Education in Barbados
Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training [2]

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training
Hon. Kay McConney MP
National education budget (2015–16)
General details
Primary languagesEnglish
System typeNational
Compulsory education1890 (Education Act of 1890)
Literacy (2014[4])
Enrollment (2015-16)
Total46 812
Primary20 148
Secondary20 370
Post secondary13 420+[5]
Secondary diploman/a
Post-secondary diploman/a
Total enrolment includes pre-primary and special education.

Education in Barbados is based primarily on the British model.


Universal access to primary and secondary education dates from at least the 1960s.[6] The literacy rate in Barbados for youth and adults are both above 99%, only falling to 98.5 among the elderly. The literacy gender parity rate is 1.0. This information is for 2014.

Starting in 2000, the government initiated the Education Sector Enhancement Programme, usually referred to as EduTech 2000. This USD 213 million project was financed by the Government of Barbados (45%), the Inter-American Development Bank (40% and the Caribbean Development Bank (15%).[7] This initiative provided for four key improvements: (a) repairs to 73 of the public primary and secondary school buildings; (b) new units established by the Ministry to support new teaching methodologies, including the Shell Media Resources Review Center, the National Educational Evaluation and Research Centre (at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill), and a Programme office within the Ministry; enhancements to the technological availability (new computers, software and networking); (d) in-service training for all teachers in technology integration, child-centred methodologies, and special needs education; and (e) curricular reform to respond to changes in Barbados society. The key conceptual foundations for the initiative are constructivism and child-centred education. Most of the in-service training was provided by Erdiston Teachers' Training College.[6][7]

History of Education in Barbados

During Barbados' pre-emancipation era (1807-1833), the abolition of the slave trade spurred efforts to educate slaves. These efforts, aimed at immediate amelioration and preparation for freedom, underscored the importance of "civilizing and Christianizing" the slave population through education. Despite resistance from planters, Bishop William Hart Coleridge and others established day and Sunday schools, emphasizing moral and religious instruction. Post-emancipation, educational expansion continued with British government support through existing missionary societies into the 1840s, aiming to provide moral and religious instruction to the newly emancipated population.[8]

Student Progression in Barbados

In Barbados, the educational journey for children typically begins at primary school, commencing at the age of 5 and continuing until around 11 years old. The primary school curriculum provides a foundational education covering various subjects and skills necessary for further academic development. Upon reaching approximately 11 years of age, typically at the culmination of Class 4, students undertake the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE), commonly referred to as the "Common Entrance Examination." This standardized test evaluates students' academic abilities and determines their placement into secondary schools across the island. The secondary school phase of education in Barbados spans from ages 11 to either 16 or 18, depending on the specific school and educational pathway chosen by the student. During this period, students delve deeper into specialized subjects, preparing for external examinations such as the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, which typically occur at the end of the secondary education cycle.[9]

The Introduction of the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE)

In 1959, Barbados saw the introduction of the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE), also known as the Common Entrance Examination (CEE). This standardized test was implemented to allocate placements in secondary schools across the island and marked a significant development in the educational system.[9]

During the post-independence era, especially from the late 1960s, there was a notable increase in the demand for secondary education among the general population. However, the existing number of secondary school spaces was insufficient to meet this rising demand. As a result, the BSSEE was introduced to address this challenge.[9]


As of 2015–16, there are:[3]

5 tertiary- or vocational-level institutions
1 central administrative agency, Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, including inter alia

School Year

The Barbadian school year is fashioned after the British system, and as such, it follows a scheduling with three terms per school year.

The first term begins the second week of September and continues for 15 weeks adjourning in mid-December excluding one week for Mid Term Break in Mid-October. The second Term begins in the first week of January and continues for 12 weeks ending the end of March. The final Third Term begins mid-April and continues for 11 weeks until the end of June.

The School Holiday period is 9 to 10 weeks long from the end of June until the first week of September.

Education is provided free of charge and is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16, and attendance is strictly enforced.[10] In 1991, the gross primary enrollment rate was 90.4 percent.[10] During his tenure as Prime Minister, The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow introduced free education in Barbados, ensuring that all children had access to schooling regardless of their background. He also implemented a school meals service in 1963, providing nutritious meals to students.


