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PART 1  Descriptive Section

INTRODUCTION

The state of Primary education in Antigua and Barbuda is a major concern to the Ministry of Education. To this end several studies and reviews have been done in the Education Sector to ascertain where the problems lie and to determine what remedial measures may be taken to improve this important and crucial sector.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Location and Population

The twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda is located 17.3 North and 61.48 West. The islands are part of the Leeward Islands in the North Eastern Caribbean.

The state is 442km and has a population of 74,000 persons scattered in six parishes – St. John, St. Mary, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Phillip and st. George. The capital, St. John, has a population of 42,000 persons. Barbuda has a population of 1,200 persons residing in the village of Codrington.

Climate

The country enjoys a very pleasant tropical climate, which remains warm and relatively dry throughout the year. Annual rainfall is about 115 centimeters.

The humidity is relatively low. Minimum and maximum average temperatures are 22C in February and 31.2C in August. The intense heat of the sun is tempered by the predominantly North-East trade winds.

Economical Overview

Antigua and Barbuda is predominantly dependent on tourism. The contribution of Tourism to the economy is estimated to be about 60% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP in 1996 was estimated at EC$1,319 million with a percapita income of EC$21,500.

Other major contributors to GDP in 1995 were:

Construction - 10.1%

Transportation and Communication – 19%

A devastating hurricane in 1995 severly affected the island and growth declined by about 4.5%.

The Education Sector also suffered seriously. Many school buildings, furniture, equipment and materials were destroyed.

From 1994 the Government of Antigua and Barbuda embarked on a "home grwn" restructuring programme aimed at reducing expenditure and improving the efficiency of its revenue collection system.

Measures taken in 1995 included:

  1. reduction in the work force of the public service:
  2. freezing of public servants’ salaries for 1996 and 1997:
  3. establishment of a Tax Compliance Unit; and
  4. strengthening of the Customs Department.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda intends to expand the agricultural sector to reduce imports and improve the overall balance of payment.

A decline in the economy meant a reduction in funds allocated to education. This led to the introduction of an Education Levy in January 1995. Funds from this levy are used to augment the flow of funds from the Central Government Budget to the Education Sector.

EDUCATION SECTOR OVERVIEW

 The delivery of education and training is the primary responsibility of the Ministry of Education (MOE). Education is delivered at the following levels:-

 LEVEL AND AGE

 Early Childhood Education/Pre-Primary:3 – 5

Primary:5 – 12

Secondary:12 – 17

Tertiary:17 and over

Pre-Primary Education

Pre-primary or Early Childhood Education is undertaken by private individuals and the church, with technical assistance from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

Enrollment at this level in 1996/97 is 3,024.

Primary Level

There are thirty (30) public and twenty-six (26) private schools in the state. The student population at this level is 11,594. Schools are divided into three (3) zones for administrative purposes. The emphasis of education at this level is basically acdemic.

Secondary Level

There are nine (9) public and four (4) private schools with a student population of 4,788. Five (5) of the nine (9) secondary schools are located in St. John’s. Education at this level is structured to meet academic demands and also to provide technical and vocational skills in preparation for the world of work.

Tertiary Level

 There are three main tertiary level institutions in Antigua and Barbuda vis:- the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies, the Antigua State College and the Hotel Training School. The Antigua State College has an enrollment of over 800 students.

Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s Contribution to Education

From 1991 – 95 the contribution by Government to education averaged 13.2% of gross domestic product. Of the EC$41733,630 allocated for 1994, 30.3% went to primary education, with 34.1% and 8.43% going to secondary and tertiary education respectively. The allocation for 1996 was EC$44,035,217. Most of this money went into the payment of salaries for teachers.

Education Goals

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda aims to provide access, equity and quality education to all citizens regardless of socio-economic background.

 The draft five year plan developed by the Ministry of Education seeks to address the following areas:

  1. access to education
  2. curriculum development;
  3. institutional strengthening;
  4. maintenance of school plants; and
  5. human resource development

GOALS AND STRATEGIES

1.0 Introduction

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda strongly believes that the development of human resources is the key to national development. It has therefore mandated that schooling for its young citizens should be compulsory and free for the age group five to sixteen (5 - 16) years.

In keeping with the concept of basic education for all and that of lifelong education, opportunities are given for the sixteen plus to attend the State College, Youth Programmes and Adult and Continuing Education Programmes.

