Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

The government of St. Lucia has made universal education a national priority. Although in the late 1980s, a basic education still was not available to all members of society, government programs had succeeded in bringing primary education to 80 percent of the population. Fulfilling all the educational requirements of the society, however, particularly the development of a work force capable of meeting the needs of a growing economy, remained an elusive goal.

Education in St. Lucia was free and compulsory from age five through age fifteen. In the 1980s, enrollment levels ran as high as 85 percent in the primary schools. Planning and operation of the school system were the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The agency, which oversaw all primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, was considered a professional and effective ministry. The illiteracy rate remained high, ranging from 20 to 25 percent, and was a problem often attributed to the number of patois-speaking inhabitants who did not participate in the education system.

In 1985 the primary school system included 82 schools, 35,000 students, and nearly 1,000 teachers, 35 percent of whom were considered trained. Although enrollment at the primary level was very high, many graduated without achieving basic skills in mathematics and English. A renewed effort at teaching English as a second language was developed at this level to hasten the assimilation of the patois-speaking population at an early age.

In 1985 there were eleven secondary schools in St. Lucia; six offered full secondary education programs, whereas the remainder provided a curriculum only through the junior secondary level. The schools were located in urban areas and provided education for approximately 3,100 students. As this number suggests, only one student in ten was able to continue education beyond the primary level. This situation had a profound impact on society, forcing some 2,000 to 3,000 new job seekers into the work force each year following completion of their primary education.

Post-secondary education was offered by four colleges and a regional technical training college for teachers operated under the auspices of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Operations. St. Lucia's institutions of higher education included the Teacher's Training College, the Division of Technical Education and Management of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (formerly the Morne Fortune Technical College), the St. Lucia College of Agriculture, and the Sixth Form College. By late 1986, however, all post-secondary schools were being reorganized under the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College with grants from the Peace Corps, Canadian government, and World Bank (see Glossary).

Although the number of teachers working in St. Lucia was growing and upgrading of facilities continued at a steady pace, certain key problems still required attention. Space constraints prohibited the expansion of enrollments, advanced instruction for teachers was lacking, particularly at the primary level, and vocational programs needed to be added to the curriculum. In spite of the government's emphasis on educational development, the school system was not providing enough graduates at all levels to meet the societal needs of a developing country.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress