Friday, August 29, 2008

Education and low crime rates in Barbados

Having lately discussed a new law enforcement initiative on early education and crime prevention and the relationship between crime rates and the ratio of security spending vs. education in different countries, I was interested to see this note from the London Telegraph about Barbados, which reportedly enjoys the lowest crime rate of all the Caribbean islands. The story begins with the typical tough on crime mantras:
"Police here in Barbados are very, very strict. Wrongdoers get no mercy!” chortles the minibus driver as we cross the island from airport to hotel. “Prison here is kill or cure. Usually kills you, ha ha! But if you do get out you won’t want to go back in again! And that’s the way we like it!”
Fair enough. But there's another, perhaps more significant cause for the low crime rate:

“What keeps Barbados law-abiding? Education, education, education,” says Claire Jordan, an earnest young hotel sales manager over breakfast by the beach. “The first thing our government did after independence in 1966 was to introduce free schooling. Anyone who gets straight As at A-level can go to university anywhere in the world and have the government pay for everything.”

She herself went to Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, then to an école supérieure in France, while her brother went to Harvard. “So everyone’s educated, employment rates are high — and in general that means very little poverty and very low crime. What crime does exist is often committed by other islanders coming here under the new policy in the Caribbean that lets anyone move anywhere, as in the EU.”

Score another point for education in the education vs. security spending debate.

Granted, this is a travel story. The writer got all her information from taxi drivers and hotel clerks on her way to and from the beach. What's more, Barbados is a tiny place - an island 14 miles wide and 21 miles long with just more than a quarter-million people; the approach would be quite expensive to scale up to an American context.

Still, one imagines the intense focus on subsidized education has a lot to do with the low crime rate. You've gotta admit, that's a pretty compelling reason for kids to focus on their education instead of running the streets.

Neighboring Trinidad and Tobago were already on my personal list of places I'd like to visit; perhaps Barbados will get added to the list.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I kind of suspect that most American kids who get straight As throughout their free high school education could probably receive a combination of scholarships and grants to pay their way to many colleges.

We have a hard enough time getting our kids all the way through the free education we already provide in this country. I'm not sure saying those that make straight As can go to college anywhere in the world on the government's dime would make enough of a difference in the communities we'd like to see it make the most difference in.

Anonymous said...

What crime does exist is often committed by other islanders coming here under the new policy in the Caribbean that lets anyone move anywhere, as in the EU.

I don't know if I buy the anecdotal analysis of one person who is blaming Barbados' crime on "outsiders." Actual research would be a better source of facts.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree with you, 9:10, and acknowledged the shaky sourcing. I just thought the issue of paying for higher ed as a crime preventive and the specific application is an interesting one, particularly in light of recent calls for pre-K spending to reduce crime.

As for 9:05's statement that American kids with As don't pay for school right now, I don't think that's really true anymore. Similarly, athletic scholarships these days are mostly partial ones. These days, even kids with pretty darn good grades have to pay to play.

I'm not saying this idea is a cure all or even necessarily a good one - I just found it interesting in light of recent discussions.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, though, I don't think the kids who graduate high school with straight As are the bulk of the crime problem.

And I don't know that having a widely-publicized program that told kids they could go to any college in the world for free if they graduate with straight As would turn around the 50% drop-out rate at Dallas ISD, for example.

Anonymous said...

The point is more education equals less crime. I firmly agree with this idea.

The question of how to reduce the drop out rate revolves around creating a culture that values education in America.

A good step forward would be to eliminate the current culture that seems to think putting everyone in prison will solve the problems of society.

Anonymous said...

GRITS: It's nearly impossible to get teenagers thrilled at the thought of a "free education". What's more, it seems those from poorer neighborhoods tend to think school is a waste of time, aka: "stupid". Usually a result of the parents/siblings/neighborhood blaming their predicament on the system and therefore badmouthing an "education". Especially if they are struggling. I still feel that parents/family are a key in this issue. Kind of the sins of the father travel through the third generation thing".
Another considerationin this piece is that tour guides/cabbies are told to play up the positives NOT the crime issues.

Agnita said...

As a past teacher in the Barbados Education Sytem (Now living abroad
since 13 years), I have always kept in touch with the life of Barbadians on a whole. I say all this to explain that we can never over-emphasize the FACT that more
education is indeed a direct factor
for less crime. Barbadians are trained in a certain way. We only want the BEST! My studies in social class and classroom behaviour in Bridgetown has proven
that poor and rich alike enjoy Free
education. The poor enjoy it even more because it gives them a chance to be in or appreciate most of the same privilleges as the rich. Think about it...Prison is
not a way out...being bad stinks!

diogenes said...

I like the concept of education as a crime prevention tool. I'm just afraid if we tried the "all A's gets you free college" we'd suddenly see grade inflation like we've never seen before because some people would see the "free college" as a right.

My brother was valedictorian (which gets you your first year of tuition free at any Texas college) but got a lot of pressure and harrassment to step aside in favor of the salutatorian so she could get the free college because he "already had free college" by earning an appointment to West Point. This continued for a number of years after he graduated.

James White said...

“Education” and “Low Crime Rate”. Both the elements are necessary for each other. From my point of view if a person who is educated, he never ever thinks about crime. So automatically crime ratio goes down when education ratio is high in any area of world.

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Roy said...

Barbados is a very violent place in the caribbean, the paper dose a good job of not reporting the numbers, because they want to look good in the eyes of the world to draw tourist from the other islands. so they shine the light on others like jamaica which draws more tourist than any other caribbean island.

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