Jamaica Achieves Successes in Education


Jamaica has reached two major milestones in education. For the first time in our history, the country has achieved universal enrollment in the early childhood education sector, meaning that all children in the basic, infant and pre-school age group of three to five years are registered in an educational institution. This comes as Jamaica is also reporting that the University of the West Indies, Mona, is now enjoying its highest level of enrollment in its history.
The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is reporting that close to 100 per cent of children three to five years old are now enrolled in early childhood institutions across the island. The United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP), is particularly impressed with the achievement as the attainment of universal early childhood education is one of the main pathways toward sustained economic development as identified by the United Nations. The UNDP had established 2015 as the target date for the achievement of universal enrollment in this age group. Jamaica achieved the target ahead of schedule in 2001.
Early childhood enrollment in Jamaica increased by more than 20 per cent in the past two decades with most of the growth being taking place in the rural areas. Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and the PIOJ show enrollment rising by 4.5 per cent in the Kingston metropolitan area in the past twenty years, but surging by an average 20 per cent in the rural areas of Jamaica during the same period.
At the same time that Jamaica achieved universal enrollment at the early childhood level, the University of The West Indies, Mona is reporting that it recorded its highest level of enrollment in 2006. This is up sharply in recent years and is not confined to the UWI. The PIOJ is reporting that total enrollment in the 20 to 24 age group jumped by more than 60 per cent in the past 20 years.
This combination of high levels of enrollment at both the highest and lowest levels in the education spectrum has been accompanied by significant qualitative improvements.
The UNDP is now reporting an improvement in literacy levels among 15 to 24 year olds, with literacy levels of almost 93 per cent in 2000. The report points to a recovery in literacy levels in the age group with the National Literacy Survey of 1994 noting a decline in literacy in the 1980s from 87.3 per cent in 1981 to 81 per cent in 1987. During the 1990s literacy levels in Jamaica returned to an upwards trend reaching 86.5 per cent in 1994 and stood at 92.6 per cent at the time of the Jamaica Adult Literacy Survey in 1999.
The improvements, according to the 2004 Survey of Living Conditions, seem to stem from greater levels of Government spending with government spending serving to reduce the ‘out-of pocket’ cost of education by a half between 2002 and 2004. Parents were able to secure a higher level of education services by spending 5.9 per cent of their income in 2004 versus 8.5 per cent in 2002. The UNDP agrees citing the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) as a major contributor to the improved numbers.

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