Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Jamaica takes education very seriously. The educational system was slow to reach most Jamaicans until the early 1970s. Even after the abolition of slavery, education remained uncommon; early efforts were conducted mostly by Christian churches. The limited availability of schools, especially beyond the primary level, and the elitist curriculum intensified class divisions in colonial society.
As many might know Jamaica was one of the British Colonies. It was known that much of the content of formal education in Jamaica was largely irrelevant for students unable to attend universities in Britain. In 1943, fewer than 1 percent of blacks and only 9 percent of the mixed races attended secondary school.
Their was a reform in the educational system in (1972-76). The two most important aspects of the program were universally free secondary and college education and a campaign to eliminate illiteracy. Educational reforms were intended to redress the social inequalities that the system of secondary education had formerly promoted and to create greater access for all Jamaicans to the preferred government and private-sector jobs that typically required a secondary school diploma.
Although education was free in the public schools and school attendance was compulsory to the age of sixteen, costs for books, uniforms, lunch, and transport deterred some families from sending their children to school. Public school enrollment ranged from 98 percent at the primary level to 58 percent at the secondary level in the early 1980s. Schools were generally crowded, averaging forty students per class.
At the post secondary level, the most important initiative of the government was the Human Employment and Resource Training Program (HEART). Announced in 1982, HEART aimed at providing training and employment for unemployed youths finished with school. In 1983, roughly 4,160 persons began job training or entered continuing business education classes. In 1985 six specialized HEART academies provided training in agriculture; hotel, secretarial, and commercial services; postal and telegraph operations; industrial production; and cosmetology. Nearly 1,400 persons completed agricultural or construction trades programs administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Youth and Community Development. The HEART program called for the eventual construction of 12 academies capable of training 500 youths at a time in various skills. The program's critics charged, however, that funds could be better spent on community colleges.
I wish that many of the young people who do pursue higher education come back to Jamaica to lend their skills to areas of the country that desperately need those talents.