The structure of education in Jamaican 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 labouring class, however it has now evolved into an 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, realise and explore their full potential, whilst responding to national and global demands. The Education Act of 1965 further regulated the system “….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" Thus, four educational levels were defined: Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Further development in the system saw it evolving not only in terms of its structure but also in terms of its management and performance.
Early Childhood Level
Early Childhood education is offered in public and private institutions to children between the ages of 3-5 years of age. In the public sector, Early Childhood education is provided in Infant Schools and Infant departments of some Primary level schools. Nursery and Kindergarten departments of Independent Preparatory (private primary) schools also accept students at age 3. Independent/Private schools are largely confined to the main urban centres. In addition, there are a number of community operated Basic schools. These cater to the largest number of students at the Early Childhood level. Basic schools which meet certain minimum requirements are eligible for government subsidies and are called Recognised Basic Schools. Students at the Early Childhood level sit the Grade One Individual Learning Profile (GOILP) to ascertain their capabilities and mastery of the skills and concepts taught at the Early Childhood level, so that strategies can be developed to advance their learning. The Early Childhood Commission, an agency of the MoE, is now solely responsible for the regulation and supervision of Basic Schools and the training of Early Childhood practitioners.
Primary education is offered in Grades 1-6 of Primary, Primary and Junior High, and All-Age schools. It is also offered in Grades 1-6 of Preparatory schools. Students are admitted to Primary level educational institutions at age 6. Primary schools are therefore designated feeder schools to all High schools. At the end of Grade 6 students in Primary level schools may sit the Grade Six Achievement Examination (GSAT) in order to gain admission to high schools. The GSAT replaced the Common Entrance Examination in 1999. It is the assessment instrument that is used by the Ministry of Education to place students in Grade Seven of High Schools. The test is administered annually during March. The GSAT is a part of the National Assessment Programme, which assesses performance of students at the Primary level. Other components of this National Assessment Programme are the Grade One Individual Learning Profile, the Grade Three Diagnostic Test and the Grade Four Literacy Test. Based on the grades students gain in the test they are placed into High schools or the Secondary department of All Age and Primary and Junior High Schools. At the All Age and Junior High Schools they can continue to Grades 7, 8 or 9, where they are allowed to sit the Technical Entrance Examination (in grade 8) for entry to Technical schools, and the Grade Nine Achievement Test (in Grade 9) to other types of High schools. These will give students another opportunity to gain entrance into the High school they desire to attend.
The Secondary or High school system consists of two cycles. The first cycle commences in Grades 7-9 of All Age, Primary and Junior High...