Ministry of Education & Youth
2 National Heroes Circle
Jamaica, West Indies
This information may be helpful for individuals researching schools in Jamaica. I strongly recommend doing a pre-arrival trip where you visit the schools or facilities, before you fully relocate and enroll your children.
I have had clients tell me, that their children cried for months. If your child is timid or quiet, the culture shock may be alarming. Some individuals have mentioned the idea of perhaps allowing your child to sit out a term while adapting to the new cultural norms and then having them begin school the following term.
There are more schools in Kingston for Expat families than say Ocho Rios, Mobay or Negril, so this must be considered. It is recommended that you contact your home country’s Embassy in Jamaica for an extensive school listing.
Kingston, Jamaica provides families with a choice of educational systems. In all schools, English is the language of instruction. The school year runs from early September through to late June, and is divided into three terms, the Christmas, Easter, and Summer Terms.
The Jamaican education system separates into preparatory schools, pre-K to 6th grade, and high schools, 7th to 11th grades. Jamaican children begin school at age 4. The Jamaican school structure is based on the British format. Jamaica’s high school grades are called forms (first through sixth form) where the Jamaican first form is equivalent to the American seventh grade, second form is eighth grade and so on.
Children of expatriates generally attend schools located in the residential areas where official and non-official Expats live; students do not necessarily attend schools in their own neighborhoods. Most foreign students use either a private school bus service to and from school contracted between the bus company and the various Embassies, orparents have the option of driving their children to school.
TheAmerican International School of Kingston (AISK) is generally the first choice school where many Expat children relocating to Kingston attend. The school’s Board of Directors consists of nine members, eight of whom are elected by the parents of children enrolled at AISK. The United States Ambassador appoints the remaining Board member. The school is private and receives over 90% of its income from tuition and fees. It received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in December 2001
AISK follows a U.S.-based curriculum, providing the closest educational opportunities for students already familiar with a traditional American grade division; an elementary program for grades Pre-K through 6, a middle school for grades 7 and 8, and a high school from grades 9 through 12.
The Jamaican sixth form is a two-year college-prep program which goes beyond the American twelfth grade, and may be compared to a first year at a local U.S. Community College. A student who completes the full sixth form (upper and lower) programme may be eligible to attend a university in England, Europe, other Caribbean countries or the United States.
Jamaican high schools offer a course called “maths” and one called “sciences”. During the third through fifth forms (freshman-junior year), algebra, geometry and advanced math courses are taught each year. Thus a student does not earn credits in any individual math course until the full programme is completed in fifth form. In sciences, a student is taught biology, physics and chemistry. For this reason, if an American student is not enrolled for the entire three years, they may need a tutor to cover areas that have not been taught or may need to repeat entire courses when they return to a high school in the States. Thus, if a student will not be in Jamaica for the entire third through fifth form years, a family will generally choose AISK or a boarding school, unless they are coming from a British-based curriculum. On the other hand, if a student will be in residence for the entire third-fifth form, Hillel offers a very attractive alternative. Be aware that if a child attends a Jamaican school they will be missing U.S. History and Social Studies.
A uniform is required for school. Generally for a Jamaican school, you must buy the skirt, blouse, pants, and shirt in Kingston, but you might want to consider bringing the dark navy socks and black shoes that accompany the uniform. For P.E. (Physical Education), try to bring white gym socks and white gym shoes; you can buy the white PE-style cotton shorts in Kingston, and you must buy the tee-shirt from the school. You will also want a water jug; most kids take a 1/2 gallon Rubbermaid jug.
AISK is accredited under the US accrediting bodies to the 12th grade. Kingston has an away-from-post allowance for Grades 7-12. If you are considering the “boarding school option”, contact the education counselor at the Family Liaison Office (FLO) in Washington D.C. for assistance in finding a boarding school. You may also want to contact the Office of Overseas Schools (OOS) at (202)261-8200. Additionally, the OOS can give you information about the criteria used to determine school adequacy.
A number of facilities exist in Kingston for educating the handicapped, although equipment and staff are limited. These schools have limited space and each should be explored for specific needs. Day programs are offered by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, the Salvation Army School for the Blind, the S.T.E.P. Centre, and the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre (Mona Rehab) for the physically handicapped. Carberry Court Special School has day and boarding programs for the severely mentally handicapped. None of these programs meets US standards.
