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The government of Barbados doesn’t hold back on spending when it comes to education. In fact, from 1966 to year 2000, the government had already spent US$15 billion. Up to the present, on a yearly average, the government allocates 20% of its national budget on education. This is indeed astounding because Barbados only has 284,589 citizens.
The educational system of Barbados is primarily fashioned after the educational system in Britain. All citizens of Barbados aged 5 up to 16 are entitled free access to free enrollment. Currently, Barbados follows the three-tiered educational system which starts at Primary then Secondary before moving on to Tertiary.
Primary schooling involves all children ages 3-11. Primary level is subdivided further into nursery and junior levels. Nursery education is for those at 3-7 years of age and then after completing this, they move to junior level up to the age of 11.
After graduating from Primary school, students are now eligible for the Secondary level which will take 7 years to complete. Secondary school education is free for all government-run schools but students may enroll at private schools.
In the tertiary level (16 and up), there are only three schools that provide degree level education for both diploma and vocational degrees. Barbadians may choose from among these three schools: The Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the University of the West Indies.
Barbados prides itself in belonging to the top 5 countries with a literacy rate of being close to 100%. Indeed, the government was right in investing in the education of its people and as a result, Barbados is considered the 51st richest country in the world if the basis would be per capita income.
For its natural beauty alone, Barbados is a wonderful place to visit. Located in the Lesser Antilles, the tiny island nation is a mere 21 miles from end to end and 14 miles across at its widest point, but it’s what’s in between these land borders that makes Barbados such a popular destination for tourists. Each year millions of vacationers come to the island to bask in the warm Caribbean sun and to explore its exotic tropical beaches, and each guest is greeted warmly by the friendly people who staff the country’s many hotels and 5-star resorts. The warm year-round tropical climate makes the country an oasis for people seeking fun in the sun, including golfers, sightseers, fishermen and water sports enthusiasts.
As of the last census, the population of Barbados was recorded at just over 260,000, and made primarily of people of African descent. However, because the country remains a Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, there is also a visible minority of Europeans descendants, particularly those of British, Irish and Scottish heritage. English is the official language of Barbados and is used in all official capacities of the state, including communications, administration, public services and education. More commonly, a local variant of English called “Bajan” is spoken by the majority of Barbadians in informal situations. Ninety-five percent of the population is Christian, divided between the Anglican, Roman Catholic and other Protestant faiths. Tiny religious minorities in Barbados include those who are Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Wiccans.
In terms of culture, the British influence in Barbados is palpable. Cricket, a game invented and still widely played by the British people, is the national sport of Barbados, and many world-renowned players have derived from the island. In the summertime, specifically the month of July, Barbados comes alive with the sights and sounds of “Crop Over,” the country’s largest carnival-like festival celebrating the annual harvest of sugar cane, the most important crop in the country. Barbados is also home to many celebrated musicians, including Rhianna, a recording artist who is now an international superstar.
Education in Barbados
The Barbadian system of education is modeled after that of the British, with a school year that includes three terms. Education is provided free of charge to all Barbadian children and is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. The importance and value the Barbadian government places on education is very evident in the country’s literacy rate—95 percent and one of the highest of all Caribbean countries—and in its school attendance rates of 100 percent, a statistic that can be directly attributed to staunch attendance requirements that are strictly enforced at all schools. Since gaining independence from the British in 1966, the country has spent an estimated 15 billion dollars on education.
Education is divided between the primary and secondary levels, with the former serving children ages 5-14 in grades 1-8, and the latter for children 14-18 in grades 9-12. A regular curriculum of mathematics, science, language, computers, geography, history, humanities and physical education is offered at both the primary and secondary schools, and an optional vocational track is featured for the more career-minded secondary students in grades 11 and 12.
Tertiary or post-secondary education is offered at four institutions of higher learning, one of which is a comprehensive university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of academic subjects. The remaining three institutions offer programs in teacher training, technology and vocational education. Because tourism is far and away the most important industry in Barbados, vocational education and specialty schools tend to focus on careers such as culinary arts, hotel and restaurant management, sports instructors, maintenance engineers and other resort staff—careers that are vital to the Barbadian economy and way of life.