K-12 Education System of Barbados

The Ministry of Education administers education system in Barbados. The Ministry of Education manages all educational programmes and activities, and makes educational policies. 

K-12 Educational Levels

The school education in Barbados is divided into three levels:

Pre-school education: Children aged 3 to 5 years attend nursery schools

Primary education: Children aged 5 to 11 years attend primary schools

Secondary education: Children aged 11 to 16 years attend secondary schools

Compulsory Education

In Barbados, compulsory education lasts for 11 years. Education is mandatory for children aged 5 to 16 years. 

Understanding the Barbados K-12 Education System

Pre-school Education

Pre-school education is provided to children between the ages 3 to 5 and is optional. It is offered in nursery units within public primary schools and in 4 traditional nursery schools. The main aim is the overall development of the child’s personality by extending the pattern of informal education. Reading, writing, art and craft, block building, creative and science corner are being emphasized on.  
  • Duration: 2 years

Primary Education

This level of education is compulsory to attend in Barbados. At this educational level, reading, writing and problem solving skills are instilled into the students. Students aged 5 to 7 pursue an early childhood education (ECE) programme; while students aged 8-11 follow a regular primary school curriculum.

Students at the end of the primary education are required to undertake a Barbados secondary school entrance examination (BSSEE) or common entrance examination.  It is an examination in mathematics and English and passing of this examination leads to admittance into the secondary school. 
  • Ages: 5-11 
  • Duration: 6 years
Curriculum: Covers following subjects
  • Mathematics
  • Language arts
  • Social studies
  • Moral and religious studies
  • General science
  • Music
  • Art
  • Spanish
  • Physical education
  • Health and family life education

Secondary Education

This level of education is mandatory to attend. This educational level focuses on developing the required skills and knowledge for future careers, as well as enhances the literacy, oracy and numeracy skills. 
  • Ages: 11-16
  • Duration: 5 years
The secondary education is provided by the government secondary schools as well as by government-assisted secondary schools. There are 23 government (public) secondary schools; out of which 20 are co-educational and 2 are single sex schools, and 7 government-assisted private secondary schools in Barbados. The fee varies. 

At the end of the studies, i.e. at the age of 16, students are required to take the Caribbean examination council (CXC) examinations. 
At the age of 18, students who pass the CXC can go for Caribbean Advanced Proficiency certificate (A-level) examinations and thus are eligible for higher education institutions in Barbados: 
  • The University of the West Indies 
  • Barbados Community College 
  • Erdiston Teacher's Training College 
  • Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity 
Admission requirements: Admission to the secondary schools is based on the performance in the Barbados secondary school entrance examination. Students under the age of 11 are required to take the examination.

Curriculum: Covers the following subjects:
  • Mathematics
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • History
  • Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
  • Business Studies
  • Information Technology
  • Agriculture Science
  • Geography
  • Languages (Spanish, French, Latin)
  • Visual Arts and Theatres Arts
  • Drama
  • Social Studies
  • Religious and moral education
  • Music
  • Home economics
  • Health education
  • Technical and vocational education
  • Physical education
  • Foreign language
Certificates awarded: Upon successful completion of secondary education, following qualifications are awarded to the students (depending upon the examination undertaken):
  • Barbados Secondary School Leaving Certificate 
  • Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate 
  • Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations 


Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC)

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is responsible for the provision of secondary school-leaving examinations in Barbados.

Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC)

Students after completion of secondary schooling may sit for the Caribbean secondary education certificate (CSEC) examinations, and this examination marks the end of standard secondary schooling in Barbados. 

Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE)

Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) examinations are taken by pupils who have finished their secondary school education and want to go for further studies. 

Academic Year

At all K-12 educational levels, the school year comprises of 39 weeks, split up into three terms-

Term 1 commences from the second week of September  and ends in mid-December
Term 2 begins from the second week of January and concludes in the first week of April
Term 3 begins in last week of April and concludes in the first week of July

Admission Requirements for International Students

International students who wish to attend a Barbadian school must have a valid student visa. Applications for student visas must be made directly to the Immigration Department. Students must submit the following to the Ministry of Education:
  • School records
  • Academic accomplishments and honors
  • Reading age
  • Social and emotional development
  • Special programmes/needs
A copy of the birth certificate and students’ immunization record must be submitted to the school. 

Special Needs Education

Barbados also provides special needs education to children who are hearing or visually impaired, or mentally handicapped. Many facilities are also offered to integrate special needs children into main stream schools.
Currently, special needs education is provided in following public primary schools:
  • Hilda Skeene Primary
  • Erdiston Primary 
  • All Saints Primary
  • St. Matthews Primary 
  • Charles F. Broome Primary 
  • Ellerton Primary 
  • St. Stephen's Primary
  • Eagle Hall Primary 
Children who are visually or hearing impaired may attend The Irving Wilson School, while the Ann Hill School is for the children aged 11-16 having global developmental delays and other disabilities.

Special Education Institutions

  • The Irving Wilson School 
  • Government Industrial School
  • The Edna Nicholls Centre
  • The Ann Hill School
  • The Schoolhouse for Special Needs

Grading System

Caribbean Examination Council (Secondary Education Certificate)

 Grade Grade Grade DescriptionUS Grade 
 I A Outstanding A
 II B Good B
 III C Fairly Good D
 IV D  D
 V E  D
 VI F Poor F

Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE)

 Grade Grade Grade Description US Grade
 I A Excellent performance A+
 II AVery good standard of performance A
 IIIC Good standard of performance B
 IV D Satisfactory standard of performance C
 V C Acceptable level of performance C
 VI F Weak performance D
 VII G Unsatisfactory performance F

Common Grading System in Secondary Schools

 Grade description Division US Grade
 First class honours  A
 Second class honours Upper division A-minus-/B+
 Second class honours Lower division B
 Pass  C
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