Magazine article Distance Learning

Distance Education and Jamaica's Higher Education

Magazine article Distance Learning

Distance Education and Jamaica's Higher Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Jamaica is approximately 4,411 square miles (Jamaicas.com, 2012), and it is the third largest island in the Caribbean (Jamaica System of Education, 2012). The island has 14 parishes and two main cities-Montego Bay and Kingston, with Kingston as the capital (Pan American Health Organization, 2012). Jamaica is a mountainous island with its highest point, the Blue Mountain Peak, towering 2,256 m above sea level (Jamaica System of Education, 2012).

Jamaica's education system is structurally similar to Britain's (Jamaica System of Education, 2012). The education system is composed of individuals from numerous nations; these include Europeans, Africans, East Indians, Jews, Syrians, and Chinese; hence the Jamaican motto "Out of Many One People" (Ruddock, 1982). Jamaica's population is approximately 2.6 million (Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2012b). The population grows at a rate of 0.46% annually (Jamaicas.com, 2012). Approximately half of Jamaica's population resides in urban areas (Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2012b).

The formal education system in Jamaica consists of early childhood or pre-education (ages 3 to 5 years); primary education (ages 6 to 12 years, although some schools are referred to as "all age" and have an additional 3 years); secondary (approximately ages 13 to 18 years), and tertiary level or higher education (Jamaica System of Education, 2012; World Data on Education, 2012). At the primary level students sit the Grade 6 Achievement Test during their final year and are placed into various secondary schools depending on their scores. Those at the secondary level sit the Caribbean Examination Council, and then move on to their choice of a higher education institution (World Data on Education, 2012).

BRIEF FACTS ABOUT JAMAICA'S ECONOMY

The Jamaican economy is based primarily on imports and exports (Pan American Health Organization, 2012). The main contributors to the economic indicators are tourism, bauxite mining, and agriculture exports such as sugar and bananas (Pan American Health Organization, 2012). Remittances from Jamaicans living abroad also contribute significantly to the country's economy (Pan American Health Organization, 2012). At the end of 2013 Jamaica's gross domestic product at market price was 1,430,423 million Jamaican dollars, and final consumption expenditure was 1,454,196 million Jamaican dollars (Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2012a, 2014a). This demonstrates that Jamaica spends more than what it earns. Jamaica spends a great deal of its income on imports; at the end of July 2014, Jamaica's merchandise import bill was US$3,465.2 million and its total earnings from export totaled US$851.9 million, a wide disparity (Press Releases, 2014). The calendar-year inflation rate at the end of September 2014 was 7.2% and its trade deficit at the end of July 2014 was US$2,613.3 million (Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2014b). It is estimated that 16.5% of the Jamaican population lived below poverty level in 2009 (Index Mundi, 2014).

RESTRICTIONS ON JAMAICA'S EDUCATION SYSTEM

The hilly characteristic of Jamaica has negative implications for its education system. It hampers the supervision of the school systems by education officers, and in some instances limits access to education at the secondary level (Jamaica System of Education, 2012). The official language of the Jamaican people is English; however, it is strongly influenced by Jamaican Creole, an aspect of African heritage that is quite prevalent (Jamaica System of Education, 2012). The widespread use and adoption of Creole makes it challenging for the teachers to effectively execute the planned curriculum because lessons are taught in English and not in Creole (Jamaica System of Education, 2012).

The above mentioned statistics indicate that the country's education system is hampered by limited financial resources. In the 1980s the government implemented a "cess" (tax) that mandated all students at the tertiary level pay tuition, and these students were no longer provided a grant to assist with their education (Jamaica Education System, 2012). …

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