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Section 2: Early Childhood Care and Development

In The Bahamas the concept of early childhood education refers to learning activities designed for the benefit of children between the ages of 3 -5 years. This stage of development is generally categorised as pre-primary or pre-school. The provision of care prior to this age is normally managed by day care centres and other types of custodial facilities.

Programmes designed to impact positively the education and development of pre-school children had long been recognised by the Government of The Bahamas as being of great consequence to the harmonious educational development of the Bahamian citizenry. As early as 1974 for example, the Government expressed its determination to become more intentional about this area of education and once again include kindergarten classes to the structure of the primary school (White Paper on Education, 1974). These intentions laudable as they were failed to find expression in policies and plans because of attention to other urgent priorities. The Government’s inability to act expeditiously on its desires and intentions in this area resulted in the following:

During the decade of the eighties, the Ministry of Education established a Pre- school unit to guide, co-ordinate and monitor the development of pre-school education in the country. By this time, however, the pattern of operating without the knowledge and consent of the authorities had become entrenched such that it became difficult for the unit to execute its mandate.

Fuelled by the United Nations declaration of Education for All, the educational agenda of the governing party and the recommendations of the National Task Force on Education, the Government of The Bahamas sought to bring structure, coherence and legitimacy to the area of early childhood education in the decade of the nineties and articulated an initiative which had the following objectives:

  1. establishing Pre-school Centres at all Government maintained Primary Schools by the year 2000;
  2. encouraging civic groupings such as churches and unions to establish day-care and pre-school Centres;
  3. providing subsidies to those centres which care for the children of low-income families so that no child need be refused admission solely on the grounds of inability to pay, and
  4. extending subventions to a limited number of approved private establishments involved in the delivery of pre-school programmes.
  1. promulgating legislation to govern the operation, regulation and standards employed in pre-schools and infant care facilities.
  2. licensing all Early Childhood Care Centres according to an approved grading system.
  3. implementing an early childhood education curriculum that would guide the activities of all child care centres;
  4. developing policies and establishing guidelines for Early Childhood Care Centres.
  5. establishing a support system to include health, education and social welfare specialists to provide guidance and assistance to and evaluation of Early Childhood Care Centres.

Increasing the Availability of Approved Early Childhood Education Programmes

The direct involvement of the State in the provision of early childhood education programmes began in earnest around the beginning of the decade. At that time two pre-schools, fully maintained by the Government and offering a total of 30 places to four-year-olds were opened in the capital, New Providence. Around the same time the Government began to advance subventions in the form of providing teachers, to three independent facilities. Since that time there has been a gradual increase in the number of places made available by the Government. These places add to the number offered by private entities which proliferated as a result of the void created by the failure of the Government to become more actively involved, earlier.

In its attempt to increase the number of places for early childhood education, the Ministry of Education has taken three approaches:

One refurbished facility is to be found in New Providence. It operates exclusively as a pre-school.

Three schools in New Providence, four in Grand Bahama, and two in the Family Islands have had kindergarten classes added to their structure.

Private institutions, which receive subventions, are to be found in New Providence and in Grand Bahama.

Standardisation and Quality Assurance

The completion of a standardised curriculum and the licensing of facilities were the major achievements realised in the area of standardisation and quality assurance development.

The Development of a Standardised Curriculum

In the absence of Government intervention, entities offering education and care services for pre-school children proliferated throughout the country. A number of these entities particularly those associated with religious groups traditionally involved in education, follow a pedagogically sound programme and operate in appropriate facilities. On the other hand, there are those, some of which exist without the knowledge of the responsible authorities, whose understanding of the relationship between programme design and psychological and physical development, is limited. In order to reduce the debilitating impact of an inappropriate grounding and introduction to school and to assist these institutions, the Pre-school unit of Ministry of Education began the process of designing a curriculum, subsequent to the recommendations of the National Task Force on Education. At this time the curriculum called The Readiness Programme is available in New Providence schools having been introduced in September of 1996. It is expected that it will be introduced in Family Island schools located in Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Long Island, within the school year 1999 – 2000.

