A distinct competitive advantage of Barbados is its excellent human resources. Barbados' world class educational system produces a highly skilled, English-speaking work force comprising approximately 138,900 people (Barbados Statistical Service).
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In the UN Human Development Index 2019, the country ranks 5th in the Americas and 56th in the world in respect of educational attainment, as measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level.
Education is based on the British model and is compulsory for children from age 5 to 16 years old. The government provides free primary, secondary and undergraduate university education for nationals. This means that approximately 20% of government’s annual budget is dedicated to expenditure on education. There are also private schools, which provide education on a fee-paying basis.
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Children generally begin their primary education within one of the 73 run government schools or 20 privately run schools, at the age of four (Source: Ministry of Education, Technological & Vocational Training). Between the ages of 10-12, children take the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination to enter any of the island’s secondary schools.
Secondary education is provided for children between the ages of 11-18 years. There are twenty-one Government secondary schools, most of which are co-educational and ten private secondary schools (Source: Ministry of Education, Technological & Vocational Training). Students sit the Caribbean Examination Council examinations at age 16, the equivalent of the British General Certificate of Education, and are tested in a number of academic and technical courses. Students can continue on in some schools and sit the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Certificate after two years – this is also the equivalent of the British Advanced Level Certificate.
The government of Barbados embarked on an extensive computerisation programme within the primary and secondary schools, to ensure that students are well skilled in Information Technology. The objective of this programme was to enable students to develop inquiring and creative minds, as well as to develop a workforce that is skilled in information technology.
The presence of several tertiary and training institutions provides the workforce with opportunities to continuously upgrade its skills. Barbados is home to a campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), which has partnerships with universities in the US, Canada, Europe and China. Other government owned tertiary institutions include The Barbados Community College which offers Associate Degree programmes in academic, vocational and technical areas; The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology which provides students with the necessary technical and vocational training that would equip them with the skills necessary to be part of a highly trained workforce and the Erdiston’s Teachers College which provides training for non-graduate and graduate teachers at both Certificate and Diploma level.