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Barbados to improve secondary and post-secondary education with IDB assistance

Program backed by $20 million loan will also help youth develop skills to access jobs

The Inter-American development Bank (IDB) has approved a $20 million loan to help Barbados improve secondary and post-secondary education and ensure that graduates develop skills needed to either pursue further education or enter the labor market.

An exemplar among Latin American and Caribbean countries, Barbados has achieved universal access to primary and secondary schooling, with high completion and negligible dropout rates and outstanding tertiary level enrollment. However, it still faces challenges in terms of raising the quality of education and preparing its young people for the transition from school to work.

One key stepping stone on Barbados’ path to a better education is improving literacy and mathematics skills. Therefore, one of the main goals of the four-year program is to help boost the percentage of students passing secondary education completion exams in reading, writing and mathematics from 43 percent to 50 percent.

Another key goal is to ensure that at least 900 secondary students complete the A Ganar program.

The program, which has trained more than 6,000 youths aged 16 to 24 in 14 countries since 2005, combines sports, life skills and market-driven vocational training to improve young people’s employability. Evaluations show that 70 percent of participants obtain formal jobs, continue their education, or start a business within one year of completing the training.

A Ganar is also expected to help some 300 students over a three-year period gain entry to the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP). The program will target students who have failed the entry examination due to weak academic skills and give them a second chance to access the SJPP, which offers a variety of certificates of one year or less and two-year diploma courses.

Additionally, 5,650 unskilled workers will be trained and certified by the Competency-Based Training Fund, which promotes partnerships or alliances between the corporate sector and training institutions in Barbados. The program will also help at least 40 young people participate in a newly developed apprenticeship program in a service/white-collar business.

The loan is for a 25-year term, with a five-year grace period, and carries a variable interest rate based on LIBOR.

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