Jamaica’s future economic prosperity and economic growth is underpinned, to a large extent, by the capacity of the education and training systems to upgrade the skills and competencies of the emerging and existing workforce. As Jamaica increasingly integrates its economy into regional and global markets, new demands are emerging, driven by competitive labour dynamics. At the same time, there is a known skills shortage for positions in the industry and service sectors, as well as a lack of basic work-related technology skills among secondary school graduates.
Education efforts have expanded remarkably – in the last 10 years, the Jamaican government doubled expenditure on education, and by 1989 enrolment was universal for 6–14-year-olds. But expansion came at the cost of quality, suggested a WorldBank report from 2004 that evaluated Jamaica’s competitiveness and growth potential. About 30–40 percent of grade 6 leavers are functionally illiterate. That also resulted in the fact that Jamaican-educated workers received the lowest returns in the US labour market.
However, the potential for generating new opportunities for innovative business services in Jamaica will depend, in part, on the acquisition and strengthening of competences at all levels.
The youth should be developed collectively into a well-trained, flexible and technologically adept workforce. Therefore, a successful and sustainable collaborative must be identified to lead the charge in delivering 21st century skills. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are seen as the best way to realise this potential. To this end, JCUTE, the Jamaica Collaborative for Universal Technology Education, was formed in 2006.
JCUTE is a joint initiative of ICT4D Jamaica and the International Education Collaborative Foundation (IECF). ICT4D Jamaica is a non-profit Jamaican-based organisation dedicated to garnering Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge, ensuring its uses and application for development. The ultimate goal of JCUTE is that students graduate from secondary schools technologically fluent and prepared to compete in a global marketplace.
JCUTE’s overall goal is to build a successful PPP. To demonstrate the working of the partnership, JCUTE has identified and begun work on a test site – Shortwood Teachers’ College, one of Jamaica’s premier teacher-training institutions. This is in keeping with JCUTE’s strategic decision to start at the teacher college level, guaranteeing sustainability and facilitating the filtering of technology-integrated education throughout the entire system over time. One major partner of JCUTE is the government’s eLearning Jamaica project, which inter alia is providing hardware and software to secondary schools in which many of the graduating student teachers will be absorbed.
Shortwood was selected based on its dynamic leadership and commitment to technology in education, its positioning as a college which trains secondary school teachers as well as for the network of schools in its cluster. Through the beta site, model capacity-building will also take place for the lecturers and teacher trainees.
Initial work has been undertaken on the beta-site case study, which JCUTE aims to develop as a replicable, sustainable model. Best practices are demonstrated and lessons learned are incorporated in the roll-out for the other nine teacher-training colleges in the island. Support has been provided to assist the college in the development of their ICT Plan, which provides the blueprint to steer JCUTE’s intervention.
Simultaneously, JCUTE continues to engage new partners locally and internationally in its pursuit of long-term sustainability for the 21st Century application of ICTs in education in Jamaica. Apart from a number of private-sector firms, other entities with which there is ongoing collaboration are:
- Joint Board of Teacher Education / Institute of Education (UWI)
- e-Learning Jamaica Company
- Ministry of Education
- Caribbean Knowledge Learning Network (CKLN)
- Consortium of Institutions for Teacher Education (CITE)
In its bid to attract more funding for capacity-building, JCUTE has approached the Multilateral Investment Fund with a proposal that is consistent with the Cluster document “Supporting Public Private Partnerships”, in that it contributes to the development of policies, legal framework and institutional capacity of a private-public partnership in education. Furthermore, the project is consistent with the strategy of the Inter-American Development Bank in Jamaica, which aims to contribute to improved competitiveness and educational standards.
The presentation at eLearning Africa 2008 will explore the background to the establishment and evolution of this initiative, its goals, objectives and strategies. Particular emphasis will be placed on the partnership’s initial focus, which is on the teachers’ colleges, to ensure the preparation of teachers to guide and sustain the achievement of universal technology education – defined as equitable, daily access for each student to a connected computer device.
By Elizabeth Gaye Terry and Melody Palmer
Further information about JCUTE: www.jcute.org.jm/