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KINGSTON — The Ministry of Education has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to implement a Literacy Assessment Monitoring Programme (LAMP) to accurately assess literacy levels among Jamaicans.

Jamaica is the first country in the Caribbean to put the project into effect, and the first to do it in English.

Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, said the programme was of major importance, as the Government has found it difficult to obtain accurate assessment of adult literacy. He was speaking at the opening of a four-day workshop in preparation for the introduction of LAMP, at Hotel Four Seasons, Kingston, on Monday August 15.

“In putting together the national plan for attaining universal literacy, we could not find any statistics, on which I could settle, as the statistic that accurately defines the situation of literacy in Jamaica,” the Minister said.

Mr. Holness said he has found varying data over the years, including statistics that said Jamaica’s literacy levels for the adult population stood at 76 per cent, as well as data that said 90 per cent.

“Then, I’ve seen statistics that said we are 84 percent literate in the adult population,” he stated. He added that the inaccuracy makes it difficult for Government to make plans and policy decisions.

Mr. Holness, however, noted that at the primary level, especially for students at grades four to six, the Government had a fairly good idea of the literacy levels.

“We are certain that our Grade Four group of last year, that cohort would be at about 67 per cent literate. The beauty about that, of course, is that they are still in school and we still have two years to ensure that they meet the mark,” he said.

He also noted that, based on results of the Grade Four Literacy test, last year’s cohort of Grade Six students, who will move on to Grade Seven this year, had a literacy rate of 85 per cent.

“Now if you were to do a projection of that population moving through and replacing the current population it would take us approximately 20 years or more to start seeing universal literacy in the full adult population, that is the working age population,” he said.

He noted that the level of literacy in a population at any one time is a useful indicator of a society’s ability to grow both socially and economically.

“In today’s world where the economy revolves around information, the ability to process information requires your population to have the fundamental basic skills to communicate, read, write, and compute,” the Education Minister added.   

Mr. Holness said if those skills are not widespread in a society, then its population will not have access to certain jobs and will be unable to create certain technologies.

The Literacy Assessment Monitoring Programme (LAMP), an initiative managed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in Montreal, Canada, assesses adult population’s reading and numeracy skills through interviews in their own households.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Audrey Sewell, said the project also intends to foster capabilities in this field, by relying on existing expertise on assessment and household surveys, and bringing together regional and national experts from different fields.

She said the new methodology, together with the reinforced capacities, will create the foundation for the sustainable production of accurate, reliable data on literacy skills among adults. The methodology has already been tested in countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean region, involving 10 languages.

The LAMP workshop, which will be held August 15 to 19, is to increase awareness and assist the Jamaican team in designing an assessment plan, a National Planning Report (NRP) and adapt LAMP instruments to the country’s needs.

Participating institutions include the Ministry of Education, University of the West Indies (UWI), University of Technology (UTech), Planning Institution of Jamaica PIOJ), Jamaican Foundation for Life-long Learning, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities and the Statistical Institute.

It is supported by the Ministry of Education, through the IDB-funded Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP).

 

By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter