Towards a Profile of the Jamaican Literacy Specialist

Clement T. M. Lambert and Lorna Down

Jamaican policy makers have prioritized literacy improvement as a matter of urgency within the educational milieu. This has become even more intense during the past decade with initiatives being mandated and implemented to promote this cause. One such initiative is the establishment of literacy research and development centres in two teacher-training colleges with a prime mandate to prepare a special group of teachers to extend literacy improvement efforts in Jamaican schools. While there has been some degree of controversy over the official title of these teachers in training, the name “literacy specialists” has been commonly used to describe the trainees. Studies have been commissioned within the Jamaican context to look at literacy and the Jamaican literacy milieu (e.g., Bryan and Mitchell 1998). However, a study to create a coherent profile of the literacy specialist has not been undertaken. This article is seen as an initial step in providing this profile. Its purpose is fourfold: it explores the literature on literacy specialists; attempts to create a profile of these specialists for Jamaican schools based on the views of selected stakeholders; seeks to position the literacy specialists within the context of the literature and the realities of the Jamaican situation; and explores the implication of such a profile for literacy programmes in Jamaican teachers’ colleges and literacy centres. This presentation will also include a discussion on the origins of the literacy specialist programmes in Jamaica.

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