The Bahamas Financial Services Board and the Ministry of Financial Services last month partnered with the Ministry of Education and language learning programme Rosetta Stone Inc. (NYSE:RST) to introduce a pilot programme within public junior and senior high schools throughout The Bahamas. The programme started in September and will continue through to the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
Rosetta Stone is a recognized industry leader in technology based language and literacy solutions and is used by millions of individuals and thousands of schools, businesses, and government organizations around the world. Rosetta Stone already has been proven effective in helping members of BFSB improve language proficiency since the programme was made available to its member firms over three years ago.
*“Ideally positioned at the crossroads of the Americas, The Bahamas has benefitted from its many natural advantages. However, a key ingredient of its success has been and always will be found in the capacity of its people,”* says BFSB CEO Aliya Allen. *“As we seek to expand economic opportunities for Bahamians we have to ensure that we are ready to participate in a global job market that is demanding, exacting and highly competitive. Language learning is critical to achieving this goal and we’re thrilled to continue working with Rosetta Stone to help expand their programmes to students in our country.”*
Minister of Financial Services, the Hon. C.V. Hope Strachan, M.P., said bilingual employees are immediately more marketable and can command as much as 10% to 15% more in compensation just by virtue of the skill. She says this is not a phenomenon confined to the financial services sector; tourism, manufacturing and retail, for example, all benefit from the ability to converse with customers in their language. According to Minister Strachan, *”Language skills are now a critical requirement for professionals in the financial services sector. Therefore, we must ensure that our professionals are well-equipped to compete with their global counterparts.”*
The Hon. Jerome K. Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology acknowledges that having a second language will indeed make students more marketable. *“We are preparing our public school students to be globally competitive and having acquired proficiency in a foreign language will position them to not only qualify for jobs locally but internationally, even through work exchange programmes. As we position our students for the future, it is my hope that we create the framework and environment within our public schools where fluency in a second language becomes the norm. Coupled with strong academic skills in core subjects, a second language would set them on a path for global competitiveness.”*
BFSB started its own Language Learning Initiative in 2012 with the launch of a Livemocha programme which then transitioned to Rosetta Stone when Livemocha was acquired by the brand in 2013. Almost 500 financial services learners have participated in theprogramme, including the 130 in 2015, demonstrating keen interest in expanding their knowledge of a foreign language and eventually gaining fluency.
Ms. Allen says the High School programme, a part of the organisation’s *“[Towards a Bilingual Bahamas](http://www.bilingualbahamas.com/#tabb)”* initiative, was created in recognition of the importance of starting this process earlier with persons who have not entered the job market yet. *“It is a small but important start to achieving the vision of a Bilingual Bahamas.”* Working with Rosetta Stone, BFSB developed the pilot programme which was accepted by the Ministry of Education. The programme will enable 200 learners from schools around The Bahamas to begin a 9-month programme utilizing Rosetta’s K-12 learning software. It will include a Language Learning Cadet Programme that will engage industry practitioners in interacting with the students and teachers.
Various industry associations and corporate sponsors are supporting the programme including the Association of International Banks & Trust Companies in The Bahamas, Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers, Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants, Callenders & Co., CFA Society The Bahamas, Insurance Institute of The Bahamas, Julius Baer Bank & Trust and The Winterbotham Trust Company.