Licensing and Monitoring

All organisations offering educational services to children of pre-school age are expected to register with The Ministry of Education. These institutions are monitored by the pre-school unit and may benefit from the unit’s professional expertise. The staffing situation in the unit, however, has worked against the full impact of this facility being experienced. Many institutions still are not registered, and those that are registered are not monitored as closely as the unit would wish.

The passage of legislation, the draft of which is currently in progress, and the employment of additional professionals are seen as efforts which will positively affect the supervision of pre-schools.

The Provision of Training for Teachers and Operators of

Early Childhood Centres

The involvement of persons not suitably qualified, in the delivery of early childhood education precipitated the development of several training programmes by tertiary institutions. In 1990, The College of The Bahamas introduced an Associate Degree and Teacher Certification programme in Early Childhood Education. Designed for persons having the academic qualifications that would satisfy the entry requirements into the Associate degree programme, it excluded the vast majority of persons operating and working in Early Education Centres. As a consequence, The Centre for Continuing Education, a department of the College of The Bahamas (COB) collaborated with the Teacher Education Division to develop an Upgrading Programme that would improve academic efficiency, provide exposure to necessary skills and enhance understanding of child growth and development. The first intake into this programme was in 1993.

Subsequently in 1994 the Teacher Education Division developed and implemented the Pre-school Auxiliary Teachers’ certificate programme as a preparatory one for persons who with some remedial assistance would be able to pursue a college level programme. Successful completion of this programme would, therefore, enable matriculation into the Associate Degree programme, which leads to an academic credential and professional certification.

In more recent times, the Bahamas Baptist Community College, a private denominational school, began offering a certificate programme for operators of and workers in pre-schools. This course of study is at the pre-college level and employs a flexible, open system of admission. Other private tertiary institutions are also offering short-term training programmes for operators of pre-schools and child care centres.

Since 1990, therefore, programmes designed to positively affect the skills of persons engaged in the delivery of early childhood education, have increased noticeably.

Gross enrolment in early childhood development programmes expressed as a percentage of the official age group.

The available data on early childhood development programmes do not account for all facilities in the country. Such data as exist indicate the following:

Given, the Government’s commitment to the provision of Pre-school education

(Government owned pre-schools increased by three between 1997/1998 and 1998/ 1999), the presence of schools that are not registered, and the need for parents to have care for children while at work, it is likely the resulting GER is not unrealistic. This conclusion is confirmed by principals of primary schools in the capital. They say that few pupils who have not been exposed to pre-school experiences, enter grade one. Nevertheless, it is recognised that counted among the enrolled population are some children who fall outside the relevant age boundaries.

TABLE 1-A

ENROLMENT IN PRE-SCHOOL FACILITIES

BY TYPE OF ADMINISTRATION & LOCATION

1997/1998

 

NEW PROVIDENCE

 

# OF SCHOOLS

GRAND BAHAMA

 

# OF

SCHOOLS

FAMILY ISLANDS

 

# OF

SCHOOLS

TOTAL

 

 

# OF SCHOOLS

 

PUBLIC

 

375

7

114

4

00

1

489

12

PRIVATE

 

671

8

72

2

64

0

807

10

TOTAL

 

1046

15

186

6

64

1

1296

22

 

 

NEW PROVIDENCE

 

REST OF THE BAHAMAS

 

TOTAL

PUBLIC

 

375

114

489

PRIVATE

 

671

136

807

TOTAL

 

1046

250

1296

Source: Ministry of Education, Planning Unit

TABLE 1-B

POPULATION OF 3 & 4 YEAR OLD

1990 – 1999 SUMMARY

YEAR

THE WHOLE BAHAMAS

NEW PROVIDENCE

REST OF THE BAHAMAS

 

 

 

MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL

1990

 

5842

1702

11544

3916

3844

7760

1926

2142

3784

1991

 

5872

5748

11620

3996

3939

7936

1876

1809

3684

1992

 

5926

5798

11724

4152

4094

8246

1774

1704

3478

1993

 

6008

5858

11866

4384

4306

8691

1624

1552

3175

1994

 

6114

5926

12038

4685

4572

9256

1429

1354

2782

1995

 

