Joined Commonwealth: 1973
Population: 372,000 (2012)
GDP p.c. growth: –0.3% p.a. 1990–2012
UN HDI 2012: world ranking 49
Official language: English
Time: GMT minus 5hr
Currency: Bahamian dollar (B$)
Area: 13,939 sq km
Coastline: 3,540 km
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a coral archipelago of around 700 islands and more than 2,000 rocks and cays in the West Atlantic south-east of the coast of Florida, USA, and northeast of Cuba. It straddles the Tropic of Cancer and stretches 970 km.
Nassau (capital, pop. 241,200 in 2010) on New Providence; Freeport (44,300), West End (13,100) and High Rock (3,900) on Grand (1,800) on Eleuthera; Andros Town (2,300) on Andros; and Clarence Town (1,700) on Long Island.
KEY FACTS 2012
Population per sq km: 27
Life expectancy: 75 years
Net primary enrolment: 98% (2010)
372,000 (2012); 67 per cent of people live in New Providence, 84 per cent in urban areas; growth 1.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2012; birth rate 15 per 1,000 people (31 in 1970); life expectancy 75 years (66 in 1970). Bahamians are largely of African (85 per cent), Afro-European and European origin, as the indigenous Arawaks were wiped out.
English is the official and first language; a French-based Creole is spoken by Haitian immigrants.
There are 12 years of compulsory education starting at the age of five. Primary school comprises six years and secondary six. Some 89 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2009). The school year starts in September. The College of The Bahamas, the country’s leading higher education institution, provides a diverse curriculum with courses leading to bachelor’s degree level. The Eugene Dupuch Law School opened in September 1998, as a part of the University of the West Indies. It offers the same curriculum as the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica and the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago. The University of the West Indies has an extra-mural department in Nassau and main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Other government-assisted higher technical and professional schools and private colleges provide clerical, secretarial, accounting and computer training.
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