Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is an expansive archipelago consisting of 700 islands, cays and islets. Out of its 380,000-plus population, the majority (274,000) reside in the country’s capital and largest city, Nassau. English is the officially recognized language in the Bahamas, although an English-based Creole called Bahamianese is also prevalent. A former British colony, the Bahamas gained independence in 1973; eight years later, in 1981, it joined UNESCO.
The Bahamas Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) seeks to increase the skills and employability of all Bahamians. In this context, adult learning and education (ALE) has a relevant role to play. Although no official definition of ALE has been adopted by the country, the second Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE II) identified a variety of ALE programmes provided by several agencies and organizations. The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), for example, provides occupational training for a wide range of learners, from high-school graduates to adults engaged in further education. The BTVI accommodates more than 1,500 learners both full- and part-time, preparing them to enter the labour market. Lifelong learning opportunities are also available through the College of the Bahamas (currently the University of the Bahamas), which offers distance-learning courses on various subjects including personal and professional development, family education, and languages. In 2016, 594 students graduated from the college, of which 77 per cent were female.
While MoEST regulates the Bahamas’ educational institutions and services, other ministries also contribute to the delivery of learning and development opportunities. These include the Ministry of National Security, which oversees education programmes for prisoners; the Ministry of Health, which develops educational initiatives in the areas of health and well-being; and the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, which is in charge of the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI). BAMSI offers academic and technical teaching and training in the fields of agriculture and management of marine resources; in this way, it hopes to support the national economy of the country through the stimulation of entrepreneurship and community development. Another initiative – the Ministry for Youth, Sports and Culture’s 15-week ‘Fresh Start Programme’ – offers practical subjects such as welding and general maintenance to help young people aged 16-25 develop the skills needed to succeed in the job market. In 2016, 70 young men and women successfully completed training and were awarded certificates; 90 young people are currently enrolled in the 2017 programme.
Despite these achievements, however, increased advocacy for and coordination of ALE programmes at local and regional levels are needed to enhance the provision of ALE in general in the Bahamas, while more innovative approaches such as the use of social media will enable ALE services to reach a wider audience. A more effective system of ALE, and a stronger will for ALE from both politicians and learners, will hopefully build a more sustainable future for the Bahamas.
UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. 2013. Follow-up of CONFINTEA VI: Reporting template for national progress reports in preparation of the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) and the end of the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD). National progress report submitted by the Government of The Bahamas. Hamburg, UIL. Available at: http://www.uil.unesco.org/fileadmin/download/en/national-reports/latin-america-and-caribbean/Bahamas.pdf [Accessed 5 May 2017].
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2017. Bahamas. [Website] Available at: http://uis.unesco.org/country/BS [Accessed 5 May 2017].