1.0 The Historical Context of AccessThe historical underpinnings of education in Jamaica, from slavery through to emancipation, through de-colonization, self-rule and finally independence; to the establishment of the Ministry of Education and the Education Act of 1965, to the New Deal in Education 1966, the 70:30 policy for reserving secondary places for public primary schools, the compulsory attendance policy, the upgrading of junior high schools to full secondary schools, and various other initiatives over the last half century, have all emphasized widening and improving access to education for the mass Jamaicans. Internationally too, the main thrust of development agencies over the last half century has been focused on expanding access to education.
Indeed, the second set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education for All initiative could be interpreted as being access focussed. Universal Primary Education is a major ‘access’ goal of all development agencies, it seeks to ensure that all primary-age children have the benefit of completing a full course of primary education. Much effort has been placed on building out infrastructure, removing fees, providing nutrition and educational material, increasing the cohort of teachers, enacting legislation for truancy and compulsory attendance, and ensuring gender and ethnic equity, particularly for girls and minorities. Jamaica is well aligned with the thrust of the international development community and has long since met or surpassed most of the minimum education related development targets.
The thrust towards widening access is not an externally motivated policy. This must be understood in the context of a long struggle for liberation and enlightenment. Successive governments and both political parties see expanding educational access as a means of empowering a disenfranchised people, increasing social mobility, and building human capital. It forms part of the political and social imperatives on which the entire nation agrees.
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