Ministry of Education to make Foreign Languages compulsory up to Grade 9 by 2017

“I have already signalled to my ministry to come up with a strategy of how we are going to ensure that foreign languages are part of our primary curriculum”

Minister of Education Ruel Reid on Friday September 30th 2016 commenting on the idea of students learning Spanish up to 9th Grade

Parents and Teachers, looks like the Ministry of Education is finally getting with the times.

Starting next school year in 2017, learning a language (The Jamaica Observer, 2016, October 1) may become compulsory up to Grade 9.

So says Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid while addressing the annual general meeting (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016, October 3) of the National Association of Spanish Teachers and the Jamaica Association of French Teachers at the Caenwood Centre in Kingston on Friday September 30th 2016.


He also took time out to thank the various embassies and organizations for their support in the teaching various languages over the years:

  • French
  • Spanish
  • Chilean
  • Cuban
  • Venezuelan
  • Spanish-Jamaica Foundation
  • OAS (Organization of American States)

Apparently, this is a part of the new Policy direction being taken under the Andrew Holness Administration to make Jamaicans more marketable graduates both at the High School as well as at the Tertiary level. Already Prime Minister Andrew Holness has signalled that Spanish is to become the second language of Jamaica (Deer, 2016, July 1).

So how will this plan work?

Learning a language – National Immersion via the Media is needed

The idea, it seems, is to introduce the students to a menu of Languages.

Assuming that the idea is to make Jamaicans be able to be productive citizen in other countries around the world, then this menu may consist of the top five (5) languages in the world:

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • English
  • Hindi
  • Spanish
  • Arabic

Hopefully Minister Ruel Reid will cast a wistful eye at French (Deer, 2016, September 10) as it also needs some attention as well, as this should also be included on that menu of languages.

French, a rising star among languages, is set to become the language spoken most widely in Africa (Deer, 2016, September 10) by 2050. With many businesses aiming to do business in Africa, whose population is rapidly increasing, learning French should be a part of the compulsory curriculum.

The plan involves teaching various aspects of the culture of the countries in which the language is spoken. Learning a language as early as Primary School will capture the interest of the students. By capturing their interest early, they’ll continue on with learning the language after 9th Grade.

Also, these languages will have an oral component, as is the plan for English Language at the CSEC level (Deer, 2016, June 1).

This will makes it necessary to learn to not only to write in English or any other Language but also speak the language fluently. Language labs could be set up to teach the various languages where Grade 9 students would be given CD and MP3 with language learning tapes.

They could then take these tapes home to listen and learn the language on their smartphones when they go home, effectively extending language immersion (Fortune, 2014, March 26) to their homes and potentially their families.

This can be reinforced by having language days or months where everything on the High School or University is themed or labled in that one language only; anyone speaking out of turn would be fined $10 for every word spoken in another language. This would encourage language immersion (Fortune, 2014, March 26) and thus make it easier to talk and eventually think in that language.

Nationally, Radio and Television stations (Deer, 2015, February 16) could also join in by having theme days or months when all conversations on that Radio Station. Programming and even the News could also be read in the language chose for the day on Radio and television, with student being able to request transcripts of the program they watched or the news they heard in that language.

Thus language immersion (Fortune, 2014, March 26), the best true way to learn a language, would be achieved, making learning a foreign language easier and more natural.

Language and Coding – Speaking to Humans and Computer makes you employable in Grade 9

One simple way that this can be done is to connect learning a language by pairing it with coding (Deer, 2016, July 19). By making student aware that learning to speak a language can land them a job as a computer programmer in another country, they’re more likely to learn that language along with computer programming.


In the process, they can learn coding in Python, C++, Java, Objective C. They can even learn more specialized languages such as Swift for Apple iPhones or Go for Google Android smartphones. This opens up the possibility of earning money from coding even before they’ve left high school.

Student at the high school level are more likely to take interest in a subject if it mean they can find employment or start their own business (Deer, 2016, May 6) by the time they leave school.

Realistically, many of them cannot afford to go to University or even sixth form. By making learning a language practical and connecting it to computer programming, they’ll be more encouraged to learn a language.

This as these Grade 9 students will realize that they can find jobs as translators or programmers in companies that many not necessarily speak English as their first language, making it possible for them to earn foreign dollars.


  1. Fortune, T.W. (2014, March 26). What the Research Says About Immersion. Retrieved from
  2. Deer, L. (2016, May 6). How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race. Retrieved from
  3. Deer, L. (2016, June 1). Why Jamaican boys Dislike CSEC English and Why Oral Exams are necessary. Retrieved from
  4. Deer, L. (2016, July 1). PM Andrew Holness says Spanish is Jamaica’s Second Language as UWI makes it compulsory. Retrieved from
  5. Deer, L. (2016, July 19). Why Coding in HTML and CSS3 and speaking Spanish needed in Jamaica. Retrieved from
  6. Deer, L. (2016, September 10). Why French for Jamaicans at Primary Schools as Africa and Europe go Francophone. Retrieved from
  7. The Jamaica Observer. (2016, October 1). The Education Ministry looks to make foreign languages compulsory up to grade 9. Retrieved from
  8. Deer, L. (2015, February 16). How to get Streaming Jamaican Radio Stations. Retrieved from
  9. The Jamaica Gleaner. (2016, October 3). Foreign Languages To Be Compulsory Up To Grade Nine. Retrieved from




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