Quality Education versus School Brands in Jamaica: Synonymity or Disparity?

Amorkard T. Brown
Tavian W. Montague

Shopping for traditional schools (brand schools) such as Campion College, Westwood High School and the Wolmer’s Schools just to name a few is the norm for Jamaican parents, teachers and students. In years gone by, and possibly, to a lesser extent, passing examinations for a non-traditional high school would be synonymous to a major, even fatal, setback. This may be the same as across the globe as brand is a fundamental factor that determines choices and purchases. Education in this respect is no exception. SA school’s brand encompasses its reputation, perceived values, and overall identity. Within corporate society,  consumers may choose a product or service based on its brand reputation, similarly,  parents, teachers and students often select their schools based on their brand and perceived quality, especially at the secondary level. However, is school brand and quality education synonymous? Or in other words, do prestigious branded schools in Jamaica provide the perceived quality of educational output?

The central focus of this article is to examine comparatively school brands and quality education in Jamaica at the secondary level.

The central focus of this article is to examine comparatively school brands and quality education in Jamaica at the secondary level. Understanding the imperative of school branding is essential for policy makers, parents, teachers and other critical stakeholders to recognize the relationship between the two variables which tend not to be twins in all contexts. 

Quality Education versus School Brands in Jamaica 

Quality education can be termed as education that effectively equips students with the requisite knowledge, skills, values, and competencies necessary to succeed at a certain level. The  Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) curricula aim to provide this knowledge at the secondary level. At this  stage, there is more focus on academic achievements and values than the holistic development of the students. In assessing quality education at this level, one has to focus on teaching quality, learning outcomes, value added education, among other important variables that contribute to a rewarding teaching and learning experience. These parameters are anchored in teacher qualifications, subject matter expertise, pedagogical skills, engagement strategies, adaptability, differentiation practices, professional development opportunities, and student outcomes. By focusing on these aspects,   the areas of strengths of schools can be identified and opportunities for improvement to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education that prepares them for success in their academic and personal pursuits can be obtained. On the other hand, a school brand is the reputation, values and overall image of the school that have developed over their years of existence. In Jamaica, school brands carry significant weight in shaping perceptions and influencing educational choices. Much like in other parts of the world, prestigious institutions often attract attention and admiration due to their track record of academic excellence, notable alumni, and comprehensive facilities. Some examples of these prestigious branded schools include: Campion College, Wolmer’s Schools (Boys & Girls), Kingston College, Munro College, Cornwall College, Jamaica College, Immaculate Conception High School and Calabar High School just to name a few schools renowned for their rich history.  

Quality education can be termed as education that effectively equips students with the requisite knowledge, skills, values, and competencies necessary to succeed at a certain level.

Quality Education versus School Brand: Synonymity or Disparity?

For clarity, we have used the ‘Educate Jamaica School Ranking Report’ as the basis to support our analysis. The “Educate Jamaica report” provides valuable insights into the performance of secondary schools by examining the number of students who passed five or more CSEC subjects inclusive of mathematics and English and the number of students who graduated from said cohort among other variables. 

According to the  2023 Educate Jamaica School ranking, the top ten schools are Immaculate Conception High School, Campion College, St. Andrew’s High School for Girls, Wolmer’s’ Girl, Montego Bay High School, Ardenne High School, Wolmer’s’ Boys, Westwood High, Munro College and Manning School. Among the questions we need to ask ourselves are: what do these institutions have in common? and what is the workable recipe? These schools focus heavily on a very structured and aligned curriculum that examines their individual targets alongside national education standards. This provides their teachers with the knowledge needed to do in house evaluation of what is required for their students to excel above national standards. Another key feature to these institutions is that they ensure a comprehensive coverage of the syllabuses which allow their students to be well equipped for the CSEC and CAPE examinations. Traditional high schools also provide and encourage their students to take advantage of supplemental academic programmes such as extra classes and enrichment sessions.  Teacher quality is also a notable feature as teachers at these institutions are often highly qualified and experienced. This is very important as the recruitment process tends to be very thorough and rigorous in ensuring that the school gets the best quality instruction for its students. Another fundamental thing to know about these schools is that they have greater access to resources and private support. Their alumni and other support groups including Parent Teacher Associations partner with these schools to ensure the best outcome of their children as it relates to their academic and cocurricular involvements. Traditional high schools also have greater accountability at all tiers of their internal school system from the form room to the level of the school board.  

According to the  2023 Educate Jamaica School ranking, the top ten schools are Immaculate Conception High School, Campion College, St. Andrew’s High School for Girls, Wolmer’s Girl, Montego Bay High School, Ardenne High School, Wolmer’s Boys, Westwood High, Munro College and Manning School.

An examination of the  odds reveals that the following traditional high schools: Cornwall College, Calabar High School, Rusea’s High School, Titchfield High School among others  are performing at woefully inadequate levels, well below the benchmark  and  below some of the non-traditional high schools. Their brands do not support the perceived quality of education being offered or the expected learning outcome. Calabar for instance is a prime example of not living up to what is being advertised as their “image” to the public. In a recent article published by the Jamaica Gleaner, the Old Boys’ Association discontinued their mentorship programme citing poor performance from the boys at all levels of the institution. According to the article less than 50 percent of students attained quality passes in key subject areas in last year’s (2023) sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).  Furthermore, according to the report compiled by the Education Committee of the school’s parent-teacher association a grade average of 47.5 percent was recorded for grade 11 students on their summer term report. The questions to ponder as we analyze reports like these are what are the causative factors that led to these poor performances? What intervention can be made to remedy these deficiencies and what mechanisms can be implemented to bridge the gap between school brand and quality education with respect to consumer satisfaction?

