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Education in Trinidad and Tobago is free and compulsory between ages 5 and 16. Trinidad and Tobago is considered one of the most educated countries in the World with a literacy rate exceeding 98% . This exceptionally high literacy rate can be attributed, in part, to free tuition from Kindergarten (Pre-School) to University. In addition, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, via the Ministry of Education provides free transport, books and meals to students of primary and secondary age.
The education system in Trinidad and Tobago mirrors the British education system. Children generally start Pre-School at the early age of 3 years. This level of tuition is not mandatory but most Trinbagonians start their children's schooling at this stage as children are expected to have basic reading and writing skills when they commence primary school. Students proceed to a primary school at the age of five. Seven years are spent in primary school. During the final year of primary school, students prepare for and sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) which determines the secondary school the child is to attend. For most children and parents, this is a very stressful period.
Students attend secondary school for a minimum of five years,their first major exam is the local NCSE [National Certificate of Secondary Education] examinations, which is done in the third year of this system and administered by the Ministry of Education. The next major exam of the system which is done on the fifth year of school is CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate), which is the equivalent of the British GCE O levels. Children with satisfactory grades may opt to continue high school for a further two-year period, leading to the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), the equivalent of GCE A levels. Both CSEC and CAPE examinations are held by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).