KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI — For the past 60 years, the Bahamas has shown its deep dedication to improving education for its young people. By investing in programs and infrastructure, the country’s government has boosted literacy and attendance rates. The Bahamas has even begun to address social and economic challenges with its newly chartered university. For students ranging from age 5 to 18, the country is proving that education in the Bahamas is a flourishing priority.
The Bahamas gained its sovereignty in 1973 from British rule but began working to develop its education system prior to this. Since the late 1950s, education on the islands has improved steadily; whereas students once lacked textbooks and used slates and chalk for their lessons, they now enjoy the benefits of updated technology and decreased student-to-teacher ratios.
In the mid-twentieth century, Bahamian students faced significant challenges. These included lack of supplies, furniture, and educators, as the ratio of students to teachers often exceeded 40:1. The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), seeking to end these issues, effected major reforms with the installation of an independent government in 1967.
Under the revised Education Act of 1996, children in the Bahamas are guaranteed education from ages 5 to 16, with enrollment rates in preschool and post-secondary education steadily rising. Literacy rates are also high, with an overall average of 95.6 percent (94.7 percent male and 96.5 percent female).
The Bahamas marked another step forward during the 2014-2015 school year, when the nation introduced the National High School Diploma, thereby setting a standard for each student within the school system. In addition, education in the Bahamas has been keeping up with the technological world thanks to a recent two-year, five million dollar project. This project furnished both public and private learning institutions with computer labs, as well as technological training for teachers.
In 2007, the country launched an ambitious technical and vocational project, which provided education, training, and apprenticeship programs designed to strengthen students in fields of skill and trade. In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank issued the Bahamas two loans totaling $24 million, $7.5 million of which will be directed towards fighting poverty and improving education. The loan is expected to produce an overall increase in graduates and will be distributed to some of the poorest students in order to boost enrollment and attendance. The loan will increase the number of disadvantaged students receiving aid from 28 percent to 42 percent.
Of the 210 schools currently operating within the Bahamas, 158 are government-run, with the remaining 52 operated privately. Education comprises 20 percent of the country’s budget, and leaders have taken a proactive approach at utilizing it to help address national concerns. For example, the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute in North Andros focuses on addressing food security for the island. Simultaneously, it provides first-rate instruction in agriculture and marine science.
On Nov. 10, 2016, the island nation witnessed a milestone, as decades of commitment to education culminated in the chartering of the University of the Bahamas. With some government facilitation and strong dedication, education in the Bahamas has flourished and proven that it can keep up in a fast-paced world. With a continued passion for scholarship and the support of an active government that highly values learning, the students of the Bahamas have bright futures ahead of them.
– Emily Marshall