In addition, to make up for the lack thereof, or to maintain the “image” some of these traditional institutions tend to shift their focus from academic excellence to extracurricular activities that keep their names in the public domain. Why do these excellent results in sports not translate to excellence in the classroom? Interestingly, the traditional schools ranking in the top five according to the “Educate Jamaica Report” namely Immaculate Conception High, Campion College, St Andrew High School for Girls, Wolmer’s Girls and Montego Bay High School for Girls perform poorly at the ISSA Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Championship. Conversely the traditional schools which place in the top rankings of the ISSA Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Championship namely Kingston College, Jamaica College and Calabar High School perform poorly academically, performing with an average in the 50s and 60s according to the “Educate Jamaica Report.”  This indicates a shift from or a loss of strategic focus as school from the academic prerogatives to sports excellence.  

In conclusion, while the concepts of school brand and quality education are often synonymous, reflecting an institution’s reputation for excellence, they are not always perfectly aligned. A prestigious school brand typically suggests a high standard of education, abundant resources, and successful student outcomes. However, disparities can exist, as branding can sometimes overshadow the actual educational experience. Some schools may rely heavily on their historical prestige or marketing strategies, masking gaps in teaching quality, inclusivity, or student support. Therefore, it is crucial for stakeholders, students, parents, and educators to critically assess both the brand and the tangible aspects of educational quality to ensure that the promise of excellence is fully realized in practice.


Educate Jamaica (2023). High School Academic Ranking. https://educatejamaica.org/

Francis, K. (2024, April 29). Faltering Academics Spur Calabar Standoff. Jamaica Gleaner https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20240429/faltering-academics-spur-calabar-standoff

Amorkard T. Brown, M.Ed. is a Master Teacher, the Head of the Natural Sciences Department and the Coordinator  of the Sixth Form Programme at Munro College.

Tavian W. Montague is a student at William Paterson University of New Jersey.

8 thoughts on “Quality Education versus School Brands in Jamaica: Synonymity or Disparity?”

  1. Interesting article!

    School branding has done significant injustice to the equity and social justice in the education system. There are schools in Jamaica that are providing education to students with various disabilities, including students with significant cognitive challenges. These students are expected to sit standardized exams like all other children, which often impact scores on national exams. Consequently, these schools are usually among the lowest ranking schools in Jamaica.

    I wonder….How many students with disabilities do these top ranking schools support?

    Greater emphasis needs to be placed on quality education over school branding; education that meets the diverse needs of learners in schools across the Island.

  2. Angella Bent-Thomas

    Great analysis. I would also add that perception is powerful in how we perceive brands, and perhaps more research and analysis should focus on the role of perception in marking and assessment of students.

    Our perception of brands is likely to impact marks and grades, which requires further research.

    Assessments may favour perceived ‘brand name schools’ and are impactful.

    I feel I was labeled a ‘dunce’ in school, and maybe I was that… but I went to a brand-name school that may have been impactful in my results. After all, the markers did not know the label. They saw the brand name school. And so I pulled through 🤷🏾‍♂️

  3. Ramona Johnson

    The article offers a brief yet insightful analysis of how some schools prioritize academic success while others focus on extracurricular activities to uphold their reputation. It effectively outlines the different strategies employed within Jamaica’s secondary education system, encouraging readers to ponder the relationship between academic rigor and holistic development. In essence, it highlights the complexity of school branding and educational priorities.

  4. A good read. As a society we will never get away from school branding as that is a part of our structures system. So the emphaiss should be placed on quality education for all who have the ability.

    It would be good also if some mention was ade of the strides by non traditional high schools and the in-roads they are making eg. Maggotty High School, Black River High School, STETHS, Old Harbour High School and others.

  5. Greetings
    The premise of the article–school brand and quality education are not necessarily synonymous –is worthy of exploration. However, the way the data was “massaged” to make broad claims is reckless and unscholarly. For example, to suggest that KC and JC perform well at CHAMPS but *poorly* on CSEC exams is problematic given that data from one academic year was used.

    Additionally, school is not just about facilitating students’ academic development and so to suggest that overall averages in the 50s and 60s “indicate a shift from or a loss of strategic focus school from the academic prerogatives to sports excellence” is a limited view of schooling…Many more variables should have been examined before such claims were made. I’ve more to say but I’ll park here.

    As educators, we should let the data speak and not conform it to our beliefs/expectations.

    1. The article is premised on the title and not all the matters or related arguments that the exploration would have surfaced-hence your claims are inaccurate  and seem personally sensitive. Please note (1) the reports over the years have supported same trend of low performances among said schools. This is not just a one off case and (2) The focus of this article is clearly defined, there is no need to shift the focus of the article to schooling and what schooling ought to be…the focus of the article is to examine the perceived academic brand and quality education and NOT schooling…. schooling is a different and a broader concept than quality education and branding

  6. Seen some very good points in the comments and article, but its also interesting to note that the top performing academic schools consists of mostly all girls’ schools. Can we contextualize this in a society where majority females are better educated but males hold more top positions? Personally, have seen where more parents push for their daughters to attend a school with a good brand/image than their sons.

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