Education in Barbados




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Education System in Barbados

Formal education in Barbados can be traced back to 1680. The present system developed largely from the 1890 Education Act, which established rigid distinctions between and even within levels of education. In 1932, the Marriot-Mayhew Commission carried out a comprehensive investigation of the colony's educational service. It recommended additional educational programs to cater to specific groups, especially teachers, and to the wider community. As a result, a new Teachers' Training College was opened, new secondary schools were established, and a loan fund was created to assist individuals in obtaining higher education abroad. Technical and vocational training was also introduced. A new Education Act emerged in 1981 that sought to provide greater equality of opportunity. Once universal access to basic education was achieved, the country turned its attention toward reform of the education system to stay current with economic and technological change. The Planning Section of the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture compiled a White Paper on Education Reform for Barbados in 1995.

The Barbados government pays the cost of educating its students through primary, secondary, and tertiary level, including provision of textbooks. This strong emphasis on education has resulted in a literacy rate of 98 percent, one of the highest in the world. Public education is compulsory for children, thus providing for 100 percent participation at the primary and secondary levels (children ages 5 to 16). Such an accomplishment was achieved at the primary level for most of the century and at the secondary level in more recent times. In order to ensure active participation by all students, programs include the provision of school meals at the primary level; a textbook loan scheme; transportation assistance; a uniform grant and bursaries at the secondary level; and a wide range of awards, grants, and scholarships at the tertiary level. These support systems reflect the underlying belief that "every person has a right to education opportunities to allow him/her to develop... abilities to the fullest and to contribute to the social and economic development of the country" (White Paper).

The challenge is to improve quality rather than access. The theme of the 1995 White Paper on Education Reform, "Each One Matters—Quality Education for All," shifts the focus of education to the needs of each individual and identifies those areas of the system that have to be fixed, hopefully leading to an overall improvement in the quality of graduates from Barbadian schools and educational institutions.

The school year includes three terms of 13 to 14 weeks and runs from September to July. The school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. The education system is multi-staged with some overlap at each stage.




Grade From

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Age From

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Primary School








CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) Examinations








CXC Caribbean Advanced Placement Examination (CAPE)








College / University








Primary Education

The school education system in Barbados adheres closely to British norms, and is paid for by the government right though tertiary levels too. The nation enjoys a literacy level in excess of 98% thanks to the emphasis the state places on this. The 6 years of primary school education begin at age 4. At age 11, the children write their common entrance examination in order to qualify for secondary school.

Secondary Education

Secondary school follows through to age 18, although it becomes non-compulsory 2 years earlier. At that point students write their caribbean examination council examinations similar to gce o-level. Those who remain on for their final 2 years may write the Caribbean advanced proficiency certificate that leads on to opportunities for tertiary education.

Vocational Education

The Barbados vocational board provides skills both to employed and unemployed persons. These range from short courses through to 5 year apprenticeships in all disciplines.

Tertiary Education

Barbados EducationThere are no universities per se in the Barbados. There is however a Branch of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, the Barbados Community College, a Teacher’s Training Institute, and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic illustrated here. 

The Tertiary Unit of the Ministry and Education, Science, Technology and Innovation is charged with coordinating activities pertaining to scholarships, awards and grants that allow citizens to pursue tertiary level education locally, regionally and internationally.   Over time, Government has provided significant portions of its resources to funding post-secondary education with the aim of meeting the human resource needs of the country.  This has been achieved through the provision of scholarships, the payment of fees for citizens at the University of the West Indies and the provision of training opportunities at the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and Erdiston Teachers Training College.

The Unit is managed by a Senior Education Officer and deal specifically with the following matters:

The latter is named after the first person of African descent to be elected to the Barbados Parliament, and who was later named the right excellent.



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