6230

5997

12227

1939

1903

3842

1198

1125

2323

1996

 

6240

6062

12402

5269

5070

10340

971

992

2062

1997

 

6396

6100

12494

5367

5153

10520

1029

947

19744

1998

 

6424

6108

12513

5345

5134

10478

1059

974

2035

1999

 

6378

6100

12476

5236

5042

10278

1142

1058

2198

Source: Department of StatisticsPercentage of New Entrants to Grade 1 who have attended some form of organised early childhood development programme

Given the GER above and the trend characteristic of this area, it follows that

the percentage of new entrants to primary grade 1 who have attended some form of organised early childhood development programme will parallel the number who have had exposure to some form of early childhood education. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that at least 90% of the relevant population would have had exposure to a pre-school curriculum. In the established church schools, for example, where the inclusion of kindergarten classes has been institutionalised, it is highly likely that most children in grade one would have had exposure to a pre-school curriculum.

Policy Implications

Exposure to pre-school experiences is increasing. The concern, however, is with respect to the maintenance of standards and the broad area of quality assurance. In this context, attention to the implementation of the policy regarding registration and monitoring is critical.

Section 3: Primary Education

The structure of Primary Education in The Bahamas is defined by grades with the assignment to grades being based on age. Primary education begins in grade one and ends in grade 6 with children entering grade one at five years of age and entering grade six at ten years of age.

Primary education is compulsory. However, if the compulsion associated with school attendance is to have effect, schools or opportunities for education must be accessible and the relevant population must participate. Four indicators are used to measure accessibility and participation: Apparent (gross) Intake Rate (AIR); Net Intake Rate (NIR); Gross enrolment ratio (GER); and Net Enrolment Ratio (GER). In addition to measuring access to and participation in primary education generally, these variables attempt to assess the involvement of the members of the population who are of the official age group for primary education.

Tables 3a, 3b, 3c and Tables 3 illustrate information on the grade one population. Table 3a summarises the new entrants (intake) to grade one for the years 1991 – 1997, Table 3b provides information on the population of five year olds for the years 1990 – 1997 and Table 3c provides a summary of the population of the primary school for the years 1990 – 1997.

These data are used to compute the:

Apparent (gross) Intake Rate (AIR)

(new entrants in primary grade 1 as a percentage of the population of official entry age – five year olds)

The AIR seeks to determine the percentage of new entrants in primary grade one who are of the official entry age. In The Bahamas children are expected to enter grade one at five years of age. Eligible children are those whose fifth birthdays fall by September 30th of the entering year. As a consequence, some children will turn six before the end of the first grade. However, given that the data reflect the situation existing in September, the number of children falling outside the official age boundaries should be negligible. Where they are present it would be indicative of repetition, or late entrance into school.
When the data contained in Tables 3 are reviewed it is seen that the new entrants in primary grade 1 parallel the population of the official entrance age. One hundred percent of the new entrants in primary grade 1 are of the official entry age. This finding is supported by the policy on school entrance.

Net Intake Rate (NIR)

(new entrants in primary grade 1 who are of the official primary school- entrance age as a percentage of the corresponding population)

The NIR measures the percentage of five year olds in the population who are enrolled in grade one.

Like the Apparent Intake Rate, the net intake rates show that 100% of the relevant population are among the new entrants in primary grade one. This is explained by the policy on school attendance as outlined in the compulsory clause on education which until 1997 mandated all children between the ages of five and fourteen to be enrolled in an approved educational programme. Any discrepancy between the number of new entrants to grade one and the number present in the corresponding population is explained by repetition and or late registration. While these incidences do occur, their numbers are not so numerous as to affect the net intake rate, noticeably.

Late registration is a phenomenon which is more apparent among the immigrant population. In an attempt to conceal their presence immigrants living in The Bahamas without proper documentation, particularly those who are non-native speakers of English, often keep children at home to avoid detection. By the time they receive some type of status, or summon sufficient courage to venture out, children could be beyond five years. Having had no exposure to formal schooling, these children are placed in the first grade, regardless of age.

