The Barbados Government has allocated $489 million for the education sector this year, which includes significant investment in the development of early childhood education.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones announced during the Estimates debate that six nursery schools would be constructed over the next 24 months.
The first will be sited at Gall Hill No 2, Church Hill Road, Christ Church and the second at Oldbury, St Phillip.
In addition, a new facility will be constructed to replace the Government Hill Nursery School on the former site of the Co-operative High School. Schools will also be established at Holders Hill, St James and another at the former St Alban’s Infant School.
Jones said Government was also exploring setting up a nursery school at Sayers Court, Christ Church.
He explained that the ministry was placing emphasis on early childhood education because it led to the development of well-rounded individuals.
“The earlier that you expose the child to early cognitive stimulation, early tactile simulation, early psycho-motor stimulation, early creative stimulation, you are possibly working on a better human being in the world, a better human being in Barbados, cultured in an environment that is suitable to the expression of that child’s talents,” the Education Minister said.
“Go into any of these nursery classes and you can see the extent of the eagerness to learn, behaviours that are good for young people.”
Jones acknowledged that the country had not met its target of ensuring that every child has full access to the learning environment in early childhood care facility, but he said every effort would be made to reach that goal by 2018.
In his contribution to the debate, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport Stephen Lashley said he was pleased with the direction of the country’s education system which he stressed must be continually transformed to be more revelant to the development of Barbados.
He suggested that if the island was to realize its economic goals, the educational system had to be repackaged and modernized to support the development of new key economic sectors such as the creative industries and sports.
“So I have certainly brokered the topic with the Minister of Education of the need to identify one or two schools initially and brand them as schools of excellence in the cultural industry sector, and the same thing applies to the whole question of transforming our sporting industry. We can’t speak of having a sporting industry in Barbados without tying that in at the level of our educational system,” Lashley said.
“Therefore, I believe that the time is ripe to designate at least two or three of our schools to be centres of sporting excellence so that our young people who are certainly enthused by sports, or certainly interested in the creative sector, can at an early stage be involved in not only identifying those niches of growth for them in those sectors but also to receive their education in a school environment that identifies with the sports sector and the creative sector as well.”