Illiteracy, Gender and Access to High Schooling

Book Cover: Illiteracy, Gender and Access to High Schooling

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(1996) In Education in the West Indies. Editor Dennis Craig. Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies. Mona. Pp 47-74.

Invariably it is argued that mastery of literacy is a prerequisite to movement from the primary to the secondary levels of education. This line of thought assumes a linear and unidirectional relationship between literacy and schooling. Jamaica is one of only a few countries of the world that has systematically and periodically tested literacy levels of its population 15 years and over during the latter half of the 20th century. Between 1975 and 2000 this was done by administering a functional literacy test is the same one percent random stratified sample as used in the country’s annual labour force survey.

Using the results of the 1993 Adult Literacy Survey commissioned by the JAMAL Foundation, this study examined illiteracy, gender and the number of high school places available through performance in the annual Common Entrance Examination selecting students for high schooling. Analysis of these data suggests that where access to the most desired high schools is competitive illiteracy in the adult population is highest in parishes in which the number of high school places is lowest leading to the cut-off point in the Common Entrance Examination for placement was highest. In other words, greater access to the upper level of schooling appeared to be an inspiration to striving while limited access to the upper level appeared to be an inhibitor to striving. Put another way, the relationship between the upper and lower levels of education in the Jamaica context in the 1990s appeared to be two-directional: pre-requisite and motivational.

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