Using Computers to Improve Instruction in Jamaica’s Schools
Technical Paper Series for Latin America and the Caribbean: Technical Paper 2
ABEL 2: Clearinghouse for Basic Education, Washington D. C: 1996
The Foreword for this Monograph is written by Benjamin Alvarez of the Academy of Educational Development and the Preface by Sarah Wright of the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau of the United States Agency for International Development.
Partnership for Change: Using Computers to Improve Instruction in Jamaica’s Schools is a case study detailing educational reform which commenced among non-states in Jamaica in the 1990s who, for different reasons, determined that it was imperative to introduce computers in schools although at the time this was not Government policy. The Monograph outlines the governance of public education in Jamaica based on two seemingly conflicting principles of decentralized management by individual school boards with legal authority to hire and fire teachers, disciple students, run their financial affairs and control the use of its premises and centralized State directed policy making, planning, development and financing as the background for allowing and understanding educational policy beginning in the periphery.
The Monograph also described educational reform in the post-independence period after 1962 which brought about both a ‘paradigm shift and a quantum leap’ in Jamaican education but which was not celebrated at the end of the 1980s because of new demands on education arising from globalization, inventions in information technology and their pervasive effects on society. It points to the fact that in the 1990s Jamaica embarked upon a project driven path to educational reform.
The substance of the case study is the detailing of the serendipitous actions of the Jamaican Computer Society, through its Education Foundation; premised on producing competent computer professionals; a Private Public Partnership forged by a prominent CEO of an Insurance Company focused on remedial education in mathematics and language; and the Island Trading Company engaged in community tourism; and individual school communities committed to the advancement of their schools combined to mobilize actions that resulted in educational reform. In so doing the case study provides descriptions of action taken by primary and/or secondary schools in Montego Bay; Above Rocks in St Mary; five districts of St Elizabeth; and Oracabessa and Jack’s Hill, St Mary.
The Monographs concludes by examining and interpreting the case study from four theoretical perspectives of reform: as a radical break with the past resulting in launching new paths; as a rational and technical process formulated by experts to improve efficiency and effectiveness; as comparative adjustments to modernity in homes, schools and offices; as political trade-off between competing stakeholders and actors. In addition, the Monograph outlines some lessons learned.