, introduce administrative software in most schools, and finance a nation-wide literacy survey, among other initiatives.

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Over the past decade, the IDB has supported the government of Jamaica’s multiple efforts in the education sector, including projects such as the Primary Education Improvement Project, an important program with a focus on school-building. This project was followed by a second phase, which contributed to reforming the education sector through a revision of the primary school curriculum and the introduction of a national assessment system. The revised primary curriculum shifted from a traditional teacher-led subject-oriented structure to an integrated thematic approach and more student-oriented methodology.

More recently, the Primary Education Support Project has added to the work of previous projects, bringing about widespread use of the new curriculum, aligning assessment standards, and reforming the way teaching and learning takes place. In the 2001-2008 period, literacy scores jumped 14%, as measured by the 4th grade literacy test. The percentage of students to achieve mastery of literacy skills by the test’s standards increased from 57.7% in 2001 to 71.7% in 2008.

Other major achievements of the programs include:

  • More than 12,000 teachers trained to use the Revised Primary Curriculum and assessment procedures.
  • Literacy program “1-2-3” designed to develop early literacy skills, support materials developed, and more than 80% of teachers trained in the program.
  • Curriculum of teachers´ colleges revised in keeping with the Revised Primary Curriculum.
  • Capacity of teachers enhanced through the creation of 52 fellowships for lecturers to pursue advanced career paths.
  • 731 principals, vice-principals and senior teachers completed the Diploma in Education and School Management offered by Mount Saint Vincent University.
  • 150 Ministry of Education senior and middle managers awarded an Advanced Certificate in Educational Management.

Development and education go hand-in-hand. The investments made by the IDB and the government of Jamaica today will reap substantial social and economic benefits for the country in the future.

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