Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


HEART: An Adult Education Initiative in Neo-Conservative Jamaica

When the government of the very popular and charismatic Michael Manley was defeated at the polls in Jamaica in 1980, the nationalism that characterized the period of the 1970's was brought to an end. Michael Manley was the champion of initiatives like the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) program that sought to eradicate illiteracy and enable the ordinary citizen to participate more meaningfully in the nation's affairs. In addition, there were other initiatives aimed at making people more self-reliant under the banner of 'democratic socialism'.

The new Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, embraced the doctrine of neo-conservatism that was espoused by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan at that time. Seaga was a former Minister of Culture in the 1960's, and very knowledgeable about the rich traditions of the Jamaican Diaspora. He had his political roots in the poorest and most depressed areas of the country and was the architect of bold housing initiatives in his constituency that gave some dignity to the living conditions of its people. Rather than eliminate programs like JAMAL, he restructured them. In 1981 the objectives were broadened to integrate the teaching of literacy with that of occupational skills. It was also revised to expand the target audience to 'young adults' (typically from about age 14) who did not receive an adequate primary education.

In addition to strengthening existing adult education programs, Edward Seaga introduced the concept of HEART (HUMAN EMPLOYMENT AND RESOURCE TRAINING) in 1982 by Act of Parliament 13. He developed this program in response to the need to provide sufficiently skilled workers to meet the country's developmental needs. He reasoned that in order to increase the GDP, productivity had to be increased. However, there were not enough workers with the skills required for either the labour market or for self-employment. On the other hand, employers sought skilled workers with experience, and were normally unwilling to underwrite the cost of on-the-job training or apprenticeship. Seaga therefore devised HEART to meet the needs of employers thus assisting the country's economic recovery program, and also to equip the unemployed, particularly the youths, with the skills that they needed on the labour market or for self-employment.

The HEART Trust was established by Act of Parliament with the following objectives:

1) to develop, encourage , monitor and provide finance for training schemes for employment of trainees;
2) to provide employment opportunities for trainees;
3) to direct or assist in the placement of persons seeking employment in Jamaica;
4) to promote employment projects.

Companies had an option to engage 'trainees' assigned to them, for up to six (6) months, to a minimum of 3% of the gross payroll. At the completion of the six-month period, the trainees could be employed permanently and a new group engaged, or they are released and a different group engaged. Where a company opted not to have these 'trainees' on board, they paid a HEART tax equivalent to 3% of their gross payroll, which helped to fund the activities of the HEART Trust.

The HEART program caters to young persons from age 17 and over, who are literate and functionally literate. Workshops are established independently by the HEART Trust or in conjunction with other groups, to deliver vocational training. The training programs are conducted on a national basis and there is no sex discrimination for courses being offered.

The philosophy of HEART was based on the old adage "Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish you feed him for life." A Mission Statement was created that read as follows:

- To create opportunities for training and development to enable people of all ages to acquire useful skills for meaningful participation in the life of the community.

The Trust now operates under the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture and is administered by a Board of Directors. The agency is financed by:

1) 3% contribution from private sector firms;
2) Government grants approved by Parliament;
3) Multilateral and bilateral loans from agencies such as USAID, ILO, OAS, IDB & World Bank;
4) Other types of assistance from agencies like CIDA, CARICOM, Brother's Brother Foundation (BBF), Dutch project, British High Commission, World Food Program (WFP).

Through the HEART programs many trainees have been able to also complete the 'School Leaver's Program', allowing them to obtain a certification similar to a High School Diploma. Typically, trainees secure permanent jobs with the firms to which they have been assigned for training or with other companies seeking the new knowledge and skills they have acquired.

The training and certification programs put on by the HEART Trust are very diverse and equip graduates with the skills to find employment in industry, banking, pharmacology, commerce, tourism, airlines, food technology, civil Service and Statutory bodies, among others.

School-Leavers attached to the HEART Trust training program under the Training Opportunities and Apprenticeship Board (SL-TOPS), are now eligible for certification which allows them to work in many Commonwealth countries. This is due to a new component to the program, in collaboration with the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET).

Graduates with a minimum of two (2) Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) or General Certificates of Education (GCE) subjects are placed on job training for a minimum period. At the end of the training period, the participants are presented with a record of achievement. At present, there are three levels of certification. Level one requires a minimum of six months on the job, 18-months for level two and three years to be certified at level three.

The NCTVET program, which began in 1994, is aimed at improving the quality of the labor force through accreditation of training programs and institutions, and the certification of individual competence. This certification is recognized in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and other eastern Caribbean countries. Through NCTVET membership of the Association of Commonwealth Examinations and Accreditation Bodies the certificates are also recognized in over sixty (60) Commonwealth countries worldwide.

The workplace program, through which participants can also receive their accreditation, began in 1996. NCTVET works alongside company managers and supervisors to assess the competence of persons while they are on the job.


The Jamaican Gleaner (Sunday July 30, 2000) Keril Wright, Staff Reporter.

HEART Resource Library Sandra Hucey, Researcher.

Prepared by Terence Frater (OISE/UT) Summer 2000

Citation: Author (2000). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available:  (date accessed).

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