International Literacy Day will be celebrated Wednesday (September 8) in schools islandwide, as part of efforts by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to keep the focus on the importance of literacy.

National Literacy Coordinator at the MoE, Laurel Brent Harris, made the disclosure during an interview with JIS News, Tuesday (September 7).

She explained that since 1965, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has celebrated International Literacy Day on September 8. Special attention is given to educational programmes that engage individuals in improving their levels of literacy.

Mrs. Brent Harris explained that this year's theme is focused on empowering women across the world, and the celebrations will involve government organisations and individuals celebrating the empowerment of women through literacy.

"The International Reading Association will be paying special attention to early reading, and sharing how we can ignite education for all, through focusing on literacy activities," she pointed out.

Regional offices, literacy teams and some schools will be mounting displays. Ministry representatives will also be participating in devotional exercises, where there will be a focus on the importance of literacy. Members of the team will be visiting classes and engaging students in read aloud, reading competitions and ensuring that students are motivated and see reading as fun and essential for their own individual development.

Mrs. Brent Harris said that for the new school year, the MoE will continue its quest to address the problem of literacy.

"At the local level we promote public awareness on the importance of literacy and how persons can be involved in enhancing improved performance among our school age children in particular," she stated.

She said the Ministry also promotes the motivational aspect of literacy among students, parents and teachers.

"We have established, in many PTAs, parent action committees where we help parents to understand how they can play a more informed, involved role in supporting their children's achievements", Mrs. Brent Harris explained.

The aim of International Literacy Day is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.

For more information please vist the Jamaica Information Service Website (JIS)

Alison J. Cross, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning

Delivered at the Annual General Meeting
Jamaican Council on Adult Education, JACAE
Thursday 25th March, 2010

Alison J. Cross, EdD, Executive Director - Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning

American President Barack Obama passionately declared during his inauguration of January 20, 2009, ‘The world has changed and we must change with it!’
He also had a few clear points directed specifically at education, right up front with the economy, the environment and national security:

"Everywhere we look there is work to be done...We will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

What exactly do we mean when we embrace the concept of “change to meet the demands of a new age”? Apart from the concept that old methods cannot yield new results, I think it is reasonable to expect that before we rush out and change syllabuses, modify content or restructure our systems …we need to ask ourselves:

  • What are the features of this ‘new age’?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges?
  • How and why do we need to change?

Current workforce Scenarios

Many members of the Jamaican workforce have a common need. Can you tell what it is?

  • A commercial printery is updating its equipment. Mike Smith, a machine operator at the printery, must learn to use computer controls to operate the new machinery and stamp presses. He risks being fired if he doesn't master the new system.
  • Charlie Manning lost his job when the free zone job where he worked for twenty years shut down and moved to a different country to take advantage of cheaper labor. Now Charlie works as a watch man, at a much lower rate of pay and with fewer benefits.
  • Despite earning a good yearly salary as a bank teller, Bruce Hinds finds the work tedious and boring. He dreams of being a psychologist in the company's human resources department.
  • Mary Atkins loves her job as an accountant with an insurance firm. She knows that if she wants to rise in the firm and make more money, she has to get a master's degree in business.
  • Sue Fischer has a bachelor's degree in art, but she needs hands-on skills in computer graphics and process camera work to get the kinds of art and design jobs she wants.
  • After spending nine years at home raising twins, Pat Grant wants to go back to work. Before staying home with her children, she worked as a telephone operator.

