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Apr 24, 2020

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Barbados is an island of 166 square miles in the North Atlantic Ocean northeast of Venezuela. It is part of the Lesser Antilles Islands chain. The population of Barbados is 280,946 and the literacy rate is 99.7%. Barbados has one of the highest standards of living and literacy rates in the world. 90% of the population is descended from slave laborers brought in by the British to work the sugar plantations. Other ethnic groups include Indians (Desi), Chinese, Syrians, and Lebanese, as well British, Canadian and US-Americans.

The first inhabitants of the islands were Amerindians from the area of present-day Venezuela who arrived in 350-400 BC. Arawaks from South America arrived in 800 AD and, in the 13th century, Caribs from South America and displaced Arawaks and Amerindians. In the late 16th century, Portuguese explorers arrived and stayed until 1610. They took the Caribs with them to work as slave laborers. The island was uninhabited when British explorers arrived in 1627 and started a settlement. Africans were brought to the island as slaves to work the sugar plantations. Slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1834. From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was a member of the West Indies Federation. The Federation was dissolved in 1962, and Barbados reverted to being a self-governing colony of Great Britain. Barbados gained independence on November 30, 1966.


Barbados has a long history of education. The first school was established in 1686. Schools were continually established throughout its time as a British colony. Currently, there are 83 public primary schools and 23 public secondary schools, as well as private primary and secondary schools. Barbado's education system is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Primary and Secondary Education

Education is free and compulsory from ages 5 to 15. Primary school is 6 years beginning at age 6. In their final year, usually in May or June, students sit for the Barbados Secondary Entrance Examination. Students are placed in secondary school based on their results on the examination and their rankings for their preference of school.

Secondary school is 5 years. Prior to the establishment of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) in 1972, at the end of secondary school (Form V), students were assessed using the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O-Level) which was administered by examination authorities in the United Kingdom. The CXC Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) replaced the GCE O-Level exam. Form VI is two years long and students have the choice of taking the CXC Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) or the GCE Advanced Level (GCE A-Level) exam upon completion.

Post-Secondary Education

There are 4 post-secondary institutions on Barbados:

  1. Barbados Community College: opened in 1969 and offers 1-year, certificate, 2-year diploma, associate's and bachelor's degree programs
  2. Erdiston Teachers' College: offers a two-year diploma in education program for primary and secondary school teachers.
  3. Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic: opened in 1972 and offers 1-year certificate and 2-year diploma programs in technical/vocational areas
  4. University of the West Indies: The Barbados (Cave Hill) campus opened in 1963. It offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral level programs.

Admission to post-secondary programs requires sufficient scores on the Caribbean Examinations Council Secondary Education Certificate. The 3-year bachelor's degree program at the University of the West Indies requires sufficient grades on the CXC Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) or the GCE Advanced Level (GCE A-Level).

Post-graduate programs are only offered at the University of the West Indies. Admission to the 1-year Postgraduate Diploma and the 2-year master's degree requires a bachelor's degree. Doctoral programs require a master's degree and are usually 3 years long and require a dissertation defense.



Upcoming AACRAO Events

Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

Fall 2020 | virtual conference

Join us this fall for a virtual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference - Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.

This three day, virtual conference will feature models for adapting to change, meeting challenges, and planning strategically post-pandemic.

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106th AACRAO Annual Meeting

March 28 - 31, 2021 | National Harbor, MD

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is our largest convening of higher education professionals from around the world. Join more than 2,000 administrators in person or online as we work to address the issues facing today’s campuses, share goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

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