Listed below are the schools in Kingston commonly used by Expat families:
Step by Step (Pre-School) Principal: Cynthia Hamilton
63 Paddington Terrace
Tel: (876) 978-8207 / 6213
82 Lady Musgrave
Owner: Nancy Baugh
Immaculate Conception Preparatory and High School for Girls
Prep School Headmistress: Ms Teresa Mendes
152 Constant Spring Road
Tel: (876) 925-2819 (Primary)
(876) 924-2141; 924-1719 (High School)
More on AISK
AISK is divided into two administrative units: the Lower School (K to grade 6) and the Upper School (grades 7-12). Enrollment in January 2005 was 175 students. The student body represents 20 nationalities. More than 85% of the students are expatriates, and 30% are U.S. citizens.
AISK is a college preparatory institution. It offers a challenging academic program designed to prepare students for the rigors of university-level studies. Students Grade Point Averages (GPA) are weighted averages based on credits attempted and quality points assigned to each mark. The GPA is based on a 4 point system. However, because an additional quality point is granted for marks of “C” or higher in honors and AP courses, a student can earn a GPA greater than 4.0. Credits attempted in failed courses are counted in the base of the GPA calculation. Only AISK courses are considered in the GPA calculation. Because of AISK’s small size and the transient nature of the student body, AISK does not rank its students.
More on HILLEL ACADEMY
Hillel Academy, founded in 1969 is located in a high- income residential area at the foothills of St. Andrew on land leased from the Jamaican Government. Although the Jamaican Jewish community provided the initial funding for the school’s physical plant and continues this support, Hillel Academy is an independent, co-educational, non-denominational school. It provides a continuing educational program from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 in two separate schools—each with its own principal and corresponding teaching staff—both of which are under the general direction and guidance of a Director with supporting administrative staff. Excellent governance is provided by a Board of top-notch business executives and professionals drawn from education, law, medicine and architecture.
Hillel is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Its student body is currently composed of 620 students from diverse cultural backgrounds – the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America and the Middle and Far East.
At the High School level, an optional American curriculum has recently been started and will run alongside the traditional British-based education. The curriculum at the Lower School is closely linked to that of U.S. Schools. Beginning in pre-K and continuing through Grade 12, students experience a literature-based reading and writing program. Hands-on activities are offered in science and math, while the study of history, geography, Spanish, French computers, art, music, drama and physical education ensure a well-rounded education for each student. In addition, the Academy also offers a learning support system for children with learning difficulties. Martial Arts, ballet, and modern dance – to mention only a few – are offered as after-school activities.
The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the NAP, CXC exams necessary for continuing education in the Caribbean or other Commonwealth nations, and SAT examinations, as many Jamaican students attend universities in the US. Hillel’s student-teacher ratio in pre-K to Grade 6 is 28:1; teacher’s assistants assigned in pre-K through Grade 4 ensure that students receive individual attention as needed. The ratio in Grades 7-11 is 18:1.
The prep school offers a curriculum that is closely linked to that of US schools. Many of the text books used are from the U.S., particularly in Math and Science. Language arts courses are based on a Caribbean curriculum, and use Caribbean textbooks; for example, within the Caribbean curriculum the word ‘harbor’ is spelled with a ‘u’ (harbour). The prep school offers a library, computer lab, art and music programs, French and Spanish languages, and after school activities such as soccer, netball, tennis, martial arts, and ballet. Hillel completed a new 25 meter swimming pool in time for the opening of the 1996/97 school term, and offers swimming instruction as part of the physical education classes, and swimming as an intramural sports program.
Hillel is on an 8-1/2 acre campus, and includes an impressive physical plant: 29 classrooms, 3 fully equipped science laboratories; 2 computer laboratories with Internet and e-mail accessibility; a library with over 12, 000 volumes and 30 periodicals; 2 music and 2 art rooms as well as an enrichment room; a cafeteria; and a multi-purpose auditorium. The sports complex consists of 2 soccer fields; tennis, netball and basketball courts; an eight lane 25 meter swimming pool; and a playground with recreational equipment for the Lower School.
School leadership is encouraged through the Student Council and Prefect system. All students wear a uniform which can be obtained locally. Blue shirts with emblems and blue short pants are for boys. For the girls, there’s a blue dress for reception through Grade 2 and blue blouse with emblem and skirt for Grades 3-6. Black shoes are required for both boys and girls. Boys wear dark socks and girls wear navy socks. Bring both shoes and socks as well as crew socks and white tennis shoes which are needed for physical education. White shorts for P.E. can be bought locally and the P.E. tee-shirt will be sold by the school in the appropriate “house” colour for your child.
