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Cayman Parent | Articles | Community | Curriculum Pros & Cons: British, American, Caribbean and International

Curriculum Pros & Cons: British, American, Caribbean and International

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Cayman has a very good selection of schools including Government, British, American and International. The difficulty comes in choosing which one you feel will best suit your children. Cayman Parent is here to help you make an informed decision.

British Curriculum

IGCSE’s, GCSE’s, CXC’s, A-Levels? It can all be somewhat daunting if you don’t know the ins and outs.

The Basics

Children entering the British school system have to be four by September 1st. They enter kindergarten and then stay in primary school until the end of Year 6 or the year they are turning 11 (a total of seven years). They then go to high school for Year 7 through 13, taking GCSEs or IGCSEs in Year 11 (when they are 16). At GCSE students are required to take a science, a language as well as maths and English. Many international schools that have the British curriculum often offer the IGCSE which is widely considered to be more rigorous than the GSCE. After finishing GCSEs the two-year A Level programme commences in Year 12 and is completed in Year 13 when students are turning 18. Since Government high schools in Cayman do not offer A Levels, students will often move to the British system on or before Year 12.


Students usually take between 8 and 11 GCSEs and they need to have passed Maths and English to get into a university.They will also need three A levels with grades A* to C to get into university. Students will often start doing four A Levels and then drop their weakest subject. Exam passes at A Level are graded A*, A, B, C, D and E.

University Options

Students who have gone through the British school system are not limited to British universities and may choose either a university in America or any university in the Commonwealth. A Levels are considered the equivalent of the first year of an American university and students will be awarded points towards their degree. Students usually pursue a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree which takes three years (for UK universities) or four years (for American universities). At British universities, results are graded:

They may then go on to do a Masters degree for one or two years. After a Masters they can do a Doctorate which takes three to four or more years.

American Curriculum

High School Diploma, AP, GPA averages or IB? Again it can be tricky knowing how to make an informed choice.

The Basics

Please note that some schools offer a Pre-K programme and admit children to this class at the age of four. These children will be given preference for kindergarten places.Children entering the American school system have to be five to enter kindergarten. The cut-off date varies, but it is usually between September 1st and December 1st, so check with the school.

Children then move up to Grade 1 when they are six and stay in school for a total of 13 years, graduating at 17 or 18 when they are in Grade 12. They usually graduate with an American High School Diploma but Cayman International School (CIS) also offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma to students who are best suited to an academically rigorous programme.


To graduate with an American high school diploma, students need to obtain at least 20 credits, split between:

Credit requirements for graduation is different for every school, however, and will depend on how a school’s curriculum is structured. Having said this, all have standard requirements for core subjects such as English, Math, Science and Social Studies, and then elective credits for other classes. Parents should familiarise themselves with the credit requirements of their child’s school, keeping in mind that some will require a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) for graduation.

The GPA is the grade (number/percentage) representing the average value of the accumulated final grades and ranges from 0.0 to 4.0. For example, 4.0 = A, 3.0 = B, 2.0 = C, 1.0 = D and 0.0 = F.

Most universities in the United States will require a specific high school GPA before a high school graduate can even be considered for admittance, so it is very important for parents to be aware of what the requirements are for any college/university in which their child may be applying. Students should also be aware of this if hoping to secure a scholarship.


Caribbean Curriculum

Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), GCSEs, Associates degree & BTEC vocational qualifications

The Basics

Students in government schools enter the school in kindergarten by age five, and follow the Cayman Islands National Curriculum up to Year nine.In Year 10, students begin their preparation for internationally accredited external examinations, following the relevant syllabuses, taking exams set either by a UK exam board (GCSE) or the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) in the summer of Year 11. All students take classes in the core subjects:

They also have the option of taking a multitude of other subjects of their choice. Students then graduate from high school at 16 but must stay in full-time education for one more year. Those who earn at least five external exam passes (CSEC/GCSE) including Maths and English receive ‘Dual Enrolment’ and can either enrol at UCCI or enter an A Level programme at a local private school.

Year 12 Dual Enrolment students at UCCI, have the opportunity to complete their last year of high school, while obtaining college credit towards an Associates degree. Government high school students who do not achieve five external exam passes including English and Maths in Year 11 are given alternative options at CIFEC for Year 12 and a second chance to pass English and Maths.


A minimum of five passes at GCSE, including Maths and English at grades 1 or 2 or A*, A, B or C are considered necessary for entry to an A Level programme, and five passes at A-C or 1-3 are essential if applying for a government scholarship. For those sitting the CSEC, passes in the 1-3 range are required. For those in the US system, a 2.75 GPA is considered necessary for entry to a university course

CIFEC Students

At the CIFEC (Cayman Islands Further Education Centre) students have the opportunity to re-sit certain external exams which they may not have passed, engage in internships and enrol in BTEC secondary or vocational qualification programmes. Students who do not have the minimum five external passes (at CSEC or GCSE) 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 Associates degree programme.


Options for Government High School Year 12 Students

At all Government high schools in the Cayman Islands students take external examinations (GCSE/IGCSE, CXC or GSEC) in Year 11 (age 16), but Year 12 is a compulsory year, and is considered the end of secondary education.Year 12 students have a choice of which institution they wish to attend to complete this final year, however where they go is determined by their external examinations results.

Their choices include:

At this stage some students do move to a private high school in Cayman or to a boarding school in Canada, the United States or the UK.If they stay in Cayman, they can do a two-year A Level course and depending on the exam results, parents can apply for a scholarship to cover all or part of the school fees to be paid for by the Ministry of Education. Alternatively, they can go to CIFEC and take a BTEC vocational course (a BTEC diploma is a secondary or vocational qualification offered in the UK and the Commonwealth and has been around since 1984. It stands for ‘Business and Technology Education Council’) or, depending on their CSEC/GCSE results and age (must be 17+), apply to attend UCCI to obtain an Associates degree.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The IB is an academically rigorous system that is highly valued by top universities

Cayman International School offers the IB programme to 11th and 12th grade high school students, who then work towards attaining an IB diploma. IB is a non-profit educational foundation offering four highly respected programmes of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills of students. Schools that offer IB must be authorised; exceptional institutions around the world such as the United World Colleges also offer IB. This programme is generally thought to be academically rigorous, and also geared towards developing critical thinking and strong social and emotional characteristics. An IB diploma is also highly valued and recognised by top universities around the world (the United States, Canada, UK, Europe and Asia to name a few countries and regions).


Standardised Tests – SAT/ACT/PSAT


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