Barbados is probably the smallest country in the world offering its citizens free state-financed education from primary right up to university level.
The Barbados government spends 20 per cent of its (US) billion dollar annual budget on education. It's therefore no wonder that this 166 square mile island boasts a literacy rate of 97.6% of the population of 274,000.
The re-named Ministry of Education and Human Resources is responsible for educational policy.
The school year is divided into 3 terms. The first begins in the second week of September and ends mid-December. The second term begins the second week of January and ends in the first week of April. The final term begins at the end of April and ends in the first week of July.
Education in Barbados is broken down into four levels:
» Nursery covers the ages 3 to 5 years.
» Primary spans 5 to 11 years old.
» Secondary covers 11 to 16 years and
» Tertiary is for post-secondary students and does not have an age limit.
As of January 2008, there were approximately 26,000 students at the primary level, 21,000 at the secondary level and about 13,000 at the tertiary level.
Overall there are 80 institutions in the primary school sector and 22 secondary schools, both public and private.
The public tertiary or post-secondary sector comprises the Erdiston Teachers Training College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Come September 2008, it is also expected that the University College of Barbados will be established, to amalgamate and consolidate the programmes of the BCC and the SJPP.
Chief Education Officer Wendy Griffith-Watson says the Barbados government is currently moving to deal a need for 1,800 more nursery education places. Three new nursery schools are planned.
At the primary level, the national curriculum for students covers:
» Language Arts
» Social Studies
» Physical Education
» Moral and Religious Education
» Visual Arts
» Health and Family Life Education and
» Conversational Spanish
These subjects aim to give these children a sound foundation of reading, writing and problem-solving skills, to be built on at secondary level.
A child's success is measured through examinations and tests throughout their school years, primarily in English Language (grammar and comprehension) and Mathematics.
Towards the end these primary school years, all children are required to sit the Barbados Common Entrance Examination (also called the 11+ exam). Usually students between the ages of 9 and 12 years old take this test between May and June.
It is an examination in English and Mathematics and students are awarded a place in a secondary school based on the result of their performance.
The national curriculum for secondary students covers:
» Agriculture Science
» Visual Arts & Theatre Arts
» English Language and Literature
» Foreign Languages
» Health and Family Life
» Physical Education
» Religious and Moral Education
» Social Studies
» Technical/Vocational Education
» Business Studies
» Home Economics
» Information Technology
The objective is to give these students the knowledge, skills and attitude for careers, including high levels of literacy, numeracy and oral communication.
The 22 Secondary schools across Barbados are:
» Alexandra School
» Alleyne School
» Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School
» Christ Church Foundation School
» Coleridge and Parry School
» Combermere School,
» Deighton Griffith Secondary School
» Ellerslie Secondary School
» Garrison Secondary School
» Grantley Adams Memorial School
» Harrison College
» Parkinson Memorial Secondary School
» Princess Margaret Secondary School
» Queen's College
» St. George Secondary School
» St. James Secondary School
» St. Leonard's Boys' Secondary School
» St. Lucy Secondary School
» Springer Memorial Secondary School for Girls
» The Lester Vaughan School
» The Lodge School
» The St. Michael School.
On completion of secondary education students can expect to hold any or all of the following qualifications and certificates:
» Barbados Secondary School Leaving Certificate
» Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate
» Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations
» Cambridge International Examinations O and A Levels
» Edexcel International London Examinations O and A Level
» London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Certificates
» Pitman's Qualification and City and Guilds Certificates
Between the ages of 15 and 17 years, secondary school students are expected to write exams set by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), based in Barbados.
In addition to the above, there are several institutions in Barbados that cater to students with special needs.
1. The Irving Wilson School (for the blind)
2. The Challenor Creative Arts and Training Center
3. The Government Industrial School; and
4. The Edna Nicholls Centre
Source: The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development 2008.
Author: Brett Callaghan