The official language in Barbados is English. Primary education begins at the age of five. Secondary education begins at the age of 11 and lasts for five to six years. The state provides tuition for approximately 86% of the eligible children for primary and secondary education, the latter offering certificate courses equivalent to the general certificate of education in both ordinary and advanced level curricula.
Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. The education program in Barbados is administered by the Ministry of Education and is free in all government-run schools. As of 2000, children in 93 government primary schools numbered 26,900; a small number attend private primary schools. Secondary education was provided in 22 government secondary schools, 15 assisted private schools, and seven senior schools for students ages 14–16. Scholarships are awarded for study in the United Kingdom and in Caribbean institutions. The Barbados branch of the University of the West Indies opened at Cave Hill in 1963. It has 266 teachers and 2,264 students. The government pays the fees of all Barbadian students at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of West Indies. The Barbados Community College was established in 1968. Barbados' adult illiteracy rate in 1995 was estimated at 2.6%.
There is also advanced education for adults at the Extramural Center of the University of West Indies, the Erdiston Teachers Training College, and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. There are special schools for the deaf, blind, and mentally retarded, including two residential institutions for disabled persons.
As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at5.2% of GDP.