The World Bank says Jamaica is taking “big steps” in improving its educational system.
The Washington-based financial institution said the Caribbean island is “transforming its education system and building the capacity of a network of institutions to improve the quality of its educational services.”
The bank said Jamaica has achieved universal enrollment of students from early childhood through the primary levels up to grade nine.
“However, there remains an urgent need to raise the standards and improve the quality of education,” it said. “The major challenges in the sector included sector governance, shortcomings in teaching and learning quality, equitable access, and enrollment at the higher levels of the secondary system.”
But the bank said Jamaica’s first national development goal is to empower its citizens to achieve their full potential by providing world-class education.
Recognizing the importance of an improved public service delivery system in realizing this goal, the World Bank noted that Jamaica has launched an ambitious Education System Transformation Program (ESTP).
It said the initiative aims to improve learning through a decentralized accountability framework.
The cornerstone of the program is a restructured Ministry of Education, supported by six newly established independent agencies that are accountable for results, quality assurance, service delivery, and monitoring of reforms, the World Bank said.
The agencies are: Central Ministry, Department of School Services (DSS), Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC), National Council for Education Leadership (NCEL), National Education Inspection (NEI) and National Education Trust (NET).
In November 2009, the World Bank approved funding for the Education System Transformation Capacity Building Project to support the Jamaica education sector reform and build the capacity of these agencies.
It said the overall result is a “comprehensive network of institutions working together to support learning for every student.
“The government established a framework to provide a legal entity for each of the new agencies,” the bank said. “It substantially built the capacity of the newly established agencies and adopted a School Improvement Act focused on enrollment and learning for all school age children.”
In addition, the World Bank said the project certified 53 percent of all public school principals based on rigorous competency-based training and assessment.
It said 90 percent of all public schools inspected have prepared and are implementing improvement plans focusing on improving student learning; 95 percent of all teachers have met requisite standards and have been registered; and 52 percent of all teachers meet professional standards for licensing.
In addition, the bank said the National Education Trust has started mobilizing resources from private sources.
Noting that the program’s success has been recognized outside the country’s borders, the World Bank noted that several countries in the Caribbean have approached Jamaica’s Ministry of Education to request support on issues related to school leadership, school inspection and school improvement.
Additionally, the bank said the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development recognized the NCEL with a Bright Spot Award in innovation in leadership development.
The World Bank said it supported the capacity building of the key Jamaican agencies established to support the national Education System Transformation Program.
“To this end, the Bank bolstered the Government’s own program, through sponsoring consultancies, training and workshops, and procurement of needed software,” the statement said.