Limited space, resources and high demand for public education results in Caymanians (including status holders) being given priority when it comes to enrolment in government schools. After this, spaces are offered to expats children who work for the government and then, if there is space, other expats. Some schools in the outer districts do sometimes have spaces available which expats can fill.
Caymanians do not have to pay for their schooling, although external exams are charged at cost, and there are usually a few other incidental fees. However, if an expat child gets into a government school, then their parents are required to pay CI$750 per year for primary school, CI$900 per year for middle school and CI$1,200 per year for high school. For Government schools everyone must now register online. See https://schools.edu.ky/Pages/SchoolRegistration.aspx and make sure to have all your documents ready to upload. These include your child’s birth certificate, residency documents, immunisation record, two forms of proof of your street address plus a previous school report or transcript (Years 1-11) and any Educational Psychological reports if they apply.
Caymanian students in the Cayman Islands have the option to enter Government primary schools either at the age of 4 or at the age of 5. If they are 4 by September 1st then they will enter Reception, and if they are 5 by September 1st they will enter Year 1. Compulsory education starts at the age of 5.
Non-Caymanian children who have been accepted at a government primary school cannot start in Reception; they have to start in Year 1 or above.
From Year 1, students follow the Key Stage 1 Cayman Islands National Curriculum which is adapted from the English National Curriculum and follow this until the end of Year 2. Key Stage 2 begins in Year 3 at primary school and runs through to Year 6 covering ages 7-11. Some primary schools also follow the International Baccalaureate Program.
Students then move from their Government primary school at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) and enter one of three Government high schools, or a private school, for Key Stage 3 which covers Years 7-11. In Year 9 students choose their options for GCSE or CXC and then begin Key Stage 4 in Year 10 and study towards internationally accredited external examinations, following the relevant syllabi depending on what they are taking. Students complete this two year programme of classes (Years 10 and 11) in the core subjects of English, Maths, Science, PE* and Life Skills* (*these do not count towards your child's 5 passes if they are moving on to a private school to do A Levels) and they have the option of taking three additional subjects of their choice. Students then take exams set either by a UK exam board (GCSE) or the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). Students take, on average, seven GCSE/CXC but many students take more.
Some Government high schools offer the Goal Accelerated Programme (GAP) where higher performing students are guided through a far more rigorous academic programme. This includes mentoring and extensive work with the student’s parents to ensure that the children are pushed but supported. This programme ensures that goal-oriented students take additional GCSEs in Years 10 as well as in Year 11 when all the other students take their GCSEs.
The Government school system also offers the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations which are commonly referred to as CXC examinations. CXCs are taken by students after five years of secondary school, usually at the age of 16, at the same time or instead of GCSEs. CXCs are graded I-VI with Grades I-III being considered the equivalent of a GCSE pass at A*-C or 9-5 in the newer GCSE exams. For example, a Grade I result means you have attained a comprehensive grasp of the subject and a Grade VI result means you have attained a very limited grasp of the subject.
If a student reaches the required level at CSEC, or equivalent, they may also be given the option of taking a Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subject, which is the Caribbean equivalent of an A Level. The grading system is similar to CXC exams, with Grade I representing an excellent performance, whereas Grade VII represents an unsatisfactory performance. Grades I–III are the equivalent of an A*-C at A Level.
All students are then automatically enroled in the compulsory Year 12 (one academic year) programme at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC), where they can take an array of business and technology courses (BTEC), get involved in work experience and internships, or retake CXC or GCSE exams to improve their grade standing. There is also the option for students to enrol in a ‘dual entry programme’ such as A Levels at St. Ignatius or Cayman Prep and High School, an approved accredited school overseas (this option at the student’s expense), or attend the University College of the Cayman Islands and work on an Associate's Degree. After completing their Year 12 programme, students graduate from their original respective secondary schools at the compulsory school leaving age of 17. Those taking A Levels will carry on with their education until the age of 18.
Students who do not have the minimum five external passes (at CSEC or GCSE) including English and Mathematics (after graduating from high school), may have the opportunity to be admitted to UCCI’s Pre-College Matriculation programme, where they can obtain transferable college credits. This programme allows students to take foundation level courses in Maths, English and college skills in order to prepare students to transition into an Associate's Degree programme.
