In Jamaica not much is recorded about the early history of Early Childhood in Jamaica except for the contribution of the early theorist and Pioneers and what they contributed throughout its early development. In the early history of Early Childhood in Jamaica the majority of children’s education was not given priority not much thought was given to their developmental process and teachers who taught them were not properly trained. It was decided that every child had a right to proper education. The early childhood commission is an agency of the Ministry of Education.
The Early Childhood Commission Act (2003) commissioned a special body, the Early Childhood Commissioned (ECC) to direct all early childhood activities and develop suitable plans and program for the entire childhood sector. Early childhood education in Jamaica has made significant progress since the Inspection and Regulatory System for Early Childhood Institutions (ECIs) was established in 2007 by the Early Childhood Commission, following legislation for the Early Childhood Act and Regulations.
The ECC is responsible for the comprehensive development of all children from birth to eight years of age. The comprehensive approach to early childhood development was the driver behind the development of the cross-sectoral National Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Development, 2008-2013, which was formulated after broad consultation with stakeholders and research on the status of services for young children. In 2012 the commission carried out an inspection of Early Childhood Institutions and found out this:.
A total of 2,834 institutions were identified of which 91 per cent applied for registration. Seventy-five per cent were community basic schools, 20 per cent day care/nursery/pre-school and kindergarten and five per cent infant schools. 2277 ECIs were inspected: 80 per cent of all ECIs and 89 per cent of all those that have applied for registration. Early Pioneers of Early Childhood in Jamaica Reverend Henry Ward (1879 – 1981) was one of the earlier pioneers in the history of early childhood in Jamaica. He was a trained teacher who graduated from the Mico Teachers College.
Reverend Ward approach to early childhood development was that every aspect in a child’s development should be considered so he took into account the physical, mental and social aspect in developing a child. Reverend Ward believed that every child had a right to proper education, which he thought began with suitable day care facilities, he established the first play centre in Islington, St Mary in 1938. Being a member of the Board of Education Reverend Ward was instrumental in a resolution which saw the establishment of play centres throughout the island which catered for children 3-7 years.
Dudley R. B. Grant (1915-1988) – was a graduate of the Mico Teachers College who held many post in the teaching profession. Mr. Grant was the Director of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation which played a pivotal part in the history of early childhood development by training of teacher in Jamaica. In 1968 he launched the first early childhood month in Jamaica; his view was to increase public awareness on the importance of early childhood education. Mr. Grant was also instrumental in the training, salary increase of basic school teachers and also curriculum development for basic school children.
Projects established by Mr. Dudley Grant: • Resource Centre training Unit for training resources centre officers • Teenage Mothers Project • Summer Bachelor of Education (B. ED) Early Childhood Programme • North Coast Project Reverend Marjorie Prentice Saunders (1913 -2009) – was born in St Mary in 1913, she became a lawyer at the age of 23, Miss Saunders worked as a traveling organizer for the United Church in Jamaica whilst traveling across the island she noticed that untrained persons were responsible for and operating schools for children.
After her observation she established the first six week basic training course in 1950. A selection was done of six individual from six parishes, they were trained and became the first trained school teachers in Jamaica. She also trained teachers at the Kelly Lawson training center. Reverend Saunders is the founding member of several well known basic, preparatory and high schools. She is accredited with the creation and organization of programs for youth and homeless children across the island. In 2005 Reverend Saunders was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.