The philosophy underpinning this action is the promotion of equity, where educational opportunities provided for the people of Antigua and Barbuda will help to develop their islands, knowledge, skills, aptitudes and appropriate attitude that will make theM productive members within our society.

Hence the essence of Government’s Educational Policy is embodied in these words:

The Government’s Educational Policy is predicated on the philosophy

that each child should first be socialised as a human being and only secondly

as an economic unit of production. To this end the education system is

expected to develop creative and productive and adaptable men and

women and in the process identify, nurture and cultivate as fully as

possible each child’s capacity, aptitude, skill and strength.

1.1 Goals

Government recognises the rights of every child regardless of colour, race or creed to be exposed to education experiences that are compatible with his/her aptitude ability and the needs of society. Consequently, Government will ensure that all children be exposed to twelve (12) years of compulsory schooling, which will include basic as well as secondary education. Compulsory education starts at the primary level, but much encouragement is given for the children to be exposed to early childhood education programmes.

Within this framework the EFA goals are in sync with our country’s goals and objectives for Basic Education.

  1. Early Childhood Education

The goal is to lay a foundation for the future men and women in Antigua and Barbuda by providing healthy and effective developmental experiences in early childhood which will equip children adequately to be dependable, productive citizens, ultimately.

Although education at the preschool level is not compulsory, Government, cognizant of the importance of guidance and appropriate socialisation experiences in the formative years, have been in collaboration with private agencies with the intent of:

Enhancing access to preschool education and improving the quality of service provided; and providing parents with the skills needed to stimulate their young children and encouraging practices in the domestic environment which are conducive to desired socialisation as well as health and nutritional well being.

To achieve these goals, Government

Formulated criteria for the regulation and establishment of preschools;

Accelerated its efforts at improving and ensuring that the environment created is conducive to the teaching/learning process;

Made provisions for the training of persons involved in pre-school education;

Provided technical assistance for the development of relevant and suitable curricula; and

Provided parent education.

1.1.2 Primary Education

Government is committed to ensuring that every child is provided with basic education so that the socialisation of the child can be systematically planned, executed, coordinated and evaluated for maximum benefit. Universal Primary education has been more or less achieved but there are still pockets of inefficiencies in the system as reflected in the repetition and drop-out rates during the period under review. Strategies for improving the quality of primary education include:

Making the physical and working environment more conducive to learning and teaching;

Strengthening the supervision and management of schools;

Enhancing the quality of the teaching force;

Strengthening the curriculum development facility so that curricula are reviewed and renewed as appropriate and that teachers are trained in the use of curricula;

Helping teachers to be abreast with the latest development in their field of operations;

Strengthening relationships with parents and the community at large;

Facilitating transition from one level of education to another.

1.1.3 Special Education

Within the context of equity of education opportunities the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s aim is to make provisions for special educational facilities for children of exceptional ability, and those with very special needs. Presently some students are mainstreamed and teachers trained to cope in the classroom situation.

1.1.4 Gifted Children

Government has sought to collaborate with non governmental organisations in providing funding to further the education of children who possess exceptional ability. To date not much progress has been made in this direction.

1.1.5 Challenged Children

Government recognises the need for each individual to be educated to his/her full potential and will continue to promote and foster opportunities for services provided by local and overseas agencies to both remedial and handicapped children of the State.

1.1.6 High Risk

Given the present social and economic situation in Antigua and Barbuda, Government has put mechanisms in place to facilitate the care of children who are deprived, abandoned, abused and neglected. Concurrently staff are carefully selected and trained to work with these children.

1.1.7 Gender Education

It is noticeable that our boys are not succeeding as well as the girls and as a consequence, are dropping out of schools early. Strategies to improve male participation include working with our partners and regional bodies who have done surveys on this phenomenon in order to arrive at implementable solutions.

1.1.8 Lifelong Education

Lifelong education encompasses formal and non-formal education and all the experiences that contribute to personal development. The goal is to equip the populace with skills that meet the demands of the ever-changing society as a result of rapid technological changes.

1.1.9 Public Education

In order to achieve our goal of ensuring that every citizen develops his/her full potential, information must be readily available to all. The Ministry of Education having the mandate to provide a high standard of education to all sectors of the community has been associated with certain institutions and has established others which are geared towards providing quality information to complement its services. Among these institutions are the Archives, Libraries, Museums, Documentation Centres and the Media.

