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Part I Descriptive Section


Barbados – the education system and provisions in perspective

Barbados is the easternmost island in the Caribbean and is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; its western coast is washed by the Caribbean Sea. The island is English-speaking with a population of about 265,000 inhabitants.

Public education at private and secondary levels is available to all persons of school age but persons who wish to do so can send their children to private schools and in some cases are eligible for financial assistance. In addition the Government of the country provides assistance to all private secondary schools in two ways. It provides one member of staff for a specified number of pupils in each private secondary school, and it makes annual grants to each of these institutions to assist them with the provision of computer-related technology as a parallel development to the Government’s own special programme in this area.

There is some pre-school (Early Childhood) education provided by the State and the majority of such pupils are accommodated in nursery special classes in primary schools. The pre-school age range is 3 to 4 years. The primary school age range is from 5 – 11 years, and the secondary school programme begins for many pupils at about the age of 11 years. Admission to the secondary school programme is determined by performance in the transfer examination known as the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE). Those pupils who do not qualify for transfer continue their education (until the school leaving age of 16 years) in a "composite" school. This is a school which caters to pupils of primary school age (5 – 11 years) as well as to pupils older than 11 years of age.

The secondary programme is normally five years in length and students completing this programme at the normal rate reach the end of the first stage of the secondary programme at about age 16 years (the formal school leaving age). At this stage they write the regional examination set by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

Students are sometimes allowed to continue their school programme beyond the five-year period if they have not yet reached the form in which the CXC examination is usually taken. Additionally, students whose performance is satisfactory can continue their secondary programme for a further two years in preparation for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) at Advanced Level set by the University of Cambridge. This programme of study is offered at 4 secondary schools.

Students who wish to go beyond the CXC examination level also can also attend the Barbados Community College where two options are open to them. One option is for them to pursue the two-year programme leading to the GCE, as do students attending the secondary schools. The second option is for them to pursue a special programme of study leading to various Associate Degrees (approximately the first two years of the normal four-year programme required for completion of a degree at a North American University).

Tertiary level education is provided in three institutions. First there is the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic which caters to some 3,000 youth and offers them a wide range of skill training programmes. Second, the Barbados Community College, referred to above, has an enrolment of about 2500 persons and offers its student body more academic programmes than does the Polytechnic. Many courses of study at these two institutions lead directly into the job market. The programmes of study at the Community College also enable students to meet the requirements for admission to the University of the West Indies or, through the Associate Degree programmes, to qualify for admission to North American Colleges and Universities to complete their degrees.

The third and highest tertiary level institution is the University of the West Indies which has several campuses, one of which is in Barbados and offers the usual range of Arts, Natural Science and Social Science subjects, as well as Law. All nationals who secure admission to the University of the West Indies at any one of its campuses are entitled to have the economic and tuition costs of their university courses met by the national Government. In addition there is a system of special scholarships and exhibitions that carry special prestige and sometimes allow the successful candidates to study abroad at national expense. Bursaries and loans are also available to persons who can show need.

Since education is readily available to all from the first year of the primary school age and since education is compulsory there is little wastage. In addition pupils are normally promoted to the next higher class at the end of each academic year so that there are no figures on repetition in the primary system. There is no gender disparity in the education provisions of the country and access to education is open equally to boys and girls. This gender equality is evident in all tables where it is calculated; in the majority of cases the result is 1.0 and the ratio never rises above 1.1 nor falls below 0.9

The large majority of teachers in the primary system are professionally trained and such training consists of satisfactory completion of a two-year training programme at the country’s Erdiston Teachers’ College. Appropriate training may also be secured elsewhere, e.g. through the Faculty of Education of the University of the West Indies at one of its campuses. Comparable and equivalent training received at other teacher training institutions may also be accepted.

Appointment to the primary teaching service in public schools requires that the applicant hold a minimum of four (4) subject certificates at "General Performance" level in the regional examinations set by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). Teachers in private schools do not necessarily have to meet these qualifications as a condition of employment.

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