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, or parents have the option of driving their children to school.
The American 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.
Hillel Academy is another choice school that many Expat, Jamaican and non-Jamaican children attend. For incoming families with children, it is recommended that they make arrangement to tour the various schools. Hillel Academy and schools such as Campion College, Immaculate Conception High School, St. Andrew High School for Girls and Wolmer’s are a few highly ranked traditional Jamaican schools that provide an excellent education for families looking at schooling outside the traditional US systems.
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
Preparatory and High School
American International School of Kingston (AISK)
Principal: Bruce Goforth
1a Oliver Road
Tel: (876) 755-2634-6
Fax: (876) 925-4749
Shelia Purdom (Director)
51 Upper Markway
Tel: (876) 925-1980; 941-2912
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.