A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends to share the costs of private school fees on my Facebook page. The results were enlightening (and featured at the end of this post along with our poll). Only two people shared the actual fees publicly on the page and both had children that had graduated from primary school already.

About 20 minutes into the post, I received my first of three direct messages on the post. One in fact was a public call out to call her on the issue. When I did call, I got quite a few tips and tricks (more on this shortly) but no actual fees.

The other two messages were warnings that people “don’t like to talk school money” publicly. This was interesting. Especially since the cost of various baby items was opening discussed in private Facebook forums like Trinimoms – albeit very rarely about the actual costs of private education in Trinidad.

Possibly the most intriguing reaction was from a “friend of a friend” who called from a private number to indicate that “those types of questions” could get you/ your child “blacklisted” from the “really good private schools”.

I laughed. What the hell has happened to sweet T&T’s education system. The answer is not straight forward.

Public Primary Schools (I.E. the great option that far too many overlook)

Trinidad and Tobago is fortunate enough to have a “free” education system. As the statement goes, from nursery (my research did not touch this area) to tertiary, education in T&T can be obtained, basically free of charge. Some primary schools, on which this post will focus, do charge small registration and library fees but these, are highly frowned upon by the Government.

But, is it true that, as Confucius says, “cheap ting no good?” Not exactly. One need only look at the Secondary School Assessment (S.E.A.) exam results to realize that indeed, public schools, particularly in Southern Trinidad and Tobago, are producing excellent results. Many public schools, especially those tied to religion and therefore government assisted, are sound choices.

In Western Trinidad, the focus of this post, those top schools are not dissimilar to the top public primary schools 30 years ago – Rosary Boys, Richmond Street Boys, Newtown Boys, Sacred Heart Girls, etc.

As with many things however, getting into these top public schools is as difficult as finding the actual glass slipper from Cinderella. Priests, Members of Parliament, CEOs of international companies and yes, cricket coaches, have all made a phone call or two to help friends and family get into these schools known to have strong PTAs and loads of successful fundraisers likely because their parent body is all but hand picked. But there is, indeed, no such thing as a free lunch – even when the school feeding program is largely without an end user fee (in theory anyway).

Why Go Private?

The challenge with public primary schools in T&T is all about space. Spaces in the schools with the best performances in exams are limited. Spaces for new schools to be built is also limited. And most of all, space for really good teachers throughout the primary education system in T&T is apparently quite vast. You see, quite a few public schools suffer from teachers who may have the passion, but have neither the tools nor exposure to state of the art teaching techniques to improve their skills. As school performance is measured but poor performance neither effectively addressed nor protested by the population (who is largely ignorant of same as the results from schools are not effectively shared) or by the state, the situation remains stagnant.

In contrast, the private education system was initially created for the wealthy and/or devout. The private primary school system now, however, allows those who can afford better, to access same. Well, once they too have connections.

So, should your means, connections and, in many cases, religion, and in some instances, race (there, I said it!), all align, you will indeed, have your choice of primary school.

What means are necessary?

Goeth not blindly into a private primary school assuming that your salary can handle the fees. Read on my newbie parents.

Primary school education in Western Trinidad can cost you between $2500 and $6500TT a term – and that’s for the schools you generally know. Woe be onto you that desireth access to the schools with foreign links. The International School of Port of Spain nestled just a stone’s through from Haagen Daas, West Mall, will set you back a whopping 12,000 US for pre-kindergarten education – PER YEAR. That’s a whole lot of single scoops.

Of course, that’s not just fees. Unless you attend the Holistic School in St. Anns/ Lower Cascade which serves up largely organic and most definitely meat free meals included in your fees for 6500TT (i.e. just shy of 1,000USD) a term, you will need to add meals, uniforms, shoes, socks and yes, days of the week underwear to those fees.

Wait, there’s more!

Getting in is not easy. There are many things to consider:

  1. Act Fast: Some schools are so competitive that registration is required almost upon conception. I kid you not, in a friend of mine tried to register at St. Bernadette’s when she was pregnant in 2013 and was told she “might not make it for the 2018 school year”. Hopefully this has changed but indeed, in Western Trinidad, one must, register early for the schools that so require. These are mainly St. Bernadettes, St. Andrews and Dunross. Other schools like Bishop Anstey Junior School and Maria Regina don’t require pre-registration.
  2. Religion is a Factor: Even though we are a rainbow country, when it comes to primary school education, religion can help you. Plain talk bad manners, many of the best primary schools in the West are, in fact, Catholic. So while few, if any in my opinion, openly practice religions discrimination, in a high demand year, it can, obviously be a factor.
  3. Montessori Matters: The schools with and without pre-registration have various requirements for entry. Some have exams and others interviews (yes, interviews for 5 year olds). It is critical that your child can perform in these entrance assessments and thus, the Montessori school you pick BEFORE your child attends primary school is important as many align their curriculum with the needs of various primary schools

How does one find out more

Clearly getting information on what’s the right school for your child and entry requirements is not as easy as a Facebook post. I strongly suggest visiting the schools. Many do not have websites and, when they do, like the easy to navigate one like Maria Regina Grade School, fees are not listed. Call first as, due to security reasons, many private schools don’t let you just walk in.

In addition to visiting the school(s) you need to build a network of parents. Go to birthday parties, ask neighbors, friends, parents, priests – you get the vibe. Ask for help and a friendly parent will guide you.

Costs I know

Costs below are by term and do not include registration fees etc. All prices are listed in TT Dollars. This list will be continuously updated as more information becomes available.

  • Maria Regina School $4000-5500
  • Bishop Anstey Junior School – $4200: Accepts students into Prep 1 on the basis that the applicant must be 4 years old (but not yet 5) by April 30 of the year for entry in September.
  • Holy Name Prep – $2500
  • St. Andrews $6500 (includes books)
  • Holistic School $6500 (includes meals)
  • St. Bernadettes $4000-$5000
  • Dunross $5200

Hope this post was helpful and a good read. You can make this post better. Complete our poll and message us school fees costs.