Education Investment and Technology Upgrades in Barbados

It was reported that Barbados has spent roughly US$15 billion on Education since Independence in 1966. In 2006 during the inaugural Cecil F. deCaires Memorial Lecture at the Frank Collymore Hall, the former Central Bank Governor Sir Courtney Blackman remarked that between 1966 and 2000 successive Governments (of Barbados) had spent US$15 billion on education costs – "a remarkable investment for such a small state".[12]

In 2009, Ronald Jones as the Minister of Education and Human Resource Development said the Barbados government spent $290 million to upgrade the schools with information technology. Given this Jones said the ministry would be entering a grading processes for schools on their usage of the technology using a scale of 1 to 6.[13]


  1. ^ Government of Barbados Information Network: $1/2 BILLION SPENT ON EDUCATION[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Bend, Katrina (2008-12-13). "Edu-upgrade on the cards". Nation Newspaper. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009. Thompson noted $1/2 billion is spent on education in Barbados each year and government wants to increase and update this field as a tool for the country's development of Barbados. "We spend in Barbados, a 1/2 billion dollars a year on education, therefore we want to make sure that the money does not prevent any child in our country from realising his or her potential. "Every child in Barbados has access to primary, secondary and tertiary education. The participation rate at the first two levels, that is primary and secondary, is 100 per cent, while enrolment in tertiary institution is about a quarter per cent." Thompson said the overall effect of the country's investment in education is at a general standard, but it has improve significantly.
  3. ^ a b "2015-16 Statistics on Education in Barbados at a glance". Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ Estimate for Barbados, from [1], CIA World Factbook
  5. ^ "About the Ministry". Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs & Sports, Barbados. c. 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
  6. ^ a b Parris, Barbara (2000). "A Reform Initiative: The Barbadian Experience" (PDF). ERIC. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  7. ^ a b Brief on the GOB/IDB/CDB Education Sector Enhancement Programme. Bridgetown, Barbados: Government of Barbados. 2001-11-23.
  8. ^ Blouet, Olwyn M. (1980). "To Make Society Safe for Freedom: Slave Education in Barbados, 1823-33". The Journal of Negro History. 65 (2): 126–134. doi:10.2307/2717051. ISSN 0022-2992.
  9. ^ a b c Pilgrim, Marcia; Hornby, Garry; Inniss, Tara (2018). "Selective Secondary School Education In Barbados: The Need For Change". Journal of International and Comparative Education. 7 (2).
  10. ^ a b "Barbados" Archived 2008-09-05 at the Wayback Machine. Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2001). Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor (2002). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ nationnews (2012-01-21). "In honour of Barrow". Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  12. ^ Alleyne, David (2006-07-02). "NO WAY OUT". Nation Newspaper. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2009. THE DAYS OF FULL GOVERNMENT FUNDING for university education in Barbados is all but over. This is the prediction of former Central Bank Governor Sir Courtney Blackman. Speaking at the inaugural Cecil F. deCaires Memorial Lecture at Frank Collymore Hall on Wednesday night, Sir Courtney said few nations outstrip Barbados' spending to make education affordable. He said between 1966 and 2000 successive Governments had spent US$15 billion on education costs - "a remarkable investment for such a small state". "Government has begun to feel the fiscal burden of one of the world's most extravagant commitments to education," he said.
  13. ^ "Schools to be graded on computer use". CBC. Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-08-14. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 16 August 2009. Some 290 million dollars has been spent equipping schools with the relevant technologies but Minister of Education and Human Resource Development Ronald Jones says he is not yet satisfied with the use of information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools in Barbados. Although millions of dollars have been invested in education hardware and software upgrades, Education Minister Ronald Jones says many schools across the island are not fully using the systems. He says schools across the island will soon receive a one to six certification grade based on how well they use the technologies available in the administrative and teaching processes. "If you are just simply using it for administrative purposes you might end up with a grade 1. "THE highest point is where the full and total integration, where students are using it in the production of their work."

See also