Limited space, resources and high demand for a public education has results in Caymanians (including status holders) being given priority when it comes to enrolment in government schools. After this, spaces are offered to expats 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 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 you must register your child with the Dept. of Education Services and submit your child’s birth certificate, residency documents, immunisation record and two forms of proof of your street address.
Students in the Cayman Islands enter government schools at the compulsory school age of five years (some at age 4 if the school has a Kindergarten class) and, depending on their age and which school they are enroled in, follow either the Key Stage I, II and III British curriculum from primary through secondary school (to Year 9), or the IB Primary Years Programme. Students then move from their government primary school at the end of Year 6 and enter one of three government high schools, or a private school, for Years 7-11. In Year 10 all students begin their preparation for 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, Humanities, PE* and Life Skills* 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. *Students do not take exams in PE or Life Skills.
In the government high schools they offer the Goal Accelerated Programme (GAP) whereby students who are identified as gifted and talented are pushed 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 9 and 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. 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.
A handful of government high school students also take 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 enrolled 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 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) 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, with Maths and English being mandatory, and 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 15 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 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 for 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 SCHOLARSHIP 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 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 6th form.
The application period for local scholarship funding is 1st March to 30th April. Late applications will not be considered. For more information please see our Scholarships article. Please note that all scholarship funding is now means tested to ensure that only those who really need financial assistance receive the funds.
The IB Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) 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 inquirer, 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 features of the IB PYP are that the curriculum is presented through six transdisciplinary themes. This allows students the opportunity to make connection and relevance to the local and global platform. 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 100 different cultures and 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).
Cayman has a selection of excellent private schools, each following either the British or American curriculum. In both systems the main student intake is for Kindergarten (British) and Pre-K (US). The most popular schools have very few places available in Year 1, so think carefully if you are offered a place and decide to delay your child’s entry for a year. Students can then remain in their chosen school up to Year 13 (UK system) and Year 12 (US system). Schools following the UK system take GCSEs and A Levels and the US system offers either the IB programme or prepares students to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and attain a US High School Diploma. Some schools also offer Advanced Placements (APs) and the Government’s Further Education Centre (CIFEC) offer BTEC courses.
BRITISH EDUCATION SYSTEM
Children entering the British school system have to be four years old by 1st September. 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 IGCSEs which is widely considered to be more rigorous than the GSCEs. After finishing GCSEs, the two-year A Level programme commences in Year 12 and is completed in Year 13 when students are turning 18. However, students studying in Cayman are expected to take AS Levels in Year 12 and their results are used as a benchmark for universities to predict how the student will do in their A Levels. Since government high schools in Cayman do not offer A Levels, students will often move to the British system for the start of year 12.
Students usually take between 8 and 11 GCSE subjects and they need to have passed Maths and English to get into a university. They will also usually need three A levels with grades A*– C to get into university. Students will often start doing four A Levels and then drop their weakest subject at the end of AS Levels. Exam passes at A Level are graded A*, A, B, C, D and E.
(Note: Most Montessori schools that extend into Primary follow the Montessori philosophy, whilst aligning with UK curriculum standards.)
AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM
Most American schools in Cayman offer a Pre-K programme, so your child can start at the age of four. These children will be given preference for Kindergarten places when other children start at the age of five. 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 and students are taught the ins and outs of sitting SATs. Cayman International School (CIS) also offers the International Baccalaureate diploma (IB) for students in Years 11 and 12. Triple C School offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
To graduate with an American High School Diploma, students need to obtain at least 20 credits, split between English (4), Social Studies and a Foreign Language (6), Math (6), Arts/Drama/Music (1) and Physical Education (2). Credit requirements for graduation are different for every school, 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 or university to which their child may be applying. Students should also be aware of this, if hoping to secure a scholarship.
THE INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE AT CIS
The IB Diploma Programme (DP) is offered at CIS (Cayman International School). The curriculum is made up of three core components a) Theory of Knowledge (TOK); b) Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) and c) Extended Essay – plus six subject groups. Students must participate in all three core subjects and also choose one course from each of the six subject groups. The six subject groups are: language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, maths and the arts. Three or four of these are taken at Higher Level, and the rest at Standard Level.
Students sit exams for the Diploma Programme in May. They are graded from 1 to 7 (7 being the highest) for each of their six subjects. Additionally, the Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay are also graded, and together can add up to an additional 3 points. The maximum score one can therefore achieve is 45. The pass rate is 24, and anything over 34 is considered very solid. Universities will also publish the IB scores they require for the subject you want to study. For example, if someone wants to read medicine at university, they need to get an IB score in the 40s. Architecture would be in the high 30s.
MONTESSORI EDUCATION SYSTEM
There are two Montessori schools in Cayman who offer the Montessori schooling system beyond preschool. Montessori-by-the-Sea and Village Montessori teach children up to the age of 12. Both implement an enriched Montessori curriculum that emphasises inquiry-based study, cross-curricular integration and life skills education, complemented by specialised instruction in French, ICT, Physical Education, the Arts and Music.
For information on what to consider when choosing a school and how to prepare once you have made your decision – see Part I.
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