If you answered "retraining" or “re-schooling” to the above question, you would be absolutely right. All these workers could benefit from updating their job skills or learning new ones.
Retraining …or reschooling….occurs for a variety of reasons: the need to keep pace with new technology, company reorganization or relocation, job obsolescence, and the desire for more challenging work, more money, or advancement. Even those who are perfectly satisfied with their jobs will find periodic retraining to be essential. Old jobs and old ways of working are rapidly disappearing, while new jobs and new ways of working are being created daily.
Technological advances and economic developments have put workplace change on a scale and at an unprecedented pace. Never before has there been a time when people have had to make so many decisions regarding their future employability.
Trends in the Jamaican Work Force Whether you are entering the workplace for the first time or you have already worked for a number of years, many changes are already having a profound effect on you, your work, and your relationship to the workplace.
The Labour Market Information System recently published a report: ‘Hot Occupations in the Jamaican Labour Market’, which analyzes the demand for specific jobs and occupational groups over the period May 1, 2002 to September 30, 2008 to ascertain the most frequently advertised vacancies in the local labour market. The primary sources of information were two print media, the Gleaner and Jamaica Observer. A total of 87,701 jobs were advertised during the period under study.  [Tables 3 & 4 – page 3]
Change is taking place in every workplace. As leadership tries to maintain or improve the business bottom line, some workers find themselves in the midst of frequent reorganizations, technological changes, physical moves, or new "programs for improvement." Learners need to quickly learn how to feel comfortable with change.
The concept of working forever for the same employer …just does not exist anymore.  It is estimated that those coming to their first job today will change employers many times before retirement.
In fact we are rapidly moving towards much shorter term "life of the project contract" or the "contract employee”. Both private and public sector employees have adopted this model on a large scale.
Fewer Staffing Layers: The new workplace has a slogan, "Do More with Less."
The positive impact of technology and computers on the bottom line means there has been creative “crunching” and employees are expected to multitask…one person often doing the work that once took three… and eliminating layers of staff.
Staff are expected to do more, and to be even more competent to produce in more areas…new job titles are created to absorb “multiple responsibilities”, e.g. Director HR and Corporate Services… so in addition to having the HR responsibilities this staff member has an array of responsibilities that can be lumped under “corporate services”….it is very grey…but….this is rapidly becoming an accepted way of corporate life.

Table 3 - Top 10 Hottest Jobs: 2002 to 2008


Number of Vacancies

Teacher; Lecturer; Instructor; Professor; Educator


Manager; Director


Sales/ Marketing Representative & Associate


Household Worker; Office Attendant


Receptionist; Front Desk Clerk; Telephone Operator; Customer/ Client Services Representative


Bartender; Waiter & Maitre ‘D’


Driver; Dispatcher and Messenger


Cook/ Chef; Executive/ Pastry/ Sous Chef; Baker


Accountant; Accounting Officer; Auditor


Cashier; Toll Collector; Teller




Table 4: Top Hot Jobs by Occupational Group May 1, 2002 to September 30, 2008

Occupational Group/ Hot Jobs


Professionals, Senior Officials & Technicians






Accountant/Accounting Officer




Marketing/Sales/Brand Manager






Receptionist/Customer/Client Service Representative






Service, (Shop and Markets Sales) Workers


Sales Representative/Personnel






Craft and Related Trade Workers








Plant and Machine Operators & Assemblers


Driver/Dispatcher/Delivery Rider


Machine/Drill Operator


Elementary Occupations


Domestic Helper




Casual Worker




Sources: The Gleaner and Observer Newspapers, May 2002 to September 30, 2008

The workplace is also becoming more diverse. Women are now assuming managerial positions that were once the sole domain of men, and most people work for at least one woman at some time during their careers.

The meshing of the global economy and technology is creating new kinds of jobs even as others are being eliminated. Within five years there are likely to be jobs requiring new skills that are unimaginable now.

Most of the 18.9 million new jobs expected to develop between 2004 and 2014 will be in service-producing—rather than goods-producing—industries. Service jobs can be divided into two categories: traditional, low-paying jobs (including jobs at retail stores, restaurants, and hotels) and business services.

Service jobs—even some of those in the traditional, low-wage category—are changing to meet the needs of a new kind of consumer environment.

The official website for the project, ‘Evolution of Education in the European Union’ argues:

‘The rules of sustained success have changed significantly. It is no longer simply about
absorptive capacity for information with an end in sight…in fact…the focus must now be on developing a passion for “learning” for all of us…and embracing of the philosophy of lifelong learning.’

This is paramount in today’s world.

