Education in Jamaica – Important Information for Expats

jamaicaflag1 Gathering information about the education in Jamaica is essential, so you can reach an educated decision about your kids schooling before moving to Jamaica.
Education in Jamaica is based primarily on the British model. The main levels are preprimary (early childhood), primary, and secondary education.
education-in-jamaica1The Jamaican Ministry of Education and Youth has overall responsibility for policy direction of education. Tuition is subsidized at the primary and secondary levels. A number of schools are run by churches and private groups and many receive subsidies from the government.
If you are interested to learn more about the private schools in Jamaica, you can check the Jamaica Independent Schools’ Association (JISA) website, Where you can find a list with all schooling categories; Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten, preparatory, high schools, vocational institutions, continuing education, and special learning centers.
The Independent Schools are required to use the National Curriculum as the base of their programs. Students in these schools are eligible to sit in all national and overseas examinations. The Independent Schools committee reports directly to the Minister of Education
Many expats decide to enroll their kids into private schools while living in Jamaica. One of the best ways to gather more information about the private schools is e-mailing them and asking all the questions you have. I used this strategy before our posting to Canada, and it turned out to be very helpful.
Education in Jamaica – School Categories
Early Childhood Education is inclusive of Basic, Infant and privately operated pre-schools. The ages of kids are usually from 2 to 6 years.
Primary Education (Preparatory Schools) – Includes children between the ages of 6-12 years. It addresses the basic educational needs of students and prepares them for Secondary Education.
Throughout the first 6 years, a series of tests are done in order to assess the children’s skills and abilities.

  • Grade 1 Readiness Test.
  • Grade 3 Assessment Test in Mathematics and Language Arts.
  • Grade 4 Literacy Test.
  • Grade 6 Achievement Test (GSAT), in Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Writing.

The Grade 6 Achievement Test (GSAT), is highly important because children are placed in High Schools depending on their performance on those exams.
Secondary Education is attended by students between the ages of 10 to 16 years, and is divided as per the following:

  1. Lower School – Forms 1-3 (Ages 10-13 or 14) – Students are exposed to a wide range of subjects, including 2nd languages and integrated Science. Usually in the 3rd form students begin studying Physics, Biology and Chemistry as separate subjects.

  3. Upper School – Forms 4 & 5 – In 4th form, students choose anywhere from 6-10 subjects (8 is the standard). The students are free to create their own curricula which must include mathematics and English language. All other subject are optional though some schools tend to make at least 1 other compulsory.
    Students take two major exams at the end of fifth form:

    • General Certificate Examinations (GCE): This exam is accepted worldwide and students believe that it is more difficult.
    • The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC): This exam tends to be easier to students as they are given the opportunity to do school based assessment (SBA) tests.
  4. Sixth Form (Divided into upper and lower sixth) – Sixth form is an optional, two years long, advanced post secondary program, at the end of which students write the CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams).
    Entry into Sixth Form is extremely competitive, especially in rural places which are far from Kingston, Jamaica, where there are less high schools with sixth form.

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