IDB report highlights deficiencies in The Bahamas’ education system for 21st century skills

IDB report highlights deficiencies in The Bahamas’ education system for 21st century skills

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A recently released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has highlighted the extremely low levels of learning in both math and science among Bahamian students as an indication that they lack the necessary skills to prepare them for success in the fields of science and technology. The report notes that the country’s education system “does not equip students with 21st-century skills.”

The Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) newly released 2024-2028 country strategy for The Bahamas noted that education outcomes in The Bahamas are not up to the standards of other high-income countries, and the disruptions provoked by the pandemic likely exacerbated the problem.

The report noted that primary and secondary education enrollment has decreased in the last decade, with net enrollment for primary education falling from 80.4 percent to 74.2 percent. In contrast, it dropped even further for secondary education, from 79.8 to 62.5 percent.

“In 2019/2020, only 59 percent of students who completed the necessary coursework obtained a high school diploma. Data from Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations in grade 12 show that many students from public secondary schools are failing to acquire the minimum expected competencies, including in the basic core disciplines of English and Math,” the report noted.

It added, “This trend is also observed in earlier grades: the results of the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations in grade 9 show that from 2016 to 2020, on average, more than 30 percent of the students sitting for the exams failed to achieve the expected competency level in the subjects. Additionally, the extremely low level of learning in science and math indicates that Bahamian students currently do not have the skills necessary to prepare themselves to be successful in the field of science and technology. Furthermore, the education system does not equip the students with 21st-century skills. Academic shortcomings start showing up in primary school and are not effectively tackled early on, which has a cumulative effect through time.”

This issue impacts the workforce, as the IDB report noted that half the companies interviewed in the Innovation, Firm Performance, and Gender (IFPG) survey considered that the workforce is not adequately educated and would benefit from strengthening education and skills, representing an obstacle for business operations.

“In 2019/2020, only 59 percent of Bahamian students obtained a high school diploma, though that figure was up from 53 percent the year prior (PMDU 2020). The workforce with tertiary education represents 31 percent of the total, and the unemployment rate of that workforce segment is 4 percent. Those with complete secondary education account for 57 percent of the total workforce, and unemployment stands at 11 percent. The remainder of the workforce, with incomplete secondary education at most, faces the highest unemployment rate, at 18 percent. These figures point to an excess of workers with not enough education. In addition, digital skill upgrading, on-the-job training, and the resolution of information asymmetries could also improve labor market outcomes,” the report noted.