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  • Education in the Caribbean Part 1

Education in the Caribbean Part 1

05 April 2022

Education is an important process during which a person acquires knowledge, learns to interact, engages with the culture, and adopts the values of society.  In this report, we have focused on attention on four key regions in the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and the Netherlands Antilles.


Trinidad and Tobago

Education in Trinidad and Tobago is free and compulsory for children aged 5 to 16. Trinidad and Tobago are considered to be one of the most educated countries in the world with a literacy rate exceeding 98%. The level is provided through free education and training, ranging from kindergartens and other preparatory preschool institutions to universities.

The education system usually begins in preschool at the early age of two and a half years. This level of education is optional, but most residents begin their children's education at this stage, as children are expected to have basic reading and writing skills when they enter primary school. Pupils enter primary school at the age of five. In secondary school, students study for a minimum of five years and take a special National Certificate of Secondary Education (NCSE) exam in the third year of study. In the fifth year, children take another Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exam: students who get a passing score can study for two more years at school and take the more difficult Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). The organisation, processing of results and summarising the results of the examinations is carried out by the Caribbean Examinations Council.


British Virgin Islands

Education in the British Virgin Islands is mostly free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 17. There are a total of 15 public elementary schools and 4 secondary public schools in the British Virgin Islands. In addition to public schools, there are 10 primary private schools and 3 secondary private schools. The academic year runs from September to June. The British Virgin Islands are part of the British Overseas Territories so the education system is very similar to the traditional education system in the United Kingdom. Primary schools are focused on establishing the foundations of an academic curriculum and accept students aged 5 to 12. After completing primary school (seven years), students move on to secondary school (four years) and pre-university school (two years). The secondary school is for students aged 13 to 17. After completing secondary education, students can earn their Caribbean High School Diploma. Students who decide to continue their education after receiving a high school diploma can move on to an additional 2 years of study at the local Hamilton Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) or a foreign college or university of their choice.  Many choose to study either in the United States or the United Kingdom, however many also attend high quality tertiary education institutions such as the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) (in the US Virgin Islands, though there is also a campus in the British Virgin Islands) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) (with many campuses around the Caribbean).  Some of the Caribbean’s top legal and medical professionals have received their theoretical training at these institutions. At university, students can earn associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees from the departments of business, education, humanities and social sciences, and mathematics.



Education in the Bahamas is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 18. The literacy rate is 95.5%. The island has an Education Act, which was revised in 1996 and is overseen by the Prime Minister. Since 1996, the Education Act has stated that education is free for children between the ages of 5 and 16. The University of the Bahamas, founded in Nassau in 1974, offers programs leading to bachelor's and associate's degrees. Bahamian education includes primary, secondary, higher education, with the recent addition of preschools before these three levels. All education that is given to students in the Bahamas, along with their policies, is provided by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.

In the Bahamas, the Department of Education, Science and Technology is led by the Minister for Education and Technical and Vocational Training.. The Department oversees 158 of the 210 elementary and secondary schools in the Bahamas. The Minister of Education and Technical and Vocational Training strictly enforces policies and guidelines regarding private and public schools. He/she is assisted by the  Permanent Secretary and Director of Education who heads the Department of Education which is mainly responsible for the day to day running of all schools, ensuring that all procedures and protocol instructions are followed.

There are several colleges throughout the country that are open to students who wish further education. In 1974, one of the largest colleges in the Bahamas opened its doors offering degrees, certificates, and diplomas. By August 2016, Jerome Fitzgerald, President of the University's Academic Committee, announced that the College of the Bahamas was officially the University of the Bahamas.

The university states that its mission is to promote higher education for its students that will benefit them in all aspects of their careers. The University of the Bahamas is committed to building the commonwealth of its country.

Established in 1978, the Center for Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Bahamas is an integral part of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Mona University. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management. The Master's Degree in Hospitality Management is available in partnership with Florida International University. It also has campuses in Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica. The Government of the Bahamas makes a financial contribution to UWI.


Netherlands Antilles and Dutch Caribbean

The educational system in the Netherland Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Maarten) is based on the Netherlands system and provides an education at all levels. The government fully finances the national education system, and education here is free. There are also private schools, such as the International School of Aruba, which charge fees and are taught in English.

There are three types of general secondary education:

  • MAVO (Secondary General Secondary Education) with a duration of 4 years
  • HAVO (Higher General Secondary Education) with a duration of 5 years
  • VWO (pre-university education) lasting 6 years

The level of secondary education includes about ten public schools. In addition, there is another school that offers lower, basic vocational, and technical education.

Secondary vocational education includes: one public school with a 4-year secondary technical education, one public school three-year secretarial program and two private schools - the International School of Aruba and the Collegio Paso Sigur, a school of liberal arts.

The International School of Aruba has all levels of education, except for the higher - it provides education in English for students from preschool to grade 12. The school operates according to the US public school curriculum.

Higher education institutions include two educational institutions: the College of Education and the University of Aruba.

The University of Aruba offers a bachelor's degree (BA/BSc), or a master's degree (MA/MSc) in four different faculties:

  • Accounting and audit
  • Finance and Marketing
  • Tourism Management and Hospitality
  • Art and Science

Education is conducted in English, preliminary entrance exams can be taken in Aruba, USA or online.

The University of Curacao offers degrees in Law, Science and Medical Sciences. The University of Sint Maarten offers degrees in Human Sciences and Arts, being one of the most advanced Liberal Arts universities in the Caribbean.