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Bermuda is a gorgeous island in the North Atlantic Ocean located off the eastern shores of the United States. An overseas territory of the British, the country is approximately 640 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the nearest landmass, and roughly 850 miles south of Nova Scotia, Canada. Bermuda was discovered in the early 16th century by the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermudez, the territory’s namesake, and settled by the English in 1609 by the Virginia Company—the same company that had established Jamestown on the North American continent a year prior. Following Virginia’s independence and eventual incorporation into the U.S., England retained possession of Bermuda, making it the oldest and most populous British overseas territory. The current capital of Bermuda is Hamilton, but the territory’s first capital city, St. George’s, is the largest municipality on the islands and the oldest continuously inhabited town in the Americas.
As of the last census, the population of Bermuda was just over 65,000, and its ethnic makeup consists of people who self-identify as Black (64%), White (29%) and multiracial (7%). Nearly 10% of the White population is Portuguese, which can be attributed to the Portuguese immigration from the Azores over 160 years ago. Additionally, because off-shore finance is the largest industry in Bermuda, there are several thousand expatriate workers who reside in the country, primarily from the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom, who are employed in specialized professions such as accounting, finance and insurance. English is the national language of Bermuda and is used in all official capacities, including education. While these are the reported demographics for Bermuda, one must take into account the unscientific manner in which data is collected, and the territory’s legacy of racism.
Bermuda has a very interesting culture, with strong British and Afro-Caribbean influences. Throughout the 20th century there were sustained waves of immigration from the West Indies, and it was musicians from there that first introduced Calypso music to the islands. Today, while Calypso is still very popular among tourists, Reggae is the preferred music for many of the locals, a style that became popular after the 1970s with the influx of Jamaican immigrants. Dance styles in Bermuda are heavily influenced by African, Caribbean, Native American and British cultures, and are very colorful and lively. The Gombey Dancers, Bermuda’s most popular dance troupe, can be seen at many events and festivals throughout the year. The national sport of Bermuda is cricket, a game first introduced by the British. For many years running now, the Bermudan national cricket team has been very successful and has competed admirably on the global stage.
Education in Bermuda
Due to its relatively affluent economy for a Caribbean territory, education in Bermuda is highly valued and subsidized. According to the Bermuda Education Act of 1996, only three categories of schools are permitted to operate on the islands: Aided schools, Maintained Schools and Private Schools. Aided schools are those that have all or part of their property vested in a board of trustees or board of governors, and they are partially maintained through public funding. Maintained schools have the entirety of their property belonging to the government and are fully maintained through public funding, and private schools, whether religious or secular, receive no public funding and do not qualify for capital grant-in-aid opportunities from public funds. Currently there are six private schools in operation on the island, two of which are religious, four that are secular.
Prior to 1965 and the desegregation of schools, separate schools existed for white and black children. Once desegregation was enacted, two of the officially maintained “white” schools and both single-sex schools decided to privatize and no longer receive government funding. The remainder became part of the public school system as either aided or maintained schools. Today there are 26 schools in Bermuda—18 primary schools, 5 middle or junior high school, 2 senior high schools and 1 school for children with special needs. Through primary, middle and senior school, students in Bermuda are instructed in a broad curriculum of mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and the humanities. Vocational education is available through the senior high schools and specialized post-secondary institutions, with instruction designed for students seeking to pursue careers directly after graduation.
Higher education in Bermuda is fairly limited. There is one junior college, where students can earn associates degrees and certificates in both academic subjects and vocational fields. Those who wish to pursue a Bachelor or Master’s degree must either attend the one satellite university on the Bermudian mainland, or pursue those opportunities through distance education programs offered by universities in the United States and United Kingdom.