|Official Country Name:||Bermuda|
|Region:||North & Central America|
Discovered by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez in 1503, Bermuda, known as "the isle of devils," inspired the setting for Shakespeare's The Tempest because of its treacherous seas and reefs. Bermuda is the oldest English-speaking settlement in the Western Hemisphere; as a result of the slave trade, however, 60 percent of Bermudans have African ancestors. A self-governing, parliamentary British colony since 1620, Bermuda is ruled by executive and judicial branches and a legislature that was strengthened in 1968. The British monarch is Chief of State.
For children ages five to sixteen, education, conducted in English, is compulsory in only 1 of 24 free government schools or 6 tuition-based private schools, which are modeled on the British system. There are no local boarding schools in Bermuda. School uniforms are required in all public and private schools. The school year for Bermuda's 6,500 students lasts 10 months, starting in September. In the 1990s a major restructuring resulted in the creation of 18 primary schools (grades 1-6), 5 middle schools (7-9), and 2 senior schools (10-13). Bermuda High School for Girls (with 650 enrollees) is the island's only all-girls school.
The American Head Start program inspired Bermuda's preprimary education curriculum. In more than 40 daycare and preschool facilities, children develop social skills while learning and playing. The new middle school and senior secondary curricula include such vital enrichments as the visual and performing arts and business/technology instruction. Special needs children are mainstreamed. The average class size is 24 students, but the pupil-teacher ratio is 13:1 including all professional staff. Public school students take the Bermuda Secondary School Certificate exam (BSSC); private school students take the British General Certificate in Secondary Education exam (GCSE). Those who earn the GCSE are eligible to enter grade 11 or 12 at an American school or to matriculate for an associate degree at Bermuda College.
A 20 percent annual increase in the number of home schooled children reflects some families' desires to avoid traditional schoolroom distractions for their children. Before they leave public school, however, home schooled students are tested to determine their grade level. Because no alternative school exists, a program is planned for "at risk" adolescents since 435 high school students dropped out in 1994.
Due to import duties, customs fees, and licensing costs, Bermuda has the highest Internet fees in the Western Hemisphere. Nevertheless, in 1999 Bermuda's Education Ministry, in concert with the University of Virginia and Stanford University, initiated a Technology Infusion Project, the first phase of which was to train Bermuda's teachers through video-conferencing and collaborative learning. Middle school and primary school students were to receive their computer training in 2000 and 2001. So serious is Bermuda about integrating technology and education that faculty trained in technology education earn academic certification. Moreover, recognizing that business has a vital stake in education's future, Bermuda's Corporate Partnership Program infuses scholarship money and business expertise into schools.
As of 2001 Bermuda College had about 4,000 students and 75 full-time faculty; it offered 10 associate degree and fifteen certificate programs in arts and science, hotel/business management, technology, and continuing education. Since there is no degree-granting university in Bermuda (although plans are underway to expand Bermuda College to a four-year institution), students may transfer abroad to obtain a baccalaureate degree. Many secondary graduates attend higher education in the United States, Canada, and Europe. American universities usually require Bermudans to take the SAT; many who transfer to universities in the United Kingdom study law. The National Education Guarantee Scheme, begun in 1994, promises loans to any Bermuda-born student with university potential.
Bermuda's Ministry of Education is responsible for all school programs. Its structure includes a comptroller, permanent secretary, chief education officer, and personnel director, as well as directors of curriculum, schools, student services, and early childhood, each of whom reports to the minister of education.
Bermuda College and the Community Education Development Program offer extensive adult education—non-credit courses related to technology, recreation, and personal development. Such private sector initiatives as the Seniors' Learning Centre and the Bermuda Biological Station for Research deliver additional continuing education services.
The Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) represents all 713 public school teachers. In 1996 Bermuda's teachers were required to upgrade their education. Fitchburg State College offered the M.Ed. degree through distance learning. In 2000 Bermuda College began a Centre for Education to promote and ensure qualified professional development and adult education; two of the Centre's constituent entities, The Teacher Education Institute and Educational Outreach Initiative, support ongoing teacher training and assist local teachers with core subjects.
Although Bermuda has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, Bermuda College reported in 2000 that some 70 percent of its applicants did not meet academic standards due in part to social problems and lack of family discipline; poor workplace skills, dropouts, and lagging technical training were also concerns. To its credit, Bermuda began addressing its declining educational standards in the late 1990s by enacting stronger secondary graduation requirements, smaller primary class size, updated technology integration into the classroom, and more teacher training.
Bermuda Online. "Education in Bermuda at all schools." Welcome to Bermuda, 2001. Available from http://bermuda-online.org/educate.htm.
Boultbee, Paul G., and David F. Raine. Bermuda. Oxford, England: Clio Press, 1998.
Ziral, James, and Liz Jones. "Education and Child Care." Insider's Guide to Bermuda, 2nd Edition, 2000. Available from http://www.insiders.com/bermuda/maineducation.htm.
—Howard A. Kerner