CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will hold special commencement exercises in two Jamaican cities in September in honor of 138 Jamaican middle-school teachers who have upgraded their teaching certification to bachelor’s degrees in education through WCU.

Western has been offering classes in teacher education to Jamaican educators for 30 years.

Typically, participants in the program are teachers who previously completed teacher certification in Jamaica. The program, designed to meet the needs of the Jamaican educational system while maintaining Western Carolina teacher education standards, is supported by the Jamaican Ministry of Education, and through tuition and fees paid by the students.

To be eligible for baccalaureate degrees from Western, the Jamaican students attend a Jamaican college for three years, and must complete 14 WCU courses, including a summer residency requirement in Cullowhee.

Since Western’s involvement in Jamaican higher education began in the early 1970s, more than 3,000 Jamaican teachers have upgraded their training through WCU programs, said Malcolm Loughlin, associate dean of continuing education and summer school at Western. “We’ve literally trained thousands of Jamaican teachers,” Loughlin said. “We’ve had a significant impact on teacher training in the country.”

Richard Collings, WCU vice chancellor for academic affairs, will confer degrees upon Western’s newest Jamaican graduates at ceremonies Saturday, Sept. 27, in Kingston and Sunday, Sept. 28, in Montego Bay.

While in Kingston, Collings also will bestow an honorary doctorate upon Sir Howard Cooke, governor general of Jamaica and a pivotal figure in the country’s history who played a role as a statesman when the Caribbean island nation declared its independence from British rule in 1962. Cooke, a former minister of education, helped build the Jamaican system of education and forged the relationship with Western that enables thousands of Jamaican educators to improve their teaching skills.

Speaking at the Kingston ceremony will be Donald Rhodd, Jamaica’s minister of state for education, while Simon Clark, a former college principal and Jamaica’s representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will speak at the Montego Bay ceremony.

Western first held special commencement exercises in Jamaica in March 1986, when 61 Western Carolina students from Jamaica made history as the first Jamaicans to be graduated in their homeland by an American university. According to major American educational associations, it also was the first time any American university held an overseas commencement.

Western’s program for Jamaican teachers was selected in 1993 as one of three outstanding international continuing higher education programs in the country by the Association for Continuing Higher Education.

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Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2003
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