3-year DFID-funded project to provide better education for children in poor rural communities in Jamaica

DFID-funded project Funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) as part of its programme to eliminate poverty, and in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica, the Jamaica All Age Schools Project (JAASP) worked with 48 remote, rural ‘All-Age schools’, most perched on the most inaccessible mountain tops, over 3 years in clusters representing each of the six education regions of the island.

The purpose of the project was to provide better education for children in poor rural communities and, through this, to contribute to improve lifetime opportunities for them. The direct beneficiaries of the project were the children and communities in the most disadvantaged, remote rural areas of Jamaica.

JAASP specifically aimed to tackle the key issues of Access, Quality, Retention and Equity in relation to rural education. One of the underlying principles behind the project has been the building of partnerships between schools, parents, communities, Ministry of Education officers and the private sector to develop improved lifetime opportunities for rural children.

Outcomes at school, pupil, community and government levels

All schools in the project improved their learning environment, teaching and learning approaches and school management, as well as planning effectively for further improvements in their school. Pupils recorded higher levels of attendance and improved performance, especially in literacy and numeracy. Wider benefits included greater community participation in the schools and the development of sustainable systems at central and regional levels.

External and internal evaluations of JAASP found that the project had very successfully achieved its objectives; there were many moving stories of schools and teachers transformed and of individual young people with lives opened up. The evaluations also noted significant additional impacts above and beyond the original project objectives. These included the impact on the development of communities as a whole of which the All-Age Schools were a part, on the positive social energy and drive which came from a sense of success in communities, on the increased opportunities which the project brought and on local income generation.

Resources for schools

Within the JAASP work a substantial number of materials were produced through the Jamaica All-Age Schools Project. Examples are videos for English language teaching and a CD-ROM for the improvement of school planning. The Media Services Unit of the Jamaican Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture (MOEYC) are making these materials easily accessible to educators island-wide in order to sustain and disseminate the good practice that was developed during the project.

Four monographs produced by CIDT staff and associates were made available on the MOEYC website along with in-service teacher training materials on school development planning and performance management, produced by Patt Flett. Other video based materials were also distributed to all schools for use in school-based staff development.

Supporting the schools

These schools, traditionally neglected because of their location, were supported through a range of inputs and activities centred around school development planning processes and the involvement of community members in the management of schools. Other components included the decentralisation of school financing, curriculum reform, teacher development, the provision of materials and equipment and minor infrastructure development.

Building capacity in key areas

Technical support was provided by four resident staff and a range of local and UK-based advisors in key areas such as literacy, numeracy, special educational needs, early years education, learning support, guidance and counselling, community participation, public private partnerships in education, education management and planning, and school improvement planning. A series of study visits was implemented in the UK and other countries to develop the capacity of local advisory officers.

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