Partnering with the Ministry of Education and Youth in Jamaica

How working with the Ministry of Education and local educators has allowed City & Guilds to support young learners 

In 2023, 30,000 students in Jamaica were registered to sit City & Guilds assessed examinations, but this is not a milestone that was reached overnight. For nearly 60 years, City & Guilds has been part of the technical and vocational educational landscape in the Caribbean, supporting young people on their learning journey and building relationships with ministries and educational institutions. Since 2010, this has included offering qualifications in maths, English and more recently areas including engineering and customer service, helping learners build the practical, technical and soft skills that employers are looking for. 

Partnering with the Ministry of Education case study image

Identifying and closing skills gaps

At the centre of City & Guilds’ purpose is supporting the development of skills that change learners’ lives both in the UK and internationally. For this mission to succeed it’s important to be able to find the areas in which this skills development is most needed and to work with educational organisations and policy makers to find the most effective way of implementing this development.

In 2009, the Ministry for Education, then lead by Andrew Holness wanted to do more to support children’s education in Jamaica and was working on launching a new social intervention programme, the Career Advancement Programme, an initiative introduced to support learners who were leaving secondary education without formal certificates.

At the same time City & Guilds had identified missed educational opportunities for many children and young people in the country. Marva Duncanson, a City & Guilds representative for Jamaica & the Caribbean commented “After a year of visiting schools, I became concerned that many of the children on vocational pathways were not being registered for Caribbean Secondary Examination Council maths and English (CSEC), the final exam taken across 15 of the 17 English speaking territories in the Caribbean.” 

Some students instead did a national exam while others had no formal examinations in maths or English at the end of their schooling, something that then put them at a disadvantage when seeking employment in the future, regardless of their chosen profession. With around 45% of grade 11 students nationally not completing CSEC English, it was clear that there was an opportunity for City & Guilds and the Jamaican government to work together to provide valuable support to educators and learners. 

Following a presentation to the ministry, it was agreed that two City & Guilds qualifications would be offered on a trial basis in 2010 as part of the Career Advancement Programme. This began a strong relationship between the Ministry for Education and City & Guilds, based on the ability of these qualifications to function well alongside the existing curriculum and provide a valuable alternative option for the learners not completing the CSEC examinations.

Continuous development and improvement of qualifications

Partnering with the Ministry of Education case study image 4The first contract between the Ministry and City & Guilds to deliver these qualifications exclusively to students in the Career Advancement Programme was signed in 2011 after a successful pilot. Once these qualifications were introduced in this initial capacity, other educators became interested in making them available to the grade 11 students who were not being registered to complete the CSEC exams. Seeing the value of this opportunity for young learners, the Ministry began offering City & Guilds maths and English qualifications to grade 11 students across the country in 2013. 

Once the qualifications became more widely available, City & Guilds worked with the Ministry and subject specialists from the Mico University College (Professor Carol Clarke for English and Mrs Gracie Edwards for Math) to engage with focus groups of local teachers and find out what they felt needed to be included to help the programmes align more closely with skills needs in the country. Using the National School Curriculum of Jamaica and the CSEC maths and English syllabi alongside this feedback, the 3750/3850 maths and 3850 English skills qualifications were developed.

By 2015, these three stage qualifications were on offer to learners and the Ministry for Education signed a second contract with City & Guilds in January 2016. To help increase the relevance of these qualifications the maths programmes were more focused on working on everyday maths skills and developing competence rather than the more conceptual CSEC examinations while the English qualification promoted practicing expository writing and developing standard spoken English skills. 

These updated qualifications were even better placed to align with the goals of the Jamaican government as Dr Andre Hill, the National Literacy Coordinator for the Ministry of Education commented. “The Ministry of Education and Youth is committed to ensuring that all students exit secondary school with certification in English and mathematics. The City & Guilds English skills examinations have proven to be an excellent avenue through which this goal may be met.”

Supporting young learners in Jamaica into the future

Partnering with the Ministry of Education case studyIn November of 2019 a third contract was signed with the Ministry for Education to run until 2029 covering not just maths and English skills but also bringing in an engineering qualification and customer service examinations all of which are becoming more widely accepted throughout Jamaica. Dr Brown, former principal of Spanish Town High School commented “City & Guilds qualifications have been endorsed by most universities and colleges, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Forces as well as other organisations.”

With 30,000 students completing City & Guilds qualifications in 2023 young learners across Jamaica are accessing new opportunities to develop skills that can support them through their future careers. 

Achieving a City & Guilds English qualification can open doors for better job opportunities for school leavers, especially in fields where English language skills are crucial. Many employers specifically seek candidates with City & Guilds English qualifications recognising the relevance and quality of the assessments in assessing practical language skills needed in the workplace. This can also lead to mobility across countries and regions where English is a primary or widely spoken language, making it easier to live, work or study in those places.

– Dr Andre Hill, National Literacy Coordinator for the Ministry of Education

Find out more about City & Guilds’ provision in Jamaica and across the Caribbean and Americas