Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Education in the Bahamas was mandatory between the ages of five and fourteen. In early 1987, the Ministry of Education was responsible for 226 schools, 83.2 percent of which were run by the government and 16.8 percent of which were independent. New Providence claimed 38 government schools and 13 independent schools; the Family Islands and Grand Bahama had 150 government schools and 25 independent schools. Schools were classified into three major categories: primary schools for children ages five to ten; secondary schools for ages eleven to seventeen; and all-age schools. In general, schools in the Family Islands were for all ages because of long distances to residences; in New Providence and Grand Bahama, students were most often separated by age. In 1985 the Bahamas reported a school population of 60,355, approximately 77 percent of whom attended government-run schools and 23 percent, private schools. Education was free in government schools. Many independent secondary schools were referred to as colleges.

Since the 1960s, the government has made a substantial effort to improve the country's education system. Government expenditures on education rose from 10.7 percent of total government expenditures in 1955 to a high of 25 percent in 1974 but declined to 17.4 percent in 1984. The ratios of students to staff improved steadily from thirty-four to one in 1976 to twenty-one to one in 1983. The literacy rate in 1984 was estimated at 93 percent. Primary-school enrollment increased from 78 percent in 1970 to 99 percent in 1983.

Despite these significant achievements, educational problems remained. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1985 indicated that there was "a weakening of education in the public school system as a result of shortages of teachers, equipment, and supplies as well as the physical deterioration of many schools." The Ministry of Education itself admitted that the results of national tests taken by students in 1985 demonstrated "serious deficiencies" throughout the education system. In the mid1980s , the government increased emphasis on technical and vocational training.

The College of the Bahamas opened its doors in 1974; the government-owned institution offered a two- or three-year program leading to an associate degree in one of six academic divisions. In the spring of 1986, the college reported an enrollment of 1,834. The college offered programs in conjunction with the University of Miami. In addition, since the 1960s the Bahamas also had been associated directly with the University of the West Indies (UWI), which, with its three campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, served much of the English-speaking Caribbean. The UWI also had a hotel and tourism management program in the Bahamas. In addition to these local and regional colleges, many Bahamians attended institutions of higher learning in the United States, Canada, and Britain.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress