School duty applies to children in Jamaica from the age of six to eleven years. The first stage is free in the state schools as well as in some private schools that receive state aid. Thereafter, schooling is subject to fees.
After the first six years, three years follow, which corresponds to high school and then a two-year high school. Then there is another two years for those who want to continue at the university level.
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Most 4- and 5-year-olds attend preschool, but it is of low quality. Almost everyone starts in regular school, but about a tenth does not complete the first six-year stage. Dropouts are increasing in the higher classes and absenteeism is often extensive at all levels. Many go to classes and a lot of children, and especially boys, leave school without learning to read and write properly.
Absence is particularly common in rural areas and is often due to the fact that the children help with work, or that the families find it difficult to pay for materials, transport and school lunches.
The proportion of children attending school has increased since the state, with the support of the World Bank in 2002, introduced a cash grant that is paid to poor families towards the children attending school and participating in health checks. The program has been expanded and now includes a one-off grant for post-secondary studies.
The University of West Indies (UWI), a collaboration between English-speaking Commonwealth countries and territories in the Caribbean, has a campus in Mona outside Kingston. UWI in Mona was founded in 1948 and is the oldest of the university’s four campuses (one of which is scattered on 16 islands).
At the college level there are also a handful of other alternatives, among them a technical school, an agricultural university and a teacher’s college.
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FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
91.5 percent (2004)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
88.1 percent (2014)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
18.4 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
18.4 percent (2017)