While pursuing my studies in counselling, I noticed that all the books we used were from overseas authors. As such, I decided to put together material relevant to our school counselors; not only in Jamaica, but in the Caribbean as well.
Excerpt from Jamaican Guidance Counsellor’s Handbook
Mrs. Goodrich showed up to the Fairies Secondary School, as usual, looking forward to the challenges that would greet her in her chosen profession, as a School counselor.
Her day was particularly hectic and burdensome, as several boys got in trouble for missing classes and gathering at the back of the school and she was expected to ‘set di bwoy dem on di straight and narrow’, according to the principal. In addition one of her favorite students, Latoya who was of Muslim background, in her counseling session that afternoon admitted that she would not continue to college, but get a part-time job, marry and have children.
Mrs. Goodrich, at the end of the day, sat down and reflected on the day’s occurrences. She began to wonder what was she to do as the school counselor and whether there were problems like this 75 years ago. Mrs. Goodrich pondered what would have happened if there were no school counselors today?
School counseling was not born it evolved. In supporting this statement we will first look at the meaning of some keywords and seek to identify issues and provide points for and/or against the topic. Born is defined as being “brought into existence, or to be created” (ask.com, 2006).
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, evolve means to “develop or achieve gradually”, evolving is a process and may occur over time. Craig Charles stated that “It’s evolve or die, really, you have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant.”
This can be applied to School Counseling, as it has transformed from a mere larvae to the beautiful butterfly that it is today.
School counselors are “professional members of an educational team who assists students in their personal, social, and academic, and career development aspects of education through services such as individual counseling, small group counseling, and classroom teaching, and provide leadership in educational reform (advocacy);”
They are traditionally known as a guidance counselor, although this term is deemed inaccurate by most professionals today.
THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
One of the foundational elements of any modern society is education. It bears great responsibility for the development and sustainability of any nation. Education is a formal or informal system developed to assist or direct people into becoming purposeful units which contribute in a positive way to society. Formal education didn’t always exist, at least not in the form it is now.
Earlier societies placed more emphasis on working and earning a living than spending many hours or years in a classroom learning a skill. Farming and hunting were the main way of life before our world became industrialized and there were skill-intensive jobs.
Because of this, people had to be trained to perform certain tasks. In today’s world construct, formal education is mandatory and integral in every nation that wishes to establish a thriving economy and equip its citizen with skills that will make them productive contributors and not a menacing burden. From early childhood to adulthood, people are enrolled in educational institutions to learn a basic curriculum and then move on to more advanced and specialized programmes.
Jamaican Education System
According to The Glossary of Education Reform (2014), the term education system generally refers to public schooling, not private schooling, and more commonly to kindergarten through high school programmes. However, in Jamaica, the educational system is segmented into four different levels; namely, Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary.
Schools or school districts are typically the smallest recognized form of “education system” and countries are the largest. States are also considered to have education systems. The role of the education system in Jamaica, as stated by the Ministry of Education (MOE), is “to meet the needs for greater self-financing capability, a better definition of Jamaica’s educational goals and the expansion of the system to meet both individual and national needs”.
To access the first stage of schooling, students enroll in public and private institutions from the ages of three to six (3-6) years of age.
Children up to age six access early childhood education through day care centers and basic or prep schools throughout the island. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), in order for a student to progress to the Primary level a “Grade One Individual Learning Profile (GOILP) is used to ascertain students’ capabilities and mastery of the skills and concepts taught at the Early Childhood level, so that strategies can be developed to advance their learning”.
Tests Administered in Jamaican Schools
After completing their Early Childhood education, children move on to Primary, Junior High or All-Age institutions. There are over three hundred thousand students in Jamaica’s Primary schools, that range from grades one through to six.
During their years a number of tests are administered; these include:
- Grade 1: Readiness Inventory
- Grade 3: Assessment tests in Math and Language Arts
- Grade 4: Literacy Test
- Grade 6: Achievement Test (GSAT)
When students matriculate to the Primary level of education, they complete six (6) grades and sit the Grade Six Achievement Examination (GSAT) in order to gain admission to High schools.
In secondary schools, students have the option of going to co-ed schools (both boys and girls) or boys’ only and girls’ only schools.
Generally, in High schools, students complete five (5) more grades. They start from grades seven through to eleven and complete two sets of major exams – one at grade eleven, and if they continue, one at grade thirteen – to move on to tertiary institutions or to the world of work. When students complete their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects successfully, they then exit with a high school diploma. Some students opt to stay two more years in grades 12 and 13. At this level, they pursue, Sixth Form and sit the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
At this juncture, many students divert to the working world; while others move on to the Tertiary level of the education system.
Tertiary Institutions operating in Jamaica
Tertiary education is accessed through universities, teachers’ colleges, and specialized institutions. Over the last two decades, there has been a growth in the number of tertiary institutions operating in Jamaica. The list includes:
- Caribbean Graduate School of Theology
- Caribbean Institute of Business
- Caribbean Institute of Technology (CIT)
- Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI)
- College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE)
- Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (an artistic conservatory)
- Excelsior Community College (EXED)
- G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports
- International University of the Caribbean (IUC)
- Jamaica Theological Seminary
- Management Institute for National Development
- Mico University College
- Northern Caribbean University (NCU)
- Pre-University School ( Pre-UWI)
- United Theological College of the West Indies
- University College of the Caribbean (UCC)
- University of Technology (U-Tech)
- University of the West Indies at Mona
- Vector Technology Institute
- Vocational Training Development Institute
The Jamaican education system is of great importance, to Jamaica’s government. Students who do exceptionally on their exams in primary school are granted scholarships for their high school education.
The government, in recent years, subsidized the tuition for every child at the secondary level and exam fee in grade eleven. Millions of dollars are spent annually on back to school programs that aid students with tuition costs. Through to adulthood, Jamaica provides institutions that offer quality education to its people.
The Jamaican Guidance Counsellor’s Handbook introduces the Jamaican educational system and highlights the psychometric movement, the trait and factor theory as well as legislation that impacted the development of present guidelines and ethical standards. It also explores the counselling process, issues of school management, school organisational structure and several counselling techniques which are apt for the school setting. The book also examines the various roles and responsibilities of a Jamaican Guidance Counsellor and provides a list of resource centers in Jamaica.