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La Educación
Número: (121) II
Año: 1995

The System of Payment by Results

Education formed an important aspect of the reform agenda of Crown Colony officialdom during the closing decades of the 19th century. There was once again an extensive school-building program that in some territories seemed to rival the construction program of the immediate post-emancipation period. In Jamaica, 232 new schools were opened between 1868 and 1877.32

Perhaps the most significant of the innovations of this period was the System of Payment by Results, which was introduced first in Barbados and subsequently in the other territories. This system had been first recommended by the British Royal Commission on Popular Education (the Newcastle Commission) in its report of 1861. It had been promoted by the Commission as an economy measure and the British government had implemented the proposal in Britain in 1862.

The System of Payment by Results introduced in the British Caribbean territories in the 1860s was intended to secure a fair and equitable distribution of government grants-in-aid according to the merits of the educational efforts of the various recipients. This was to be achieved through a system of school examinations designed to “test the character of the tuition imparted and the general management of the elementary schools.”33

In addition to submitting themselves to inspection, Jamaican schools were obligated to maintain an average attendance of at least 20 students throughout the year, remain open for at least 180 days during the year, and charge school fees of at least a penny half-penny per week for each child attending school, in order to qualify for aid.34 Schools judged to be deserving of aid by the inspector were ranked as schools of the first, second and third class, based on the number of marks that each school earned on the day of inspection.35

The grant to schools consisted partly of a capitation payment on the number of pupils in daily average attendance throughout the year and partly of a management allowance to the Head Teacher for his management of the school. The capitation grant amounted to 4 shillings, 5 shillings, and 6 shillings per unit of average attendance to third, second and first class schools respectively. The management grant to the teacher was to be 10, 15 or 20 pounds according to the class of the school.

In order to facilitate the work of classifying schools, the inspector prepared a series of “standards” or short definitions of the chief requirements with respect to the various school subjects. These were to serve as the criteria against which the performance and character of the work of the schools could be measured. The “standards” were of two sorts: standards of instruction, which defined the chief requirements of a good or first class elementary school, and standards of classification for defining the work for each class of the school in the three R’s, the essential subjects. The standards provided the basis for “judging the amount and progress of the teachers” work in these three subjects.36

The following are excerpts from the general standards:

a) re-reading—“The subject thoroughly understood.”
b) re-arithmetic—“The principles and rules of the science readily and practically applied to the ordinary business transactions of everyday life.”
c) re-organization—“A set of well-trained monitors or assistants, judiciously employed to assist in the management.”
d) re-discipline—“All the pupils fully and profitably employed during all the school hours.”37
Therefore, teaching for understanding and application, and classroom management that was designed to promote the active involvement of all pupils received the greatest rewards.

The scale of marks and mark allocation presented the precise mode “of determining the Class to which any school belonged.” The chief test subjects—referred to as “necessary subjects”—were allocated a total of 12 marks each, while the 8 secondary test subjects were less heavily weighted, being assigned only 6 marks each. Thus the 3 chief subjects represented 36 of the 84 marks, or approximately 43% of the total. Schools were therefore reasonably expected to emphasize those subjects which carried the greatest number of marks. The quality of the management and administration of the schools was conveniently included in the scheme of assessment by including organization and discipline as secondary test subjects.38


Schools were to be assigned to classes according to the marks they obtained overall on the 11 tests taken as a whole. First, Second and Third Class schools had to obtain two-thirds, one-half, and one-third respectively, of the total number of marks. That is, their score out of the total 84 marks had to be at least 56, 42 and 28, respectively. However, scoring 56, 42 or 28 was not enough to guarantee a school a place in the respective classes. They were also obligated to obtain two-thirds, one-half or one-third of the 36 marks allocated for the chief subjects. That is, their total score on the chief tests had to be at least 24, 18 or 12 according to the class. The remaining marks could be obtained in any of the subjects. If a school obtained 56 or more of the total number of marks and 24 or more of the marks for the chief subjects, it could lose its place in the First Class if it scored less than 8 marks in any of the chief subjects taken separately. In addition, schools were required to obtain two-thirds, one-half, or one-third of the 12 marks in each of the chief subjects to be placed in first, second or third class. The government, through the Inspector of Schools, ensured that each of the three chief subjects received the attention that it deemed necessary for the advancement of popular education in the island. The view was that “while other matters may not be altogether neglected, marked progress and decided success may be achieved in these important rudiments,” especially since the pupils remained in school for such a short time. Table 2 below shows a breakdown of the proportionate number of marks required to constitute each class of schools.39

Once a school had been classified according to the above scheme, the grant-in-aid for which it qualified could be determined. The inspector’s circular to school managers and teachers on the new regulations included examples of how the grant-in-aid would be estimated and the amounts that would be awarded to the different categories of schools. One example he gave was of a Third Class school with an average attendance of 50 pupils. This school also met the requirements to be considered an Industrial school. Such a school would receive a capitation grant of 10 pounds, a management grant of 10 pounds and an additional 5 pounds as an industrial school, making a total grant of 25 pounds.40

It was hoped that managers and teachers would understand from the whole purport of the new regulations that government was anxious to support and thereby encourage voluntary effort towards the education of the children of the working classes. The new system was intended to meet “the circumstances and necessities” of the working classes. In short, elementary and working-class became synonymous when used to describe the system of education and its characteristics. The “circumstances and necessities” of the working classes seemed to require only “the teaching of the simple and primary branches.” These should be taught thoroughly and with a view to imparting practical instruction and good moral training.

Similar arrangements were made in the other British Caribbean territories as, one by one, they introduced the system of Payment by Results. It was at this time, too, that many of the rules, routines and procedures of elementary schools were systematized and registers, attendance books, admission books, and log books became requirements of all public schools. No detail was overlooked. One Inspector of Schools even went so far as to issue directions for making the marks in the attendance books.

The number of schools inspected rose steadily with the introduction of the new system, and the number of schools that qualified for grants-in-aid also increased as teachers learned what the inspectors preferred. Seven years after the system was introduced in Jamaica, only 6% of the schools inspected failed to qualify for a grant.41 Nevertheless, inspectors bemoaned the persistence of certain weaknesses—the “mechanical rote system,” the “lack of intelligence in reading” and the “impractical nature of instruction.”42

There were also weaknesses in dictation which the governor of Jamaica attributed to the difficulties of English orthography. He had observed that the teachers themselves did not pronounce the words clearly. At the same time, the children did not know the language well enough to follow the sound when it was pronounced well. This was due to the fact that they spoke the Jamaican creole—“a barbarous jargon of English words intermixed with others of Spanish and French origin, grafted on an African skin,” and forming “in fact, a patois.”43

The above-mentioned weaknesses in teaching and learning, together with their possible causes, bring to mind the persistence of these weaknesses in present-day primary and all-age schools. The circumstances that contributed to these weaknesses in the 19th century are present today and continue to adversely affect present-day efforts to effect improvements.