I found this article to be very accurate as it portrayed cultural differences, especially for individuals in the teaching or helping professions.
I have participated in several volunteer organization since living in Kingston, but my second gigg, was a true learning experience for me.
I attempted to do a six month volunteer position with a local crisis center, and was initially very excited about this role. Week one however was a rude awakening, when I arrived on day two, to realize that I would be opening and closing the center and had staff reporting to me, “The Volunteer“. Surprise Surprise!!!!!!
I fully realized my position when two policewomen brought in a pregnant teenager around 2pm on day four, and asked who was in charge. All eyes turned to me, “The Volunteer” foreigner, who could not even understand what the the cops had been asking. I then spent the next three hours trying frantically to find a place of safety for this young woman to spend the night. It was not an easy task, mainly due to my lack of knowledge about what existed in Kingston at the time.
I then concluded that my not understanding enough patois was a limitation to be effective in my role, but there was hope for me in the future with guidance. Two years later and I am all smiles, as I now understand patois a lot better.
Jamaica’s crime is a hot topic all over the world. I sit by and watch in amazement trying to understand even 50% of it all, and to see what if anything I can do as an individual to make a difference. Crime exists everywhere in the world, but I am left speechless. Read on:
I find this site to be extremely helpful and utilize it almost daily. Once you arrive at the home page, click on the the link to the Online Telephone Directory in the left hand side bar. This will then show a listing of many businesses across the island, with phone numbers included.
Please remember that most Realtors are in the business to rent or sell. So it’s your responsibility to make certain you check that the place will be fully furnished or unfurnished. All unfurnished places in Jamaica will be without a stove or refrigerator, so do note this, as you will be responsible for purchasing these items. We purchased these items in Kingston, as we figured if anything were to malfunction, it would be easier to get the parts here on the island. Our NEW refrigerator, after two and a half years, needed a new motor. While I could not understand this, I have several suspicions.
Also make certain that any place you decide on is fully grilled and secured. This is a MUST at any location on the island.
Be sure to check out who will be paying for repairs or emergency fixes before you have an incident.
Check to make certain your meters for electricity and water are for your house or unit only, you will learn why sooner or later. JPS is the main power company in Jamaica.
I am not sure that I remember the day I committed to moving back to the Caribbean, and I cannot recall if it was winter, summer, or raining. I do remember thinking that I am not against living in the sun, so that must certainly mean I’m for it.
My story is, I moved to New York as a child with my brother and sister from Trinidad, West Indies. We were immigrant children, but I do not remember the word immigrant ever being used as I described myself, or thought of myself back in those days. Immigrants, I had learned someplace, were people who came to New York City by boats and were processed in a very large, dark concrete building, near the Statue of Liberty.
I do, however, remember always being called “coconut” or “hey coconut girl” by this one girl very early upon arriving in Brooklyn.
New York City or at least, Park Slope Brooklyn, became home for me and somehow I do not remember ever missing Trinidad. I remember missing my grandmother who I called “Granny”, who made me tamarind balls and fried plantains daily.Granny lived with us before I left Trinidad on a Pan American flight bound for J.F.K., but I don’t think I spent time crying for my life before N.Y.C.
My new life was school, skateboards, the Brooklyn Public Library, Carvel ice cream, and my red Converse high top tennis shoes which I wore daily. Never mind that there was snow on the ground that first winter and other kids pulled out rubber boots. All I wanted to wear after school were my red high top Converse sneakers. I learned after an hour in the snow and ice my first winter, that my mother was right – sneakers had no place during winter months and snow.
Then the time came many years later, when I would move away for college to another exciting city, Washington D.C. Again, I do not remember ever missing N.Y.C. while I lived in D.C. This new city had tons to explore when I was not in the library, or at my part time job. Walking the distance between the Capitol building and the Mall became one of my favorite walks, and the colder the days the more fun I remember having, as I gazed into hundreds of blank unfriendly faces. I rarely ever saw the same person twice, plus N.Y.C. was an easy four hour drive up the 95 North Interstate.
During those early periods in D.C., I was not the “coconut girl” anymore but the girl from N.Y.C. Looking back, I must have enjoyed that reference and association, as I was then armed with a clear succinct New York accent, and when asked “Are you from New York?”, the answer was proudly “Yes.” Never did I feel compelled to explain that I was West Indian and had moved to N.Y. as a child, as I somehow learned that nobody really cared. Everybody wanted to simply blend in; being an American is what was fashionable.