March 29-31 the American Government hosted an online international debate, incorporating themes such as: Enabling the Essential Education with the key topic being, ‘What everyone should learn…. to succeed in the 21st century’. Implicit here are a number of questions such as

    • How can educational programmes within and outside of school improve so students of all ages can succeed in the 21st Century?’
    • What are the ways to improve access to educational programmes, increase their quality, or make them more relevant to future careers?

Skill- sets for Marketability: More and more consumer-focused businesses employ salespeople and other workers who are technically trained and who understand what they are selling. For possessing these skills, the workers are well paid.
Jobs that were traditionally labeled "menial," such as garage mechanic, now demand increasing technical competency, including IT skills. Under the hood of a modern car, you will find sophisticated electronic equipment and microcomputers. Today's mechanic must go through a great deal of training to keep abreast of technological advances. .
Similarly, in today's factories robots and computers may work the actual machines, but people are needed to control the robots and computers as well as to program and service them.
The business services category covers a broad spectrum of jobs. According to former labor secretary Robert Reich in CQ Researcher, "The business service job is everything from technical sales support, lab technicians, and paralegals to systems analysts.
These are good jobs, the new middle-class jobs, replacing the factory work of twenty or thirty years ago as the gateway to the middle class." Service jobs in this category demand relatively high levels of training or retraining.
Never before in our history, has there been a more compelling case to be made for training, retraining, and continuing education. Now, as never before, is the time to reexamine the education process that makes employees so valuable in the rapidly changing workplace.
Even workers who have the desire to stay with the same company will find that the company is going to change. Today's companies acquire other companies or are themselves acquired; they refocus on the existing marketplace or focus on a new and emerging market segment; and they may want to do things differently to reverse a decline and become profitable or to increase profitability. These and other changes will most likely have a direct and immediate impact on company employees and their work.

The “content” for Reschooling - : We need to focus on learning for personal, civic and social purposes, as well as for employment-related purposes, and this can take place in a variety of environments in…. and outside formal education and training systems.

This is where the role of JFLL…HEART…NYS…our Community Colleges…Teacher Training Colleges…and our Universities….are critical. We must ensure accessibility …in terms of self motivation, peer motivation, community motivation and employer motivation to drive people towards these institutions.

Emotional Skills: There is no doubt that to be competitive locally and globally …we need to focus on the development of the ‘soft skills’ in our people. In discussions on this topic the European Commission states that. In particular, in the actual economic context, the emotional competencies necessary for all professional profiles are becoming increasingly important.”

They list some of the key emotional competencies as:

  • Acquaintance with oneself (evaluation of one's own state of mind, of one's own resources and familiarity with one's own limits and strengths)
  • self-control (ability to deal with impulses and emotions, flexibility and adaptability to change)…in Jamaica we are so reactive…we don’t even think or pause…we just retaliate…we must teach the skill of self control...
  • Motivation (enthusiasm for goals, optimism, ability to seize opportunity) …motivation to even want to do better for oneself…to go back to school…to want to….move forward…and upward….
  • Empathy (awareness of other people's feelings and interests, understanding of others and their needs)…. AND


  • social abilities (relational abilities, command of not only our local patois…but also a working use of Standard English , organizational competencies, problem solving and creativity)

Today more than ever, formal educational qualifications are falling short as determinants of job security and personal marketability. In addition…emotional and professional skills must be acquired to complement academic achievements. We also need to focus on communication and leadership skills such as the art of negotiation, and the ability to build consensus and to work as part of a team. The Rev. Jesse Jackson put it well when he stated ‘It’s more attitude than aptitude that determines your altitude’.
What about the individual’s responsibility in these ‘interesting’ times? Success these days is based upon what the marketers have christened ‘mind-share’…simply put – it is about your ability to win the confidence of those who need/want what you have to offer. Marketing oneself is about differentiation, not sameness, so in teaching and learning, we must focus on how to acquire a clearly discernable ‘edge’.
Possible policy directions to ensure reschooling is on the agenda
The European Commission’s perspective on education and training embraces the concept of Adult learning….or “re-schooling the schooled” and recognizes that this is a vital component of lifelong learning policies, and essential to competitiveness and employability, social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development.

