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Antigua and Barbuda - Education and Schools

All children living in Antigua and Barbuda must, by law, receive an education between the ages of five and 16.

It is up to parents to decide whether their children will receive an education from state schools, private schools or at home. Most children will attend primary school from the age of five until they are 12. They will then move to high school until they are 16.

Literacy rates in Antigua and Barbuda are the highest in the Caribbean, and it is unusual to come across someone who can’t read or write.

Girls are given equal access to education and are less likely to drop out than their male counterparts. Women dominate the teaching profession, with male teachers representing roughly a fifth of the workforce.

Although only 15 percent of young people go on to attend university in the country, twice as many women as men have enrolled for degree courses since the year 2009.

Children can attend kindergarten from the age of three, but this is not compulsory.

Homeschooling In Antigua And Barbuda

Parents have a legal right to homeschool, as set out in the education act of 2008.

However, this decision must be registered with the director of education every year. In addition, an educational plan is required and this will be scrutinised to ensure each homeschooled child will receive an adequate education delivered by appropriately skilled adults.

Moreover, the director of education will send out staff on a regular basis to check that the educational plan is being followed to an acceptable standard.

State Schools In Antigua And Barbuda

Like all countries in the world, the state schools in Antigua and Barbuda vary in their quality and outcomes.

Those located in middle class areas tend to have a good reputation and excellent exam results. The more disadvantaged the area, the poorer the school’s reputation for student behaviour and academic outcomes. As a result, there is a lot of competition to get children into the best schools.

Private Schools In Antigua And Barbuda

A number of private schools operate on the islands, educating almost four out of every 10 children living there. Fees and waiting lists vary, but some schools are willing to enroll pupils throughout the year if places are available.

The Island Academy International School is attended by local students as well as children from more than two dozen countries. This co-educational school offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, and has done since 2009. It can be found at Buckleys Village in the centre of Antigua. Tuition fees increase with a child’s age, reflecting the difference in cost of educating a child from Kindergarten through to the end of Year 13.

There are no other International Schools based on the islands. The Antigua International School, which some websites include in their pages about schools in Antigua and Barbuda, is actually based in Guatemala!

School Uniforms

Antigua and Barbuda became an independent nation in 1981, but its education system reflects its British colonial past. One aspect of this is the school uniform.

Each school has a set uniform for boys and girls. This is typically a white shirt with short sleeves and a pair of black trousers for the boys. Girls wear a brightly coloured pinafore dress with a short-sleeved white shirt underneath. Black shoes and neat hair complete the uniform.

The School Year In Antigua And Barbuda

The school year opens in September. By the end of June all exams are over and the children look forward to a long summer break.

Christmas holidays used to be three weeks long, but were reduced to two weeks in 2016. Similarly, the Easter holidays were reduced from two weeks to one. To avoid increases in school costs, the summer break was lengthened from eight weeks to 10.

These changes were made to reflect the amount of work teachers needed to do with pupils at key exam preparation times. State schools and private schools have similar term dates.

At the end of Year 11, students sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams. These are regulated by the Caribbean Examinations Council, which was established in 1972.

Those students who stay on until the end of year 13 sit the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). University entrance usually requires grades of I or II in at least six CAPE units, including two double-unit courses.

Lessons Are Taught In English

Reflecting the islands’ history as a British colony, the teaching environment in state and private schools is English.

The majority of teaching staff have been trained at the Antigua State College. They have to pass exams and practical assessments to gain qualified teacher status, which is a compulsory requirement for becoming a teacher.

Most children are taught a foreign language, which is usually Spanish.

University And College In Antigua And Barbuda

Those who can afford to do so, or who secure scholarships, often travel to universities in Europe or the United States. Students who continue their education on the islands have the choice of several colleges.

The University of Health Sciences in Antigua is a private college training tomorrow’s medical workforce, as is the American University of Antigua.

The University of the West Indies has its main campus sites on Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. They also run ‘open campus’ facilities across 16 nations including Antigua and Barbuda.

The Antigua State College offers a wide range of tertiary courses. Subjects include teacher training, engineering, business management and pharmaceutical studies.

Finding The The Best School In Antigua And Barbuda

Choosing the right school for your family is one of the most important decisions you will make.

It’s often a deeply personal choice based on the aspirations you have for your child’s future, the types of qualifications you want them to achieve and the skills and personality traits you would like them to develop. And, of course, if you are considering private schooling then your budget will also be a key factor.

Other expats will have been through the same selection process and are often happy to share their experiences. You can reach out to them on the Expat Focus Forum or via the Facebook group.

Do remember, though, to visit several schools in the area. What might not look like a strong contender on paper may in fact prove to be the perfect fit for your child.

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