Education in Kingston

School system in Kingston

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Public and private institutions make up the school system. The school year is from September to June and breaks into three terms: September to December, January to March, and April to June. Public holidays are observed. The summer holiday is July and August.

At the Early childhood level, i.e., ages 3 to 6 years old, most schools are private. The public early childhood schools (called infant schools) start registering children from age four. The privately run institutions register children at three year old. About 91% of the children in the age group are enrolled in one of the over 2500 schools at this level.

Public schools are the main provider of Primary level education, i.e., ages 7 to 12 years old and grades 1 to 6. Education is free at this level (no tuition fee) at public schools. The 'prep schools' usually combine an early childhood and primary level departments (i.e., kindergarten to grade 6). Approximately 81.2% of children at primary school age are enrolled in school. Most students transition from primary to secondary level education. Because students move from private to public schools, a larger population of students enters public secondary schools than what is leaving public primary schools.

Secondary level education is five years of school, between grade 7 and 11, to children between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. Some schools have a Sixth Form, i.e., grade 12, where students do exams to complete matriculation to university. In the lower secondary level (Up to grade 9) approximately 81% of the age cohort is enrolled. This level of utilization drops at the upper secondary level: 65% of the cohort is enrolled. The combined net enrolment is 74%. In some cases students skip grade 10 in the public schools to go private.

In the secondary school system, there is a buzz around 'traditional high schools'. These schools were known as high schools before the reclassification in the 1990s reforms, and that over the years accumulated a strong reputation for academic and or sports prowess. In the transition from primary to secondary schools, there is a preference for these traditional high schools. The GSAT is used to allocate the secondary schools intake from the primary schools, and the intake for traditional high schools usually has the highest average GSAT scores.

There are special education schools; at least 28 are officially recognized. Some of these schools bring together students across the education levels. The schools may specialize in certain disabilities (e.g., visual impairment), multiple disabilities and on a smaller scale in the private domain, gifted students at the primary level.

Enrolment is almost universal but full daily attendance is an issue. Daily attendance rate peaks at about 85% and declines the further up you go in the education system to the secondary level. Socio-economics is a factor for attendance. Efforts to improve attendance include outlawing child labour, providing cooked meals at school, and a program that makes cash grant to the household based on daily attendance (PATH).

The tertiary level comprises 134 commercial and community colleges, teachers colleges, and universities. Two universities have a full range of degree programs. More programs are available these days through online or long distance learning platforms. The UCJ certifies the accreditation of tertiary level programs.

Update 13/02/2016


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