However, they stress that even greater efforts are needed to ensure even more adults participate in learning activities throughout their lives.  The value of adult learning to employability and mobility is recognized globally. However, it still needs greater recognition in terms of visibility, policy prioritization and resources here in Jamaica. At present, adult participation in ‘lifelong learning’ varies widely across Jamaica and is not actively sought as a natural course of action by most.

Global Action Plans and Policies for education and retraining: Action has been taken at the EU level to increase the recognition of the value of adult learning. The European Commission adopted a Communication on Adult Learning in October 2006, followed up by an Action Plan in September 2007. The intent of this Communication on Adult Learning is to ensure the priorities and rationale are clear to all.

We must focus on providing adults with ways to improve their knowledge and skills, keeping them mentally fit and potentially more employable. We need to focus not only on the learners in adult education, but also the teachers, trainers, education staff and facilities that provide these services. These include counseling organizations, information services, policy-making bodies and others involved in lifelong learning and adult education at local, regional and national levels, such as NGOs, enterprises, voluntary groups and research centres.

In  reschooling the schooled, we MUST:

  • Increase the number of people in adult education, and improve the quality of their experience.
  • Improve conditions for access so that more potential learners can benefit from adult education.
  • Improve the quality and amount of co-operation between adult education organizations
  • Develop innovative adult education and management practices, and encourage widespread application.
  • Ensure that people on the margins of society have access to adult education, especially older people and those who left education without basic qualifications
  • Support innovative ICT-based educational content, services and practices.
    • Actions must include support for:
      • Access -  explore job placements, 'assistantships', adult education exchanges (i.e. staff training and professional development) and the preparations needed to plan the exchanges.
      • Multilateral projects for improving adult education   systems through the development and transfer of       innovation and good practice.
      • Experts and organizations such as JFLL, HEART,    NYS    working on developing adult education, spreading good      practices and supporting partnerships.

In summary:
Productivity demands often change the skill and knowledge requirements necessary for success on a job, thereby creating pressure on people to acquire new competences. Technological innovation also alters processes, even in traditional job areas, often necessitating job changes over a single career.

Building a lifelong learning framework is a response to the increasingly rapid changes in modern societies. This includes new production methods, increased access to internet services, a shift towards a knowledge economy.
Nations, enterprises and individuals need to anticipate and adapt to these significant developments through steady commitment to learning for survival.

We must seize the moment, and to move together quickly to re-school the schooled. Economies with more robust and more flexible retraining programmes and institutions are better able to adjust to economic turbulence, and as a result, feature lower unemployment rates, higher productivity and greater sustainable output.

What are YOU learning today?

THE Golden Grove Learning Centre, an institution of the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), has been impacting positively on the lives of its students who are determined to excel, despite the daily obstacles they encounter.

Alison J. Cross, EdD, Executive Director - Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning


I read with great interest a two-part article in this paper by teacher/writer Natalie Bennett under the caption 'Confront the Anti-Literacy Culture'.

I unreservedly congratulate both Ms Bennett and The Sunday Gleaner for giving such prominence to this very important discussion.

While it is heart-warming to note the spirited national debate on literacy in recent months, there are a number of recurrent issues that causes one some concern.

I wish to use this opportunity to clarify some of these issues, and, in particular, those which relate to the agency for which I have oversight responsibility - the Jamaican Foun-dation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL).

Most critical to any discussion on literacy and, by extension, the role of the JFLL in national development is a more comprehensive understanding of the term.

In fact, this is my main bone of contention with Ms Bennett's article, which, while it is very logical and highly valuable, approaches literacy from a purely literary standpoint.

In the complex realities of today's knowledge-driven economy, we prefer to use a working definition that links the inherent value of 'total literacy' with the imperatives of national development.

In very much the same way that there are many indices of growth comprising true development, so too, there are many 'ways of knowing'/'understandings' required at the base of the competencies required for survival in today's world.

In this regard, I propose that we think of literacy and numeracy as traditionally defined, as merely two (albeit critical) dimensions of literacy.

