The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, an archipelago of predominantly narrow, low-lying islands, spreads over some 100,000 square miles in the western Atlantic Ocean just south of Florida. The total land area is approximately 5,350 square miles. There are twenty-two (22) inhabited islands, and transportation between the islands is often by air, although frequent use is also made of the inter-island mail boat services. The Department of Education in The Bahamas is, therefore, faced with the task of providing education for a school population scattered over wide areas.
The summer months are often hot and humid. Hurricanes or tropical storms have been known to frequent the area. The conditions imposed by the geography of the country are therefore very different from those to which many non-Bahamian teachers are accustomed. Moreover, conditions in the two (2) most heavily populated islands, namely New Providence and Grand Bahama, differ in many respects from those prevailing in the other islands.
By comparison with North America, living costs are high and accommodation is expensive. In the Family Islands, accommodation for teachers is subsidized by the Government. Teachers from the United Kingdom and North America should be prepared for a different lifestyle from that experienced in their respective countries.
The Ministry of Education has responsibility for all educational institutions in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The primary level covers Pres-School and grades one to six (1 - 6), after which pupils transfer to the Junior High level (grades 7 - 9) and then to Senior High (grades 10 - 12). These levels are fairly distinct in Department of Education schools in New Providence with slight variations in Family Island schools, where some All-Age schools remain.
Schools are categorized as follows:
3 to 5 years
5 to 11+ years
11+ to 14+ years
14+ to 16+ years
All - Age
5+ to 16+ years
All ages, catering to students having severe learning disabilities
There are two hundred and six (206) schools (including pre-schools) in the school system of The Bahamas - one hundred and sixty one (161) are fully maintained by Government and forty-five (45) are independent schools. Of the one hundred and sixty-one Government schools, fifty (50) are situated on New Providence and one hundred and eleven (111) are in the Family Islands.
To provide all persons in The Bahamas an opportunity to receive an education that will equip them with the necessary knowledge, skills, beliefs and attitudes required for work and life in a democratic, Christian society.
PHILOSOPHY AND BELIEF STATEMENTS
Education in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is the principal vehicle for promoting the development of individuals and the nation as a whole. It is essential to enhancing the quality of life of our people.
It reflects our nation's ideals, values, beliefs and customs. It affirms that all human beings have an undeniable right to an education, one that will enable them to understand their privileges and responsibilities in the community.
Its specific focus is to prepare youth to become active citizens who will become a caring and compassionate people, and who, as life long learners, will continue to improve the quality of life for themselves and others.
Hence, the philosophy, which under girds the education policies and informs the provision of education, formal and non-formal in The Bahamas, is grounded in the following principles. :
a. A belief in the intrinsic worth of every human being and the protection of human rights;
b. A belief that all people should have the right to an education which fosters a sense of self-worth and an improved quality of life that will enable them to be fulfilled at all stages of their lives;
c. A conviction that educators, parents, students, young adults and the wider community must share with the government the responsibility for the success of the educational enterprise.
d. An uncompromising commitment to the pursuit of excellence by teachers, trainers, learners and all who are associated with these educational enterprises;
e. A belief in the ability of the teaching/learning process to unlock and draw out the fullest potential of the individual;
f. A belief in the value of the differing gifts and aptitudes of individuals, and in the importance of these differences in an inter-dependent society;
g. An appreciation of the significance and value of the rich diversity of The Bahamas and its people, and of the responsibility of the educational process to reflect and respond to that diversity; with tolerance and understanding;
h. An appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of The Bahamas;
i. A recognition of the obligation of all citizens to contribute positively to their society, and of their right to enjoy its benefits;
j. A commitment to those qualities which are recognized in the preamble to the Constitution of The Bahamas as being essential to the preservation of the freedom of our people:
"self-discipline, loyalty, unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of law "
k. A belief in those principles of democracy upon which our
independent nation was established and which ought to be
reflected in all aspects of the education process; and
l. A recognition of The Bahamas as part of a wider world community which it must value and with which it must interact productively;
GOALS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
To ensure that all persons in the commonwealth of The Bahamas develop physically, mentally, socially and spiritually in order to function responsibly and productively in an increasingly, dynamic, scientific, technological and complex society.
To achieve the primary goal of the Department of Education, the following sub-goals have been established.
1. To provide high quality teaching/learning experiences which foster functional literacy, promote tolerance, discipline and responsibility; and meet the academic and vocational needs of all persons.
ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT
2. To strengthen the capacity of the Department to plan, manage and evaluate the education system more effectively making it more responsive to national/global development.
HUMAN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
3. To provide opportunities for professional growth, foster teamwork, strengthen communication and establish competency within the Department workforce and throughout the community.
4. To strengthen linkages at the national, regional and international levels to promote the development of the education system and youth programmes.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
5. To provide an integrated approach to Information Communication Technology, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative process and to support and enhance educational programmes.
PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION OF CULTURAL PROPERTIES
6. To preserve and make accessible the literary, documentary and cultural heritage of The Bahamas and promote literacy for all.
DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATION
Up to 1945, the progress of education in The Bahamas was closely tied to that of the economy. Periods of economic prosperity saw attendant progress in education, while lack of progress or even regression was, in part, the result of economic stagnation. Additionally, the period was characterized by the existence of poorly equipped teachers and the non-existence of a system for upgrading teaching skills. The late 1950's saw the development of tourism and with it some advances in education.
A positive step was taken to improve teacher training in 1950 with the opening of a Teachers' Training College. However, this was short-lived and the College closed its doors in 1957. Teachers were then sent to the United Kingdom for training. A new Teachers' College was established in 1961. The establishment of The Training College was one of the many recommendations of the 1958 Houghton Report, which also led to the passing of the 1962 Education Act.
Internal self-government was achieved in 1964 and in 1967 majority rule was ushered in. This political change had far-reaching effects on the development of education. With the achievement of full internal self-government in 1964, the Government embarked upon a determined course of assessment and reassessment of its educational system by local and foreign experts. The Hope Report of 1968 considered the development of secondary education in The Bahamas; the Leys Report of 1968 examined the development of The College of The Bahamas; and the Williams Report of 1969 produced a document on the future direction of technical education in The Bahamas.