History of The Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning

The Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) was established in 1974, an offshoot of the National Literacy Board, which was set up in 1972. The impetus for its establishment resulted from a study conducted by UNESCO in 1970, which showed that 40-50% of persons 15 years and over were unable to read. It was, therefore, imperative that a national programme be instituted to address the problem.
JAMAL was established as a limited liability company with initial objectives to:

  • eradicate illiteracy in Jamaica as soon as possible;
  • improve the literacy skills of the population;
  • assist with the integration of suitable individuals into higher educational programmes and institutions, and
  • Assist in channeling suitable individuals into programmes of vocational training in fields where aptitude is shown.

These objectives were subsequently expanded to prevent "lapsed literacy" by the provision of follow-up literature for new readers.

Illiteracy was seen as a national priority and the government pledged resources and launched a vigorous attack on countering it. JAMAL utilized a mass literacy approach in a nationwide campaign, which had almost immediate effect. By 1975, there were 48,000 students enrolled in 3,833 classes, and an Adult Literacy Survey showed an illiteracy rate of 32%, down from 50%. JAMAL's programmes were subsequently modeled worldwide, and the organization won many national and international awards.

In the ensuing years, both the numbers enrolled and the Foundation's impact have been reduced. JAMAL continued its work and in the mid-1990s, recognizing that basic literacy was insufficient to cope with the rapid technological, social and economic changes taking place, expanded its core curriculum to include Numeracy, Life Skills and Workplace Learning, as it sought to become more relevant and responsive to the needs of the adult population of Jamaica.

Over the years the delivery approach has also changed as JAMAL has partnered with private and public sector organizations and international agencies in offering literacy programmes, and facilitated other initiatives aimed at improving literacy levels. Additionally, instead of the 'mass' literacy approach of the 1970’s, 'literacy on demand' became the new thrust, with fixed points of delivery in Adult Education Centres and in workplaces.

Successes in JAMAL's core area of focus continued, and the 1999 Adult Literacy Survey showed an illiteracy rate of 20.1%, but new data which emerged from other surveys estimated that approximately two-thirds of the adult population had not attained Grade II certification. It was decided in 2002, in a rigorous review process, involving its stakeholders, that JAMAL needed to shift its focus and expand its outreach to include this largely under-educated segment of the adult population. The reasons were many:

  • The global concept of 'literacy' had been expanded.
  • Research commissioned by JAMAL in 1997 had shown that there is a direct correlation between under-productivity and an under-educated workforce;
  • It was acknowledged that an educated workforce is necessary for any sustained productive effort.
  • The ideal CARICOM Citizen Worker had been identified as one who is capable of seizing economic opportunities that the global environment presents, and demonstrates multiple literacies, including independent and critical thinking.
  • Basic education for the 21st century is secondary level; without this our citizens could not take advantage of educational and economic opportunities that arise, and this would place Jamaica at a competitive disadvantage in a globalized economy.
  • Other local partners, e.g., HEART Trust/NTA/NCTVET for the implementation of the High School Equivalency Programme, and international institutions, e.g., the Inter-American Development Bank for the implementation of the Youth Development Programme, have stressed the need for institutional strengthening to accommodate these and other initiatives, and to access additional sources of funding. .


From these critical tenets, it was clear that a new organization with a new mandate was required. Accordingly the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning came into being in September 2008with a mandate to build on the successes of JAMAL and deploy a broader suite of interventions at the policy and classroom level as a more all-inclusive adult learning organization, providing both nonformal and adult basic and continuing education, and facilitating lifelong learning.

Since its inception, the JFLL has already made significant inroads with the development of several new programmes and the expansion of existing ones. New programmes include:

  • Life Skills;
  • Training of literacy practitioners;
  • High School Equivalency;
  • Workplace Education
  • Computer Education.

It has also made significant headway in:

  • Curriculum development in adult education;
  • Training of adult education practitioners, and
  • Accreditation of adult education practitioners.

With programmes constantly under review or development both singly and in conjunction with a growing number of partners, the JFLL is making positive strides in its mandate “Changing Lives Forever.”