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Saint Lucia

Official Country Name: Saint Lucia
Region: Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 156,260
Language(s): English, French patois
Literacy Rate: 67%

The first organized system of education in Saint Lucia emerged after this eastern Caribbean colony achieved independence in 1838. The Anglican, Catholic, and Methodist churches were largely responsible for these early schools. Eventually, the churches began working in conjunction with the government to oversee education in Saint Lucia. Because schools residing on church grounds and managed by church groups received government funding, they became known as public assisted schools. Schools in operation in 1998 totaled 82. Of these, 64 primary and 2 secondary schools were overseen by religious organizations, most commonly the Catholic church. While primary school enrollment in the 1990s hovered near the 95 percent mark, secondary school enrollment reached only 50 percent.

Preprimary education in Saint Lucia did not become commonplace until it received funding in the 1970s by the Ministry of Community Development. In 1985, Saint Lucia's Ministry of Education created a separate division to focus specifically on developing preprimary programs to prepare children for mandatory basic education. Nearly 80 percent of Saint Lucia's children aged three to five attended one of the country's 150 preschools or 33 day care centers in 1998.

Compulsory education begins at age five. Primary education consists of a three-year "infant" program and a subsequent four years of "primary" instruction. At the end of the seventh grade, students take the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) to determine placement for additional compulsory schooling. Those who do well on the CEE move into a secondary school where they complete five years of basic studies. Because the 1997 Saint Lucia Education Act requires all students to remain in school until 16 years of age, those who do not attend a secondary school are placed into a three-year "senior primary" program which focuses on preparing students for future jobs. This legislation was enacted to keep students in school until they are of legal age to begin working.

Secondary school graduates who perform well enough on the Caribbean Examination Council or General Certificate Examination may pursue higher education. St. Lucia's only tertiary institute is the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, which offers studies in arts, sciences, and general studies; nursing, education, and midwifery; technical education and management studies; and teacher education and education administration. Students wishing to seek other higher degrees do so abroad.

St. Lucia spends 25 percent of its national recurrent budget on education. In 1998, primary education was granted 41.1 percent of this funding; secondary education, 27.9 percent; and higher education, less than 1 percent. Wanting to reduce its reliance on the cyclical and fickle banana and tourism industries, Saint Lucia's Ministry of Education worked throughout the 1980s and 1990s to offer universal primary education to its residents. Beyond simply making education accessible, however, officials were also concerned about alleviating overcrowding in schools and improving existing buildings and equipment. The ministry has also been working toward a similar goal for secondary education, with a target date of 2005, hoping that by further educating its citizens, Saint Lucia will be better able to compete in the global marketplace of the twenty-first century.


Ministry of Education, Human Resources, Youth and Sports. Education Development Plan: 1999-2005 and Beyond. 1999. Available from http://www.education.gov.lc.

National Statistics Department, Saint Lucia. Structure of Education System 2000. Ministry of Education, Human Resources, Youth and Sports, Corporate Planning Unit, 2000. Available from http://www.stats.gov.lc.

UNESCO. The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports: Saint Lucia. World Education Forum, 2000. Available from http://www2.unesco.org.

—AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

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