So years later, after college and several jobs, I found myself moving again. This time to South Florida for a job; a move I took on with much enthusiasm and energy. One of my dearest girlfriends drove the 20 plus hours with me, and took a flight back to D.C. a few days later as I waved her off at the gate. “Did I miss DC?” I now ask myself. The answer is perhaps no again. I embraced this move with excitement and cheer, after all the temperature was 77 degrees in January in South Florida and some 25 degrees the day I left Washington.
South Florida, while not D.C. with its museums, NPR headquarters and National Geographic, was now my new home. After only a year, however, I decided that maybe South Florida was not the soil of opportunity I had envisioned and I made that long trek back to D.C. on an Amtrak train another cold blistery day in January. I was all ready for my familiar career and lifestyle in D.C., but this time things were somewhat different for me – my social and personal status had changed somewhat.
Who would have guessed, that in less than two years of being in D.C., a moving bug would again grip me? And more so, that I would be packing my things in a container and heading for a life back in the Caribbean – a place in which I had not lived for about thirty two years; a place very unlike my life in N.Y.C., Washington D.C., South Florida, or my vacation days of camping, hiking or skiing trips to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming or Montana.
As I packed my kitchen stuff, favorite books and clothes, for the first moving leg to Florida to join up with my very new Jamaican husband’s stuff, I was excited and hopeful. “I am a strong, focused, confident woman”, I reminded myself, that had gotten on a plane at age nine and never missed places I left behind. I was the person who left N.Y.C. at age nineteen for Washington D.C. and never missed N.Y.C. I could certainly handle another move; after all, it’s only the Caribbean. I could surely handle life in the sun, and while it was not a move back to my birth soil of Trinidad, life could not be too different. After all I had spent several vacations in the Caribbean and several Carnivals wailing in the streets of Port-of-Spain. “I, with my strong shoulders, ever curious adventurous nature, and open friendly personality, could live in Kingston, Jamaica.” I told myself. I even remember saying to my husband, “It will take me three months to settle, babes, and within six months my career will roll into place and I will be fine.”
Today, January 28, 2008, twenty-eight months later, as I begin my very first blog entry, I smile. I smiled today, after very recent emotional tears and feelings of uselessness. I sent a Happy New Years chain email in early January to my dearest friends in D.C. and across the U.S., and the email read as follows:
Just a little howdy note to say Happy New Year to you. It is my hope that you all had a great holiday time, ate plenty, drank much of your favorites and now ready for 2008 and whatever shows its’ head.
While my holiday season was great, and our wonderful niece and nephews are here in Jamaica all the way from South Africa, I was happy to put 2007 to bed.
The sun shine was bright here almost daily on the “Rock” as Jamaica is called, but things were not always cool. I experienced my very first Hurricane with Dean in August, and we were without electricity for a week and a phone line for three months. So if I never experience a Hurricane again I will not miss it. I was told over & over that a week without power was no big deal.
We are still without bananas & plantains four months later, like not a banana in sight. Now I eat bananas daily, but oh well. We have had eggs & milk shortages, where you can drive to three different grocery stores and no milk or eggs. The word is the cows were too stressed after the hurricane to provide milk, as they hated the wet grass after 15 days of rainfall, and the chickens had to be moved to new places as many roof tops blew off. No joke. Living in the Caribbean teaches one to be way way humble and forever thankful for the little things that work.
Then I experienced my first Jamaican Election for Prime Minister in September, now that experience needs to be in a book, as the build up to that big day reads like pure fiction. Francis and I were Election Day Volunteer workers, so up close and personal I was with the masses who chanted “we wah justice at every opportunity”. So, stay tuned for my Publication date for “Jamaican Culture #301”
October brought my first bout of dengue fever, which made me feel like I was going to die after being in bed for 12 days straight. lordy lordy. But stubborn me remained on the living side and now stay far away from mosquitoes as much as possible.
Then another sad moment occurred, just as I was getting better and really looking forward to two weeks in DC with my favorite pals, my aging Dad died, so I had to haul to Trinidad. More Drama there as well, but I will spear you all of those painful details. I am simply thankful that 2007 came to a close, and take my days one day at a time. A bird pooped on my head as I did my 5 mile jog the last day of the year, and I have no idea what that means. Maybe it means I will have huge successes with my new business in 2008, or I will here from all my long lost pals on Facebook.
Whatever happens, it khan be worst that last year, so onward I go. I made a choice to follow Francis here, and the beat goes on.