Graduation Rules & Exams
Until June 2014, government high school students graduated with a High School Diploma based solely on attendance and behaviour, and a clutch of external exams (usually CXCs or GCSEs) if they had taken any. However, for a student to now officially graduate with a High School Diploma, they must pass a minimum of five subjects, including passes in Maths and English.They are then graded into one of four academic levels: Level 2 with High Honours, Level 2 with Honours, Level 2 Diploma, Level 1 Diploma – the highest being Level 2 with High Honours. In addition, during their last three years (Years 10-12) they must have at least a 90% or more attendance record, along with less than 14 days of suspension. The levels are based on the number of CXC, GCSE or BTEC exams they pass. For example, the Level 2 Diploma with High Honours means that the student has passed at least 9 subjects at A*-B. The 9 subjects must include English and Maths. For the last two years an additional requirement to graduate has been the completion of at least 10 hours of volunteering or community service.
For entry to an A Level programme, a minimum of five passes at CXC or GCSE, including Maths and English, are considered necessary. Further requirements include a minimum grade pass at A*-C or 1-3 are essential if applying for a government scholarship. For those in the US system, a 2.75 GPA is considered necessary for entry to a university course, but a 3.0 GPA is necessary to qualify for a Cayman Islands Government university scholarship.
For those who go on to Level 3 (International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement diplomas, A Levels or an Associate’s Degree at UCCI) after leaving high school, the passing of this level indicates suitability for pursuing tertiary education.
It is worth noting that whilst all education is free for Caymanians (at government schools), parents must still pay exam entry fees, i.e. they have to pay for every CSEC, GCSE or BTEC course (British and Technology Education Council) that is taken. Fees are approximately CI$25 per subject for CSECs, CI$50 per GCSE and between CI$110 and CI$250 per BTEC vocational qualification, depending on the subject and the level.
Government Scholarships for A Levels
All Caymanian students accepted at a private school to take A Levels or an Associate’s Degree at UCCI can apply for a scholarship to help pay for their school fees. If a student is accepted from a government school, they get the first year’s fees paid in full (plus text books) and then either CI$7,000 or CI$5,000 paid for the second year. The amount is decided on a points system based on the student's GCSE results. They also must have higher passes in GCSE and/or CXC English Language and Mathematics to secure funding. Current Caymanian students at St. Ignatius and Cayman Prep and High School can apply for funding when they enter Year 12 (and 13). All students must obtain a minimum of three Cs in their AS levels at the end of Year 12 in order to get the funding for the second year of Sixth Form.
The application period for local scholarship funding is 1st March to 30th April. Late applications will not be considered. Please note that all scholarship funding is now means tested to ensure that only those who really need financial assistance receive the funds.
International Baccalaureate System in Government Schools
The IB Primary Years Programme (IBPYP) is offered at three government primary schools in Grand Cayman from Kindergarten to Year 6. These schools are: Prospect Primary School, Savannah Primary School and Sir John A. Cumber Primary School. The IB curriculum which they cover focuses on the development of the whole child as an enquirer, both in the classroom and the world around us. The curriculum focus for these schools mirrors those presented in schools worldwide; such as Languages, Social Studies, Mathematics, Arts, Science, Personal, Social and Physical Education.
The most significant and distinctive feature of the IB PYP is that the curriculum is presented through six transdisciplinary themes. This allows students the opportunity to make connections and identify the relevance to the local and global platforms. These transdisciplinary components help the children explore their beliefs and values; their mental, social, physical and spiritual health; how human relationships work between cultures, communities and families; and the inter-connectedness of individuals and civilisations.
The tenets of the programme are all very relevant to the Cayman Islands, which is a melting pot of over 130 different nationalities. The IB Middle Years Programme from ages 11 to 16 is not currently offered in Cayman.
(Note: The IB Diploma Programme is offered at Cayman International School for certain students in Years 11 and 12)
Read More On:
More on Cayman's Schooling System
Cayman School Acronyms 101
CSEC: Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate
GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education
BTEC: Business and Technology Education Council
CXC: Caribbean Examination Council
CAPE: Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Test
IB: International Baccalaureate
CIFEC: Cayman Islands Further Education Centre
CIS: Cayman International School
IGCSE: International General Certificate of Secondary Education