Living in the Bahamas?
Education and Culture in the Bahamas
Starting a Big Adventure: Going to School
In the Bahamas, children begin primary education at the age of five. After six years, they move on to secondary education which lasts for another five years. Throughout these five years, kids attend a three-year junior high school course, followed by a two-year senior high school course. While education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16, most kids in the Bahamas also attend some sort of preschool.
After successfully finishing secondary education, students may attend the College of the Bahamas or any other institute which offers tertiary education. Since the 1960s, the Bahamas have been affiliated with the University of the West Indies, a popular higher education institution for many in the Caribbean. Public education is provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture and is free of charge. In all government-maintained schools, classes are taught in English.
Issues with Public Education
There are certainly pros and cons to choosing public over private education. After all, public education is freely available to children of all ages and this system, run by the Ministry of Education and Culture, has resulted in a literacy rate of over 95% among the population. Unfortunately, the public education system has lost much of its quality throughout the last few years. Many have criticized the government’s increasing involvement and are calling for reform in both the structure and funding of public education.
This is, of course, not to say that all public schools in the Bahamas are lacking. The Out Islands in particular offer some good quality secondary education. However, you should make sure to visit different schools in advance, gather information on their educational programs, and talk to other expat parents. Only then can you make an informed decision.
International Schools in the Bahamas
There are many private schools in the Bahamas, including three international schools which offer the International Baccalaureate program:
- Lucaya International School, Freeport
- Lyford Cay International School, Nassau
- St. Andrew’s International School, Nassau
There are several other private schools on the Bahamas (e.g. Summit Academy, Queen’s College), the majority of which are faith schools. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that almost all of these schools are in Nassau, so if you live elsewhere your child may have to commute.
The Bahamian Culture
The Bahamas’ unique culture comes from centuries of merging African and Caribbean influences with those of their British colonists and has resulted in a rich and colorful form of self-expression. A perfect example of this is Junkanoo, a parade and festival of music and dance that takes place every Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day (1 January) through the streets of the islands. It features elaborate costumes and dancing to the music of cowbells and goatskin drums, and is unmissable if you are lucky enough to be in the Bahamas at that time.
Music is also a huge part of the culture and the styles of Goombay and Rake and Scrape are native to the islands and enjoy huge popularity. Other forms of regional Caribbean music, such as calypso and reggae, are also widely heard. Another interesting facet of Bahamian culture is the lasting British influence, one example of which is the tradition of the Change of the Guards. This is held every second Saturday of the month in honor of Queen Elizabeth II.
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