As Barbados enters the new millennium, numerous reforms of its educational system have focused on helping Barbados "compete in the global market economy on equal terms in the knowledge-based and skilled-intensive industries..." (White Paper). Although many improvements have already begun, certain areas of concern will continue to be addressed. Those areas of concern include:
- Teacher empowerment designed to raise morale through incentives, new appraisal systems, upgrading of training opportunities, and establishment of a Teachers' Commission
- Curriculum reform through the establishment of a Curriculum Development Council to consider key issues like composition of the curriculum, student performance, and the need to establish attainment targets at each level of the national curriculum
- Special education, including better identification of children in need of special education services, upgraded curriculum, additional teacher training, expansion of public awareness programs, and trying to secure grant financing to support special education programs in the private sector
- Early childhood education (ECE) expansion in existing public primary schools through an acceleration of teacher training in ECE, an increase in production and dissemination of ECE curriculum materials, and use of parents as teacher aides
- Primary education focus on the main factors that impact on student learning through initial screening of primary school children for physical impairments of sight, hearing and speech; teacher training to detect emotional problems; and diagnostic testing on a national scale at ages seven and nine
- Senior and composite schools curriculum reform to meet more appropriately the educational life preparation needs of students who obtain very low scores in the Barbados Secondary Schools' Entrance Examination (BSSEE)
- National certification to provide evidence that the holder of the certificate has satisfactorily completed an approved program of secondary education and attained an acceptable level of competency in a set of subjects
- Assisted private schools government support through financing of teachers of remedial education and a subvention for introduction of information technology, along with strengthened supervision from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture
- Children-at-risk problems to be met through appointment of two additional education psychologists to the Ministry, greater training for guidance counselors, and a new option in the out-of-school suspension program where students report to specified locations for remedial and counseling services
- Sixth form schools curriculum expansion to include technical-vocational education, business education, and aesthetics, and establishment of a committee to review all pupil applications to ensure equitable access
- Tertiary education initiatives to rationalize and accelerate the provision and quality of education that include establishing an advisory committee to the Minister on delivery of tertiary education and coordination and articulation of programs and management of postsecondary education; creating by statute a national accreditation and certification body to deal with accreditation matters at both the secondary and tertiary levels and for private and public sector bodies; specific measures to expand access to the various postsecondary institutions, including Barbados Community College (BCC), Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), participation in the adult and continuing education programs, and the use of distance education as a relevant tool; an advisory committee to help government keep its word and not charge tuition fees at the aforementioned institutions
- Institutional strengthening through the launching of a Barbados/Inter-American Bank (IDB) Education Project designed to address organizational and management weaknesses
- Financing education by instituting fiscal incentives to encourage community groups and the private sector to participate in the general maintenance of schools in an "Adopt-a-School" program
Perhaps the most pressing concern for Barbados in the future will be the rising costs of providing education to its citizens in this competitive world. However, the government remains committed to maintaining excellence in its educational system and to the belief that placing a premium on the education of its citizens will result in social, economic, and political growth.
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—Bonnie W. Epstein
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