Teachers in Jamaica enjoy the respect of their students. Jamaican parents depend on teachers not only to educate their children, but also to become involved in their moral upbringing. In general, parents value education and often see it as the means to escape the cycle of poverty.
The Jamaican educational system runs from preprimary schools (ages four to six), through primary and secondary schools to a tertiary education system. Compulsory and free primary education covers all children up to age 11. Secondary education is available through a system of public and private schools. Government-sponsored scholarships for public secondary schools are awarded based on students' success in an examination taken at age 11. While many types of secondary programs are available, from academic-stream courses to technical and vocational diplomas, public schools at this level tend to be crowded and lacking in resources such as books. For many parents, the beginning of high school means scrambling to purchase books, supplies and uniforms.
Children not admitted into the government-subsidized secondary schools can obtain a secondary education at one of several private schools, if their families can afford the fees. However, approximately one-third of children do not progress from primary school both because of economic limitations and because they are needed to help at home.
After secondary school, students can enroll in one of many post-secondary institutions, including a University of Arts, Science and Technology; a School of Drama; a School of Agriculture; a School of Music; and the University of the West Indies, which has several faculties, including a Faculty of Medicine. The University of Technology offers education in sciences. Post-secondary enrolment tends to be low: approximately 5% of the population.
Opportunities for adult education are limited, though the Jamaican Movement for Advanced Literacy, founded by the government in the 1970s, has helped improve adult literacy significantly. The country's literacy rate has risen in recent decades and is now at 86%.