Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Since independence in 1983, the education system of St. Kitts and Nevis has emphasized meeting the needs of a developing country, although this goal had not been fully realized by 1987. Broad policy objectives included producing trained and educated citizens capable of managing social and economic progress and unifying the populations of the two islands. At the same time, the government was dedicated to recognizing cultural, ethnic, and religious differences and providing the skills and knowledge needed to survive in an international environment known for disruptive domestic social and economic conditions.

The government's education program offered numerous alternatives. Basic academic preparation through high school was available in the mid-1980s, but public education also emphasized vocational and technical programs for students wishing to enter the work force after graduation. The government also developed "nonformal " programs to provide skills to high school dropouts and the unemployed. Development of educational facilities in the 1980s was accomplished with grants from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the United States Agency for International Development (AID), and the government of Canada.

Education was coordinated at the national level by the Ministry of Education, Health, and Community Affairs. It had responsibility for the planning and administration of all public schools from primary levels through postsecondary instruction. Education was free and compulsory from ages five to fourteen. In the mid-1980s, there were more than 30 primary schools, teaching approximately 7,200 students from ages 5 through 12. There was a total of 350 teachers. In 1986 many buildings were renovated, and two new primary schools were planned, including one for Basseterre.

There were six secondary schools in St. Kitts and Nevis in the mid-1980s; four were located on the larger island. Total enrollment was about 4,200 students. There was a teaching staff of 265, which included both trained and untrained instructors. The renovation of Sandy Point and Cayon high schools in 1986 included construction of new laboratories, engineering facilities, and larger classrooms to accommodate additional vocational programs.

Postsecondary educational opportunities in St. Kitts and Nevis were available in some fields in the mid-1980s. Although there was no university on either of the islands, further study could be undertaken at the Teacher's Training College, Technical College, Nursing School, or First-Year University Education Programme. Those who completed the latter program were permitted to enroll as second-year students at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Scholarship funds from Western Europe and Canada assisted Kittitian students attending programs at the UWI, as well as at the College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Kingston, Jamaica. Scholarships emphasized vocational disciplines such as business administration, science, and engineering.

The Ministry of Education, Health, and Community Affairs also offered informal opportunities, such as the Adult Education Programme and Community Courses workshop. The former provided academic instruction to individuals who had left the formal education system prematurely; the latter gave instruction in various vocational subjects to the general population.

In 1986 the Non-Formal Youth Skills Training Programme was instituted. Its mission was to teach high school dropouts and other unemployed youths specific skills in a short period of time to assist them with finding immediate employment. The three- to eightweek courses in garment making, automobile mechanics, leather crafts, and other skills were designed and implemented with funding from the OAS, AID, and the government of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Although improvements in the education system were still needed in the late 1980s, the government had made progress toward meeting some of the basic needs of the population. The focus on vocational training at all levels was eventually expected to reduce the high unemployment rate and improve the country's competitive position within the region by producing better trained and more highly motivated workers.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress