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  • Education in the Caribbean (Part 2)

Education in the Caribbean (Part 2)

08 May 2022

This report is a continuation from our Part 1 coverage of Education in the Caribbean where we looked at education in Trinidad and Tobago, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and the Netherland Antilles. 


In this continuation, we look at education within Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands


In the Cayman Islands, it is compulsory for all children aged five to 17 years to attend school or be homeschooled.


For preschool, children can start at the age of two, or sometimes as young as 18 months. Some schools take infants at the age of six weeks if they have a special nursery room.


For primary school, the age is almost universally four, across the Cayman Islands, but expat children who are entering the Government school system, are not allowed to start until they are five and ready to enter Year 1.


If children are entering the British school system (Cayman Prep, Footsteps, Island Montessori, and St. Ignatius) they will enter Kindergarten at the age of four. If they are starting at a school following the American system (Cayman International School, First Baptist Christian School, Grace Christian Academy and Triple C) then a child will start in Pre–K3 at the age of four. If they are residents of the Cayman Islands and they are going to a government primary school, then they will start studying at the age of four.


Secondary education takes 6 years and is available from 3 state schools, and from a variety of private ones with the American or the British system.


The University College on Grand Cayman offers associate degrees and a variety of evening classes, in addition to its vocational training programs. As such it is the hub of the post-secondary system.


The Cayman Law School established in 1991 on the same island, presents a 3-year Bachelor of Law degree in association with the University of Liverpool, a 5-year attorney-at-law course meeting Cayman Island standards, and a diploma in legal studies.




Guyana education at state schools is free and compulsory from age 5 years 7 months to age 16. After an optional pre-school period, children enter primary school which they attend for 6 years and pass exams every two years. The objective of primary education is acquisition of basic numeracy and literacy skills and some knowledge of society and science.


Good academic performance at primary schools ensures positions in the best higher schools. Junior secondary schools act as bridges to either senior secondary school, or vocational training. At the end of this period, pupils may write examinations for their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).


Senior secondary education aims at producing students competent enough to obtain either a Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate after grade 11, or a Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination at the end of grade 12 with which they may apply to gain entrance to tertiary education.


Students with disabilities or special needs are educated in specially designated schools. They adhere to the national curriculum, but it is supplemented or adapted where necessary. Some special schools provide education for the emotionally and socially disadvantaged, as well as for students with visual or hearing impairments.


Guyana University is a major university established in 1963. It provides vocational education in various fields. Students who cannot afford to pay for university tuition can take a student loan from the state student loan agency. Guyana University, like the University of the West Indies (UWI), is an associate member of CARICOM and a member of the University Association.


Guyana has a reading literacy rate at 92% of the population over age 15.




Now in the state, the education of children begins at the age of six; and up to fifteen years old, education is compulsory and free.


Education can be divided into several stages:


Elementary School. Studies there last for six years.


High school. Education lasts six to seven years. It consists of two cycles - incomplete (three years of study) and complete (three or four years of study) secondary school. Such institutions can be either single-sex, where either only boys or only girls study, or co-ed. Many schools follow the traditional English model.


Vocational training. Its duration is 1-3 years. Here come the students who graduated from an incomplete (three-year) high school.


Higher education. Its duration is five or six years. These institutions enroll students who have successfully completed high school. Higher education in Jamaica is represented by the famous University of the West Indies,Mona Campus. Education in this institution for residents of Jamaica is free. Foreigners can also enter this university, but only on a paid basis.


There are seven colleges in the country that prepare teachers to work in schools, both in primary and higher education. All students who have graduated from high school can enter them.


Alongside the growth of the secondary school system, Jamaica’s higher education system also began to expand in earnest. Following the establishment of UWI as the first higher education institution (HEI) in the British West Indies, several other public HEIs, including community colleges and teacher training colleges, were established in Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s. The College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), the predecessor of Jamaica’s University of Technology, for instance, was formally founded in 1964. The number of tertiary students subsequently increased from 14,000 in 1981 to nearly 75,000 in 2015 (UNESCO data).




The education system in Suriname is administered by the Ministry of Education and Community Development (MOECD) and has changed very little from the pre-independence Dutch system. There are four levels of schooling: pre-primary for ages 4 -5 years, followed by primary (grades 1-6), junior secondary (grades 7- 10), and senior secondary (grades 11- 13). There are 336 primary schools (323 of which include pre-primary), 112 junior secondary schools, and 30 senior secondary schools.


Secondary education begins at middle school where an academic program including accounting, biology, mathematics, and physics extends over 4 years.

The most successful students with good academic performance are allowed to go on to senior secondary school where they complete their preparation for further study by following a 3-year academic program.


The country’s higher education system includes 5 teacher training colleges, 5 higher professional institutes, and a number of research bodies.


The Anton de Kom University was founded in 1968 and is the only state tertiary institution. It has faculties of technological sciences, medical sciences, and social sciences that include education, economics, law, sociology, public administration, and business management. There are also 5 research institutes with a wide spread of interests.