Access to non-familial day care for children under three years old is low (under 20 per cent) and concentrated among higher income groups. However, over 98 per cent of the 4-6 age cohort enrol in pre-schools – predominantly community-based facilities, most of which do not meet national standards for early childhood institutions.
Despite high levels of enrolment at pre-primary (99.7 per cent), primary (92.1 per cent) and secondary (94.5 per cent) schooling, educational achievements of the Jamaican child are relatively low as measured by national assessments. At Grade 1 in 2009, none of the five sub-tests of the assessment (of primary school readiness) was mastered by more than 24 per cent of the six year olds entering primary school, and 18 per cent of them did not master a single sub-test. In attempting to address the problem of children leaving primary school illiterate, students must now master the Grade 4 literacy and numeracy tests before sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), the determinant of secondary school placements. Consequently, they are allowed multiple attempts at these exams. In 2010, 67 per cent of Grade 4 students showed mastery of the literacy test, (girls 78 per cent; boys 56 per cent), at first sitting. In 2011, 93 per cent of students attending private schools showed mastery of the literacy test, compared with 69 per cent among public school attendees. In the numeracy test, 42 per cent gained mastery (girls 49 per cent; boys 34 per cent). At Grade 6, the average score in five subjects tested was 60 per cent. Of particular concern is the low achievement of boys and children from poorer communities. Performance on all the tests was higher for girls and students who attend private schools, who are generally wealthier than those attending public institutions.