The structure and content of the education system in Jamaica has gone through several stages of development over the years. The former education system was established in an agrarian society, intended to maintain and reinforce a social structure characterized by a small white elite and a largely black laboring class. Today, however, education has gotten in step with the Industrial and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Age. This has contributed to shaping a system which is dynamic in nature, preparing students who are literate and numerate, and who realize and explore their full potential, all while responding to national and global demands.
The Education Act of 1965 further regulated the system as a way to “ meet the needs for greater self-financing capability, a better definition of Jamaica’s educational goals and the expansion of the system to meet both individual and national needs.” Further development in the system saw it evolving not only in terms of its structure but also in terms of its management and performance.
Education in Jamaica is overseen by the country’s Ministry of Culture and Education and administered at the local level by municipal school districts. The system is closely modeled after that of the British, and public schooling is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16.
The Ministry of Culture and Education in Jamaica executes the Government’s mandate of ensuring a system which secures quality education and training for all persons in Jamaica in order to optimize individual and national development. As such, the Ministry of Education is the driving force for change, growth and development in education, providing the legislative framework, policies, strategies, plans, and resources to enable institutions, agencies and other bodies to achieve their agreed mandates.
The Ministry is guided by the philosophy that “Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn,” the vision, “A customer- centered, performance oriented education system producing globally competitive, socially conscious Jamaican citizens,” and the mission “to provide strategic leadership and policy direction for quality education for all Jamaicans to maximize their potential, contribute to national development and compete effectively in the global economy, as it pursues its developmental goals for the nation .”
The Ministry is headed by the Honorable Minister of Education who has the ultimate policy responsibility and authority for the development of education for the Jamaican citizens. Assisting and reporting directly to the Minister is the Permanent Secretary who is seen as the Accountability Officer, with responsibility for the daily operations of the Ministry as it carries out its mandate. The Permanent Secretary is supported by a Chief Education Officer (CEO) and several Divisional Heads.
According to the Education Act (1980), the school year extends from the beginning of September to the end of August of the following year. It is divided into three terms and every public educational institution shall meet for classes not less than 190 days of each school year. The number of instructional hours per school day as stipulated by the Regulations should be no less than four and a half hours at the primary, all-age and secondary schools on a shift system, and five hours for whole-day schools. ‘Instructional hours’ refer to the hours that a teacher and students are present together imparting and receiving educational instruction respectively.