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Education in Bahamas

Published by UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"

 "NATIONAL UNION OF CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"

 

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Bahamian Education System

 

Bahamian EducationFrom Slateboard to Interactive WhiteBoard
 

Over the last sixty years, The Bahamas has realized rapid progress and growth in its Education System considering that as late as 1950, the typical primary school student would have attended a government supported school with student-teacher ratios in excess of 40 to 1, and under-resourced with minimal furniture and tuition materialsInstead of exercise books, students used slates which were like miniature chalkboards. After being given a few minutes to memorise their notes, students would have to erase them and then continue with the next lesson. This presented much difficulty for the teaching and learning process and, although many students were able to learn, because of these conditions, many did not realise their full potential.   The few privately operated schools were segregated and the only public secondary school, which provided a classical/academic education, catered to a small group of students.
 

Progressive educators of the day, including leaders of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), realised the obvious deficiencies in the Bahamian education system and    began to call for major reform. With the advent of majority government in 1967, the education sector in The Bahamas saw tremendous reform and today conditions have improved significantlyEducation in the country is governed by the Education Act (revised 1996).  According to this statutory document, responsibility for the oversight of the entire education sector in the country is under the purview of the Minister of EducationThe Education Act (revised in 1996) also guarantees access to free education for all residents of The Bahamas between the ages of 5-16 years.
 

The Bahamian education system is structured in a 6-3-3 format.  The first cycle is primary education, which lasts for six years and is designed to cater to students aged five to eleven.  Secondary education is divided into two equal parts of three yearsduration; junior high is designed to accommodate students from age 11 to 14 while it is expected that students aged 14 to 17 attend senior high. Although not yet mandatory, education at the preschool and post-secondary levels is rapidly expanding.
 

About three-quarters of the primary and secondary students are enrolled in institutions managed by the state through its public education system, with the bulk of the remaining attending private schools. Due to the importance of the contribution of private schools to the overall provision of education, many of them receive some level of government funding.  Although the government provides some places at the pre-school level, nurseries and pre-schools are predominately run by churches and private individuals.  Post-secondary and tertiary institutions are operated by both the state and private sector.  In the case of tertiary intuitions, several foreign-based institutions operate in the country as satellite campuses catering to an increasing number of the adults (Fielding & Gibson, 2005).  Currently, the state only provides funding for two public post-secondary institutions:  The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), which is dedicated to vocational education and training, and The College of The Bahamas (COB), which primarily provides academic education.
 

National examinations are administered to students at four stages:  Grade Level Assessment Tests (GLAT) are administered at the end of grades 3 and 6; the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) at the end of grade 9 and the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) as an exit exam, generally taken at the end of grade 12.  It is expected that all students at the relevant grades will participate in the appropriate examinations. The majority of students who enter the Bahamian school system complete secondary school level.  It is expected that a student entering the first grade would spend 12 years in school.

 

Schools in The Bahamas
 

The public education system comprises 170 educational institutions (Table 1). As mentioned earlier, the Department of Education (DOE) is responsible for the management of the government pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, including buildings, staffing and the provision of tuition and other supplies. Public institutions offering education at the post-secondary level are not directly managed by the Department of EducationThe affairs of the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute are managed by a board.
 

The Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute at The College of The Bahamas located in North Andros, was recently opened in 2014.  The mission of the institution is to promote food security in The Bahamas, with the establishment of a 'tutorial commercial' farm. It will also provide teaching, skills training, professional development, research and extension work in the fields of agriculture and marine science; it is one of several “Centres of Excellencethat will mark the coming University of The Bahamas in 2015.
 

Table 1

School Type

New Providence

Family Islands

Total

Pre-school

4

5

9

Primary

25

69

94

All-age

0

13

13

Junior High

7

1

8

Senior High

7

0

7

Secondary

1

23

24

Special

8

5

13

Post-secondary/Tertiary

2

0

2

Total

54

116

170

         Source:  Planning and Research Section, MOEST


Education in The Modern Bahamas
 

Considerable efforts have been made within the past ten years to incorporate technology in the both public and private schools in The Bahamas. To date, Almost 5 million dollars was spent in the last 2 years to install computer labs, and E-literacy capabilities in every junior and senior high school in The Bahamas.   The Ministry of Education has implemented training programmes for teachers to ensure that they are able to teach technology to students and improve achievement levels using this vital teaching tool.
 

Subsequent governments have focused programmes that facilitate intervention, training, teaching and research for students with mild to more serious learning challenges. Professional development is another priority area.  A substantial investment will be made in a professional institute for the continuous training of teachers, administrators, curriculum officers and education employees at all levels. This Institute will be open to both public and private school personnel.
 

The beginning of the 2014/2015 saw the introduction of the National High School Diploma which will establish a benchmark for what is considered a minimum basic education that every child should obtain before leaving the school system and will include standards for civics, punctuality, job readiness and community service.   Another innovation that will be integrated into education in The Bahamas is the establishment of a designated primary school as a Research and Development School, which will work with The College of the Bahamas to ensure that decisions in education are based on research and intervention strategies that work for the country’s advancement.
 

From one-room wooden structures with slates, to modern multi-purpose facilities with Interactive Whiteboards catering to nearly 60,000 children and adult learners – Bahamian education continues to keep pace with the world.

 

 

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