Before we dive in: It’s important to note that education would have been a part of an indigenous culture, long before “modern” education was created. The Taino people, who were the original inhabitants of Jamaica, would have likely had a formal means to pass their traditions, wisdom, survival skills and culture on to future generations. Unfortunately, most of their history has been lost due to the European (Spanish and British) colonization of Jamaica, beginning in the 16th century. Take a deeper dive: “Education Among the Earliest Inhabitants” (Educational Portal of the Americas)
How did modern-day education get it’s start in Jamaica? The education system in place today was first introduced in the early 18th century during British colonial rule. Initially, education was mostly a privilege of white males only—a tool to sustain Jamaica’s colonial social system in which a small white elite ruled over a population majority of agricultural workers, most of them brought from Africa as slaves.
Indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans were not educated in significant numbers until Jamaica’s slave population was emancipated, in the early 19th century. In fact, it was not before the mid-20th century, when the British granted Jamaica greater self-governance, that a less segregated mass education system began to emerge on the island. In 1957, the Ministry of Education was founded, and Jamaica’s government subsequently implemented the first major education reform to introduce universal elementary education for all children between the ages of 7 and 11. Take a deeper dive: “Education in Jamaica” (World Education Reviews and News)
What educational opportunities for children and young people exist in Jamaica today?
- Basic Schools: Formal education starts at the young age of three, in community-operated Basic Schools which are regulated, supervised and partially funded by the Jamaican government. The majority of funding support comes from either school fees paid by parents, the community and/or outside donors.
This early-childhood education curriculum includes reading, writing, basic counting, personal hygiene and safety, art, music and science. Basic Schools also serve as a setting at which students can hone their cooperativeness, learn to socialize with others, and follow directions, providing the strong foundation for their primary education in years to come. The country was recently recognized by UNICEF as “a model for early childhood development, thanks to the results of a pioneering early childhood program and near to 100 percent enrollment in early childhood institutions. Take a deeper dive: “Early moments matter for every child, so how is Jamaica doing?” (UNICEF)
- Primary and Secondary Schools: From age six to eleven, children attend government-funded Primary (Elementary) Schools, moving on to Secondary (High) Schools at around age 12. Students learn a wide range of skills and subjects, and prepare for standardized testing which is completed at all levels of schooling (including at Basic Schools) to assess proficiency on a regular basis.
- Tertiary Schools: For those seeking higher learning on the island, this is offered at The University of the West Indies Jamaica and other universities, teacher’s colleges, various specialty trade schools, and at the HEART Trust, which offers technical vocational education.
How does Jah Works contribute to “relevant education” within Jamaica? Our work is focused on partnerships in the rural Bluefields community, where there are a number of educational institutions and learning opportunities for all ages.
Two schools offer formal education for younger and older children: The Bluefields Basic School led by Principal Joy Baker and the Belmont Academy (a High school) led by Principal Rayon Simpson, which also offers pre college/university and vocational skills programs.
Adult education is just as important, and multiple classes and workshops on various topics are held at the Bluefields Community Center throughout the year.
We work with the Bluefields community to understand the greatest need, and to provide funding, scholarships, school supplies and more to expand access to education across all ages. Click here to get immersed in our “Relevant Education” program.
ENGAGE: What is something you’ve learned in your own educational endeavors? What has “stuck” with you in life during your early education? Comment below to share your own experience with relevant education!