The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a chain of 700 islands and 2400 cays off the coast of Florida. The islands were first inhabited by the Arawaks who were there when Christopher Columbus landed on the Bahamian island of San Salvador in 1492. After the Spanish left, the Arawaks were sent into slavery on the island of Hispaniola (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic) and Cuba. In 1647, English settlers from Bermuda arrived, and, by 1717, the Bahamas was a British crown colony. In 1973, the Bahamas gained independence from the United Kingdom, but remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The first schools in The Bahamas were founded by Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists and Catholics. In 1878, primary school became compulsory for all. Until the first public secondary school (Government High School) opened in 1925, secondary schools were private, run mainly by religious groups, and open only to the elite. In the early 1960s, there were many educational reforms, the most significant of which was the creation of their Ministry of Education in 1964. The first teachers' college opened in 1964, and an Act of Parliament created the College of the Bahamas in 1974. The Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced in 1993 to replace the General Certificate of Education that was administered by examining authorities in the United Kingdom.
Primary and Secondary Education
Compulsory education is from ages 5 to 16. Primary education begins at age 6 and lasts 6 years. Following completion, students sit for the Grade Level Assessment Test (GLAT). Junior secondary is 3 years, from ages 11 to 14. Following completion of junior secondary, students sit for the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC). Senior secondary is 2 years and students sit for the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) following completion. Students who wish to continue on to university studies complete 2 additional years of senior secondary that prepares them to sit for the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level) examination that is administered by examining authorities in the United Kingdom.
Post-secondary education is offered by The College of the Bahamas which offers both associate and bachelor's degree program. Some master's degrees are offered through joint programs with U.S. institutions. The College has 3 campuses; the main campus, Oakes Field, is located near the city of Nassau and houses the main administrative offices. The College's Bahamas Tourism Training Centre hosts the University of the West Indies Hotel Management program. Admission to The College of the Bahamas requires 5 BGCSE passes with grades of A - C. Associate degree programs at The College of the Bahamas require at least 60 credits and bachelor degree program require at least 120 credits. Diploma programs are also available to students who hold a bachelor's degree and require at least 30 credits. Students who have completed GCE A-Levels can apply for admission to the University of the West Indies which has a representative in Nassau.