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.
Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceBarbados - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education