Saint Lucia forms a part of the Lesser Antilles island chain. It is located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles and just north of Trinidad and Tobago. The population is 170,648 and the literacy rate is 90.1%. English is the official language and the language of instruction.
Legend has it that the island was named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse. The first European settlement was a brief one in 1605 led by Captain Nicholas St. John and his men, who were on their way to Guyana. In 1660, the French signed a treaty with the native Caribs and established a colony on the island. From 1663-67, the island came under British control again. From 1667 to 1814, the French and British battled 14 times for control of the island until the British gained final control. In 1834, slavery was abolished on the island. From 1958 to 1962, Saint Lucia was part of the Federation of the West Indies. On February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia gained independence from Great Britain.
Education is overseen by the country's Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development and is compulsory from ages 5 to 16, including one year of kindergarten. Primary school (Grades 1-6) is six years starting at age 6. There are 78 primary schools on Saint Lucia. At the end of primary school, students sit for the Common Entrance Examination which will determine which secondary school they will attend. Only 30% of students continue on to secondary school.
Secondary school (Forms 1-5) is 5 years and, upon completion, students sit for the Caribbean Examinations Council Secondary Education Certificate (CXC SEC) or the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O-Levels) examination.
In 1997, the Saint Lucia Education Act mandated that students must remain in school until age 16. Students who do not wish to attend secondary school have the option of attending a 4-year senior primary school that prepares students for employment.
Following secondary school, students can continue on in Form 6 to prepare for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) or the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level examinations). Students also have the option of continuing their studies at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College or the University of the West Indies. Sir Arthur Lewis Community College offers a one-year certificate, and a two-year associates degree. The University of the West Indies campus on Saint Lucia only offers the first two years of their undergraduate programs, and students must transfer to another UWI campus if they wish to continue on to a bachelors degree.
Sir Arthur Lewis Community College also offers a one-year certificate program for senior primary graduates.