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Fact Sheet: Early Childhood and Quality Education

Young Child Health

  • Of the 1,048,000 Jamaican children, approximately 42% (443,525) are in the birth to eight age cohort which consists of 219,121 girls and 224,404 boys (Early Childhood Commission 2008).
  • Approximately 63% of children have all the recommended vaccinations by their first birthday.[1]
  • The rates of exclusive breastfeeding of children 0-5 months are very low - 15.2%.  Boys are half as likely as girls to benefit from the practice (10.3% and 19.5% respectively).

Early Childhood Stimulation and Education

  • The early childhood cohort is served by 2,389 early childhood institutions (Early Childhood Commission, 2003), consisting of 29 Infant Schools, 83 Infant Departments, 1,921 recognized basic schools, 147 unrecognized Basic Schools and 209 Preparatory Schools (ECD Task Force Report, 2005).
  • There is almost universal enrolment of children in pre-primary schools (ages 3-5 years) - 96.8% in 2004 (Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, JSLC, 2006).  Attendance rate is approximately 71.3%. While enrolment of children in pre-schools remains high, the quality of services is often poor. According to official estimates, fewer than one out of three children entering grade one were ready for primary level. 
  • While over 98 per cent of children 6-14 years old are enrolled in school (99.9 per cent for boys and 95.7 per cent for girls), the rate plummets to 89 per cent among children 15-16 years old. The retention rates are higher for girls than for boys (91.4 per cent and 84.3 per cent, respectively). In 2004, some 30 per cent of primary school dropouts were illiterate. Disparities exist between urban and rural areas where full attendance was 80.3% in Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), 82.6% in other towns and 70.6% in rural areas.
  • A closer look at boys and girls’ learning achievements reveals, however, wide gender-based gaps in benefits children get from their years of schooling. Within a context of poor overall performance of both sexes in both the 2006 Grade Three Diagnostic and the Grade Four Literacy tests, girls performed better than boys in all subject areas[2] . In terms of non-mastery of the Grade Four test 14% or 6,626 students were in this category – 5,087 males and 1,539 females.  The latter indicates the need to improve the quality of education delivered in public schools, especially since the vast majority of children are attending public primary (91%) and secondary (96%) schools.

[1] 2005 MICS, Report launched in 2007

[2] ESSJ 2006



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