1.10 Sports

Sports is one of the most effective means of motivating our youth today. Here in Antigua and Barbuda, sports have always been a vital part of our culture. This is reflected in the emergence of our internationally famous stars in cricket, boxing and other disciplines. Government, conscious of its role as promoters and creators of avenues for the development of such skills, has established a Sports Unit to develop sports at all levels and in all respects. Strategies include:

Improving the administrative structures of Sports at all levels and serving as watchdogs to ensure the efficient functioning of clubs and associations;

Developing adequate facilities for sporting disciplines; and

Intensifying the training of personnel.

1.2 Decision Making and Management

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has always been mindful of the significant role education and training play in the life of its citizenry and, as a consequence, invariably promoted policies and plans which provide relevant and meaningful curricula for its education institutions, be they formal or non-formal.

Whereas the Government, even prior to 1990, gave high priority to education matters and its human resource development programme, the 1990 Conference on Education For All which was held in Jomtien, Thailand, acted as a stimulus to the Government which renewed its efforts to improve on its performance by providing greater and richer opportunities, especially at the basic level.

To that end, Government decided to extend its administrative and supervisory arm into the private sector. Since the 1973 Education Act made education in Antigua and Barbuda compulsory for persons between the ages of five and sixteen years, Government never took much interest in the operations of pre-schools and day-care institutions.

However, following upon the heels of Jomtien, that off-hand policy was radically changed and a pre-school supervisor was appointed and given the mandate to inspect those institutions with a view to bringing them in line with Government’s general operating standards with regard to staff quality, staff number, environment and health issues.

Also, Government’s education officers who were mandated to supervise and co-ordinate the activities of public schools never really extended their influence into the private sector. Again, as a result of the potent influence of the Jomtien experience, the Government made a decision that since the students who attend the private schools pursue the same curriculum as students in the public sector, its influence should span both sectors. Since the early 1990’s, therefore, the three education officers have been increasing their supervisory time in the private primary schools. This aspect of their duties will be increased shortly with the deployment of a fourth education officer.

Although there is no special or specific national EFA mechanism, the needs of children five to fourteen years old are met by a cadre of professional administrators who work out of the Ministry of Education Headquarters.

1.3 Cooperation in EFA

Basic Education services are provided by the public and private sectors. However, the 1973 Education Act makes it mandatory for the government to provide education for children between the ages of five and sixteen years. Although there are 95 pre-schools and day-care centres in Antigua and Barbuda with over 2000 pre-schoolers, these institutions are mainly privately operated and financed. However, Government has established an Early Childhood Education Centre with a Supervisor and staff to assist in the training of caregivers at this level.

There are also twenty-five (25) private primary schools which cater for children between the ages of five and twelve years. In addition, there are thirty (30) government primary schools in Antigua and Barbuda.

It is worthy of note that education in Antigua and Barbuda is free for children in public institutions, who are between the ages of five and sixteen years. However, the government provides free textbooks and school supplies to private schools through the Board of Education, a statutory body established in 1994 for the purpose of managing an Education Levy. It can be safely said, therefore, that basic education in Antigua and Barbuda is financed primarily by Government. It has to be acknowledged, though, that significant contributions are made from time to time by NGO’s and commercial enterprises.

The agencies, which assist the Government with its basic education plans, are mainly the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by means of the Organisation for Co-operation in Overseas Development (OCOD), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the British Government through its Division for International Development in the Caribbean (DFIDC).

1.4 Costs and Financing of Education

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda attaches much importance to education’s role in boosting the social and economic development of the country. However, during the period, 1992 to 1997, education’s share of the national budget has remained relatively stable in a range between 9.45% and 10.40% of the total recurrent expenditure. This modest allocation of national recurrent expenditure was attributable to a downturn in the performance of the economy and deterioration in public finances with precipitated under-financing of the education and training sector. The primary sector received 45% of the national allocation for education in 1997.

Between 1991 and 1998, there has been a steady increase in public expenditure on primary education, except for 1993 and 1996. The reduction in 1996 was a direct consequence of the 1995 Hurricane Luis which devastated the country.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, desirous of maintaining its standard of financing education, and wishing even to improve on its record, in 1994 constituted the Board of education, a statutory body, to manage the new Education Levy.

The Board became operational in 1995 and between then and 1998 its expenditure on capital education is as follows:

20.8 million in 1995/20 million in 1996/21.86 million in 1997/27.3 million (EC$) in 1998

These amounts are in addition to the annual expenditure by the Government’s Treasury.

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