There are, in fact, many 'literacies', including those life skills often referred to as 'street smarts'.

short-changing must stop

While I agree that we cannot afford to continue short-changing our people in delivering the rudiments of language and numeracy, that issue is merely scratching the surface.

At the JFLL, we have opted to embrace the 2003 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) definition of literacy, which sets the bar much higher than the traditional view.

The definition states, inter alia: "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.

"Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

We are also firm in our view that this is not a basket beyond our reach.

It is a matter of understanding and embracing the concept and then shaping policies in support of this thrust.

We need not look further than the Eastern Caribbean to recognise that it is more a matter of attitude than aptitude.

Full literacy is well within our reach, but only if we are prepared to take a long, hard look below the surface and to implement the requisite policies without flinching.

Barbados, a nation smaller by land area than our smallest parish, graduates 98 per cent of its high school students, with 53 per cent going on to college.

With 99.7 per cent of its population literate, this tiny nation has the second-highest literacy rate in the world, falling behind a three-way tie for first (Cuba, Estonia and Poland) and several places ahead of the vaunted United States (ranked 17th).

As Ms Bennett correctly infers, our current situation is a matter of culture, but not just about obvious things such as access to reading materials.

In her November 2009 article in 'Excellence in Barbados Starts with Discipline', American journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, writing in the US newspaper The Oregonian opines, 'The key to Barbados' success is four-fold-high expectations for all students, strict discipline, substantial education spending, and a culture that embraces education as a form of nationalism.'

education as imperative

This imperative of education as part of the national psyche can only take root in Jamaica through deliberate effort at the policy level.

This is one reason for the name change from JAMAL. It has nothing to do with the often misguided stigma that the term literacy has attracted.

In fact, it represents an enhancement of the original mandate in recognition of the fact that the world has changed significantly since 1973 when JAMAL was established.

The enriched JAMAL programme remains our core business under the name Foundation Lessons in English, Numeracy and Survival (LENS).

This is now the cornerstone of the additional offerings to supplement complete, functional literacy geared to the times.

Far from being just nebulous 'double-speak', as implied by Ms Bennett, the concept of lifelong learning as an educational strategy emerged three decades ago, through the efforts of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

It was a response to the anomaly that while individuals learn throughout life, the provision of education opportunities was limited largely to the early phase of life, dominated by formal education.

There was a perceived need to provide a 'second chance' to those who did not benefit from educational opportunities available during childhood and youth.

The truth is someone with a terminal degree who cannot manage time or manipulate computer programmes independently faces the risk of alienation from his/her full potential.

We subscribe to the notion that the stigma associated with the term 'literacy' will fade once a deeper understanding of its contemporary applications is grasped.

enriching curricula

We, therefore, are more focused on enrichment of our curricula rather than avoidance of any labels or stigma, as 'spin' has never successfully achieved that goal in the recorded history of marketing.

We have, therefore, opted to rename the organisation in keeping with our focus.

One clear example of what we are quietly achieving with this new thrust was reported in The Gleaner of Wednesday, October 13, under the caption 'JFLL, Jamalco push literacy in rural communities'.

As you will notice, there is no shirking from the term literacy, but a closer examination will reveal that the intervention goes much further than encouragement and facilitation of reading skills and computation.

It is part of a holistic master plan to prepare several communities in the largely impoverished mining communities of Clarendon and south Manchester to embrace the skills required to yield a better quality of life as they prepare for the post-bauxite era.

It facilitates access to further training, employment and/or entrepreneurship.

We need more than superficial platitudes. We need the kind of dialogue that yields practical solutions.

If we are to compete as a nation, even just on equal footing with our Caribbean trading partners, we must heed the call of the 6th UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) in Brazil Belem last December to move with dispatch 'from rhetoric to action'.

Let the dialogue continue.

Dr Alison J. Cross is executive director at the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning.

Once again this year, Jamaica joins UNESCO and the rest of the world in marking September 8 as International Literacy Day. This year, International Literacy Day puts the spotlight on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and development. 'Literacy and Empowerment' is also the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012).