At fifty-two miles wide and 140 miles long, Jamaica is the largest English-speaking Caribbean island. Between 1655 and 1962 Jamaica was a British colony, and it is still a part of the British Commonwealth. English is the language of instruction for the
two and one-half million people that inhabit the island, and all written communication is completed in English. However, a dialect called patois is commonly used throughout the island when speaking, and a dictionary has been written to help
define this language.
Prior to its independence in 1962, the Jamaican education system grew without any specific plan; church schools formed the core of the educational system. Education was primarily for the elite who could afford the cost. For many years after independence
the British education system continued to be the dominant force throughout the island, and the Cambridge and London education centers continued to monitor the progress of students through the administration of the general certificate of education
(GCE) at the ordinary (O) and advanced (A) levels. The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) was established in 1972 to place the responsibility of secondary education in the hands of the people of the Caribbean. The CXC is responsible for the
development and awarding of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), which took the place of the GCE O level examination at the completion of form V (grade eleven) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), which is equivalent
to the GCE A-Level examination at the completion of upper VI (grade thirteen). In May 2005 the CXC announced that it plans to award associate degrees to students completing a minimum of seven units in specific subjects on the CAPE. It is unclear when
the first of these degrees will be awarded and how the Jamaican universities will validate these degrees.
The 1970s and 80s was a period of dramatic change as the Programme for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) was implemented to provide the best possible education, from pre-primary to university, to any child with the ability to achieve
success. Although education was free in the public schools and school attendance was compulsory until age sixteen, parents had to pay for books, uniforms, lunch and transportation; thus, many children were unable to attend school. School enrollment
ranged from 98 percent in the primary grades to 58 percent at the secondary level, and schools were generally crowded, averaging forty students per class.
Primary and Secondary Education
The Ministry of Education Youth and Culture (MOEYC) has responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the primary and secondary educational system. MOEYC, through the National Assessment Programme
(NAP), also prepares and monitors all readiness, diagnostic and achievement tests for students in grades one through six. The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is administered in mid-March each year and is used to place students into secondary schools.
The students are tested in four subjects—mathematics, science, language arts and social studies—and there is also a writing paper. The Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE) program was established in 1992. A common curriculum was
created for grades seven through nine, all-age schools were upgraded to junior high schools and secondary schools became high schools. A new junior high school certificate replaced the Grade Nine Achievement Test and the Jamaica school certificate.
Students are continually assessed through coursework, projects and examinations and sit for national examinations at the end of grades ten, eleven and thirteen. In 2002-03 there were over 750,000 children enrolled in almost one thousand public primary
and secondary level institutions throughout the island, and10.6 percent of the country's national budget was allocated to the MOEYC. The MOEYC has recently revised the primary curriculum to be a more integrated curriculum with a special emphasis on
information technology and is in the process of completing a common curriculum for grades ten and eleven, which will also incorporate more technology.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) was established in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies affiliated with the University of London. In 1962 UWI received its charter and became a full-fledged university offering undergraduate and graduate
programs at campuses in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. The University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica has five major divisions. Most bachelor's degree programs can be completed in three years and require a minimum of five CSEC/GCE
O-Level subjects and two CAPE/GCE A-Level subjects to be considered for admission. Space is limited so competition for admission is fierce; admission is not limited to Jamaicans as spaces are reserved for students from other Caribbean nations.
The Jamaica Institute of Technology was established in 1958 to provide post-secondary vocational and technical options to Jamaicans and others within the Caribbean. The name was changed to the College of Arts, Science and Technology in 1959, and, upon
receiving university status in 1995, it was renamed the University of Technology (UTech). UTech offers over one hundred different part-time and full-time certificate, diploma and degree programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Programs vary
in length from one to five years and many focus on “providing managers and skilled professionals for Jamaica and the region.” A number of private religious based post-secondary institutions also offer bachelor's and master's degrees, which
are recognized by the government of Jamaica. The most popular are Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica Theological Seminary and the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology.
Independence from Great Britain and the 1970s saw the establishment of many new institutions including, the Jamaica School of Agriculture, the Norman Manley School of Law, the United Theological College, the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and
Sport, the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts and a number of teacher training colleges. These schools primarily offer diploma programs, but many have agreements with the universities so that students can continue and earn a degree
after successfully completing the diploma.
The Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) program was started in 1982 as a collaboration between the government of Jamaica and the private sector to provide skills training to meet manpower needs in the areas of building, agriculture,
secretarial work, craft, garment making, cosmetology and tourism. Certificates are awarded at the completion of the programs.