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Counting the costs of learning

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Peter-John Gordon
Students of Kensington Primary in Portmore, St Catherine, participate in a class activity. Kensington was the top primary school in the Grade Four Numeracy Test in 2011.- File

Financial requirements for a quality primary school

Peter-John  Gordon, guest columnist

This series of articles comes out of work done for the Education
Cluster of the 50|50 project spearheaded by the Sir Arthur Lewis
Institute of Social and Economic Studies at UWI (Mona). This project is a
reflection on the first 50 years of Independence in the Anglophone
Caribbean, and preparation for the next 50 years. This second instalment
deals with the primary school.

We start with our ideal primary
school consisting of 450 students. Currently, primary education is
delivered in four types of institutions: primary schools (grades one to
six, and public); preparatory schools (grades one to six, and private);
all-age schools (grades one to nine, and public); and primary and junior
high schools (grades one to nine, and public).

The average class
size in our model school will be 25 students. The student-teacher ratio
in such a school is 21.4:1 (this does not include teachers on leave).
Included in the teacher corps are a principal, a vice-principal, a
guidance counsellor and a librarian. It is assumed that the
vice-principal is also a classroom teacher. The current student-teacher
ratios are: for the public system 24.6:1 and preparatory 16:1.

our configuration of the educational system, public primary education
would be delivered exclusively in primary schools. We would dispense
with the all-age schools and the primary and junior high schools. Each
school would be dedicated to either the primary or the secondary level

We make the same assumption about a primary-school
teacher as we do about a high-school teacher, i.e., the teacher is a
trained graduate. Currently, 42 per cent of teachers teaching at the
primary level are so trained.

Academic staff cost

In order
to estimate academic staff cost per annum, we take the current salary
scale as given (based on the heads of agreement between the Government
of Jamaica and the Jamaica Teachers' Association from April 2008 to
March 31, 2010), make adjustments for inflation (7.9 per cent to March
2011 and a further 7.3 per cent to March 2012) and make assumptions as
to where on the scale the 'average' teacher would fall.

We assume
that the average principal is a principal of a primary III school being
paid at the fourth increment of a six-increment scale i.e. $2.8 million
per annum. We assume that a vice-principal is at the fourth increment of
a six-increment scale being paid $2,239,000 per annum (we adjust the
special teachers' allowance payable to vice-principals to the level paid
to principals to sufficiently differentiate the payments to a
vice-principal and a teacher).

We assume the same rate of pay for
teachers in the primary schools as in high schools. We also assume the
same ratio of senior teachers to teachers (30 per cent senior teachers).
The cost of an 'average teacher' is, therefore, $1,796,000 per annum.
The academic staff cost in our primary school with one principal, one
vice-principal and 19 teachers (inclusive of NIS and NHT) is $40,911,600
per annum.

Administrative Staff Cost

The administrative staff cost for our model school are as seen in Table 1.

the size of the primary school compared to a high school, the tasks of
bursar and registrar are combined. This person, like in the high school,
is raised to the level of a vice-principal and paid accordingly.

the primary school, we do not designate a plant manager, instead, we
use a maintenance manager - a different nomenclature is used to indicate
that the tasks required of this person at a primary school is likely to
be less onerous than his/her counterpart at a high school.

Ancillary Staff Cost

Ancillary Staff costing is presented in Table 2.

Administrative Expenses

estimate for administrative expenses (non-salary cost) for our model
primary school is $4.5 million per year. This will cover utility bills,
cleaning material, stationery, etc.

Teaching/Learning Supplies

We estimate the cost for teaching/

learning supplies to be $1.8 million.

Co-curricular Expenditure

Co-curricular activities are estimated to cost $1.8 million.

Maintenance Cost

estimating the maintenance cost of our model primary school, we make
the assumption that a primary-school student utilises approximately 50
per cent of the space utilised by a high-school student. A high-school
has more space dedicated to specific activities - science laboratories,
industrial arts workshops, gymnasiums, auditoriums, etc. For a
high-school student, we estimated a maintenance cost of $35,000 per
student. We estimate a maintenance cost at primary school of $18,000 per

Estimated Cost of Operating Our Model Primary School

Table 3 summarises the cost of operating our model primary school for a year.

that the estimates do not include cost of teachers on leave, any
welfare programmes delivered through the school (e.g., school feeding or
school books) or the cost for any net addition to the capital stock of
the school.

Peter-John Gordon is lecturer in the Department of Economics, UWI, Mona. Email feedback to


Administrative Staff Cost (Primary School)

Number Position Unit Cost J$ Cost J$
1 Bursar/Registrar 2,238,578 2,238,578
1 Maintenance Manager 750,000 750,000
1 Nurse 1,764,884 1,764,884
1 Secretary 950,000 950,000
2 Clerical Assistants 600,000 1,200,000
NIS 170,515
NHT 204,618
Total 7,278,596


Ancillary Staff Cost (Primary School)

Number Position Per Unit Cost J$ Cost J$
2 Cleaners 438,284 876,568
2 Groundsmen 438,284 876,568
2 Watchmen 462,305 924,610
1 Messenger 407,038 407,038
NIS 77,120
NHT 92,512
Total 3,254,416


Estimate for the Operation of the Model Primary School

Cost J$ Cost per Student J$
Total Staff Cost 51,444,625 114,321
Academic Staff 40,911,613 90,914
Administrative Staff 7,278,596 16,175
Ancillary Staff 3,254,416 7,232
Administrative Expenses 4,500,000 10,000
Teaching Supplies 1,800,000 4,000
Co-curricular Expenditure 1,500,000 3,333
Total Recurrent Expenditure 59,244,625 131,655
Maintenance 8,100,000 18,000
Total Annual Cost 67,344,625 149,655