Wed | Jan 16, 2019

The Church laid the foundation for education in Jamaica

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 11:05 PMCarl Gilchrist

In 1825 when then Bishop of Jamaica, Right Reverend Christopher Lipscombe, advocated that slaves be taught to read, it marked the beginning of a period of long and successful involvement by the Church in Jamaica with the island's education system.

Today, 192 years later, with the Church still involved, it is hard to put a real value on the contribution that churches in Jamaica, especially the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Catholic, have made to the nation's education sector.

Indeed, most, if not all, traditional or older high schools were founded by a church or organisation affiliated to a church and, especially those at the secondary level, have been performing among the top tier in Jamaica.

St Hilda's, Westwood, Queens, Kingston College (KC), Alpha, Holy Childhood, Immaculate, St George's, Campion, Calabar are among the more popular schools of choice for students sitting Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) each year. For good reason. These schools continue to produce good exam results over the years.

And these schools, among countless others, were established by the Church.

The Anglican Church was responsible for establishing and today continues to sponsor (with support from government) 11 high schools, including St Jago, established 1744, Westwood (1812), St Hugh's (1899), St Hilda's (1906), KC (1925), Queens (1953), 79 basic and 26 primary schools, along with Church Teachers' College in Mandeville.

It is the Jamaica Baptist Union, however, that has most schools on record. These include 86 early childhood institutions (basic and infant school), 67 schools in the category that includes primary, all-age, and primary and junior high, along with Calabar and William Knibb Memorial.

The Methodist Church supports 31 basic schools, 16 primary schools, four secondary schools, namely, St Andrew High for Girls, Excelsior, York Castle and Morant Bay high, along with two vocational tertiary institutions.

For its part, the Catholic Church involvement in education covers three infant schools, 21 primary schools, 21 basic schools, 12 preparatory schools, six all age, 10 high, along with St Joseph's Teachers College.

Several other denominations have contributed and are contributing to the island's education sector but the aforementioned would have been the main ones dating back to over a century, as mentioned before.

There are schools that have been established by persons affiliated with a church but the institution might not necessarily be regarded as being established by the church. One such could be Iona High and Prep schools in Tower Isle, St Mary, established by the late Rev Herbert Swaby, a Presbyterian minister.