TABLE 3-A

NEW ENTRANTS FOR GRADE 1

1990 - 1997 SUMMARY

ALL BAHAMAS NEW PROVIDENCE REST OF THE BAHAMAS

YEAR

MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL
  1. Public

Private

2039

617

1914

655

3953

1272

1283

482

1196

501

2479

983

756

135

718

154

1474

289

TOTAL

2656

2569

5225

1765

1697

3462

891

872

1763

1991 Public

Private

2103

591

1980

693

4083

1284

1500

496

1253

517

2753

1013

1980

693

727

176

2707

869

TOTAL

2694

2673

5367

1996

1770

3766

2673

903

3576

1992 Public

Private

2152

626

2049

638

4201

1264

1378

479

1327

497

507

976

774

147

722

141

1496

288

TOTAL

2778

2687

5465

1857

1824

3681

921

863

1784

1993 Public

Private

2079

660

1982

692

4061

1352

1315

497

1265

528

2580

1025

764

163

717

164

1481

327

TOTAL

2739

2674

5413

1812

1793

3605

927

881

1808

1994 Public

Private

2117

674

2033

697

4150

1371

1322

205

1272

549

2594

1527

795

469

761

148

1556

617

TOTAL

2791

2730

5521

1835

1821

4121

1264

909

2173

1995 Public

Private

2238

616

2228

646

4466

1262

1388

508

1435

531

2823

1039

850

108

793

115

1643

223

TOTAL

2854

2874

5728

1885

1959

3862

958

908

1866

1996 Public

Private

2137

655

2137

655

4274

1310

1887

609

1207

730

3094

1339

250

46

930

75

1180

121

TOTAL

2792

2792

5584

2496

1937

4433

296

855

1301

1997 Public

Private

2255

613

2164

635

4419

1248

1442

456

1402

479

2844

935

813

157

762

156

1575

313

TOTAL

2868

2799

5667

1898

1881

3779

970

918

1888

Source: Department of Statistics

TABLE 3-B

ENROLLMENT IN PRIMARY EDUCATION

1990 - 1997 SUMMARY

ALL BAHAMAS

NEW PROVIDENCE

REST OF BAHAMAS

YEAR

MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL MALE FEMALE TOTAL
  1. Public

10912

10234

21146

7668

7142

14810

3244

3092

6336

Private

2649

2779

5428

223

2291

4514

2556

488

3044

TOTAL

13561

13013

26574

9891

9433

19324

5800

3580

9380

  • Public

11606

10923

22529

7984

7516

15500

3622

2939

6561

Private

2872

2904

5776

2305

2374

4679

2939

530

3469

TOTAL

14478

13827

28305

10289

9890

20179

7301

3469

10770

  • Public

11891

11385

23276

8265

7961

3246

3626

9214

12840

Private

2687

2655

5342

2159

2171

4330

528

484

1012

TOTAL

14578

14040

28618

10424

10132

20556

4154

9698

13852

  • Public

11515

11012

22527

7889

7591

15480

3626

3421

7047

Private

3004

5111

6115

2385

2496

4881

619

2615

3234

TOTAL

14519

14123

28642

10274

10087

20361

4245

6036

10281

  • Public

11817

11261

23078

7929

7629

1558

3888

3632

7520

Private

3084

3144

6228

2460

2545

5005

624

599

1223

TOTAL

14901

14405

29306

10389

10174

6563

4512

4231

8743

  • Public

12392

12410

24802

8328

8609

16937

4064

10423

14487

Private

2447

2490

4937

1955

1987

3942

492

503

995

TOTAL

14939

14900

29739

10283

10596

20879

4556

10926

15482

  • Public

23792

3491

27283

16317

0

16317

7475

3491

10966

Private

5563

4623

10186

4421

2961

2519

1142

1662

2804

TOTAL

29355

8114

37469

20738

2961

18836

8617

5153

13770

  • Public

12765

12235

25000

8650

8414

17064

4115

3821

7936

Private

2506

2660

5166

1903

2043

3946

603

617

1220

TOTAL

15271

14895

30166

10553

10457

21010

4718

4438

9156

Source: Department of Statistics


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