Barbados takes education so seriously that it provides free tuition to all Barbadians from age five to university level.
The government allocates the largest chunk – nearly a quarter – of its annual billion dollar budget to funding close to 100 primary and secondary schools, plus four tertiary level institutions.
State financing covers actual tuition, free bus fares to and from school and free books and meals for all primary students who need them.
It’s therefore not surprising that this 166 square mile island of approximately 274,000 people boasts a literacy rate of nearly 98%.
Most schools are co-educational. Primary education begins at age 5 and continues to 11 years. That’s when students sit a Common Entrance Examination to determine which of the nearly two dozen secondary schools they will be allocated to. Typically secondary schools provide education for children between age 11 and 18 years.
For children with special needs, there are several institutions in Barbados, including:
— The Irving Wilson School (for the blind)
— The Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre
— The Government Industrial School and
— The Edna Nicholls Centre.
In addition to Barbados’ state-financed schools, there is a handful of privately-run primary and secondary schools, often used by the local expatriate community.
Also located in Barbados is the headquarters of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), which for the past 30 years has been offering regional exams for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in English, Geography, History, and Mathematics.
For the more academically inclined, post-secondary education is available from:
— The Barbados Community College (BCC)
— Erdiston Teachers College
— The University of the West Indies (UWI), one of whose three Caribbean campuses is in Barbados.
The BCC, offering some associate degree programmes, is often used as a stepping stone to entry into the UWI. The BCC boasts divisions such as:
— Fine and liberal arts
— Health Sciences
— Hospitality studies
For the more technically minded, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), provides day and night hands-on courses in such fields as:
— Building and engineering trades
Bursting at its seams after more than 40 years in operation, the SJPP now offers online tuition for students in Barbados and the wider Caribbean. Students receive a diploma and certificate in their area of study.
A 2007-2008 proposal of a previous Barbados government to establish the University College of Barbados, amalgamating the programmes of the BCC and the SJPP, has been temporarily put on hold.
Instead, the Barbados government is moving to deal a need for an additional 1,800 nursery education places, and at least three new nursery schools are planned.
Author: Brett Callaghan