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Trinidad and Tobago, officially known as the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a sovereign archipelago state in the southern Caribbean, with a total geographic area of just under 2,000 square miles. Located just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, the country shares maritime borders with several nations, including Barbados in the northeast, Guyana in the southeast and Venezuela in the south and west. In all, the country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous other landforms which are much smaller. Of the two main islands, Trinidad is by far the larger and more populous, accounting for roughly 94 percent of the total area and 96 percent of the population. It is also the island where you will find the nation’s capital, Port of Spain, as well as its largest city, Chaguanas.
As of the last official census, Trinidad and Tobago had an estimated population of 1.3 million, all but 4 percent of which live on the island of Trinidad. The country’s ethnic composition is a reflection of many centuries of conquest and immigration. By prevalence, the two largest ethnic groups in the country are the Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian people and the Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians, who together account for roughly 80 percent of the total population. Other ethnic groups inhabiting the country include Europeans, Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, Amerindians and people of mixed race.
English is the lone official language of Trinidad and Tobago, a local variety of English called Trinidadian English. It is used for all official purposes in the country, including education, government administration, courts, media and commerce. In informal situations, however, one of two English-based Creole languages are spoken most commonly, either Trinidadian Creole or Tobagonian Creole. Both of these languages feature elements found in a variety of African languages, and the Trinidadian variety is also heavily influenced by French. Trinidad and Tobago is a multi-religious country, with several faiths practiced on the island. Christianity is the predominant religion in the country, particularly Roman Catholicism, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and others, which together are practiced by roughly 65 percent of the population. Hinduism is the largest religious minority, adhered to by 25 percent of the people, followed by Islam at roughly 7 percent.
Education in Trinidad and Tobago
Education in Trinidad and Tobago is overseen and regulated by the national government and is free for all students and compulsory through secondary school. The education system is divided between four levels: preschool, primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education.
Preschool in Trinidad and Tobago is available to all children beginning at two and a half years of age through age 4 or 5. This level is not compulsory, but most children do begin their education at this phase, primarily because basic reading and writing skills are expected of students prior to entering primary education.
Primary education in Trinidad and Tobago spans seven years beginning at age 5. These seven years consist of First and Second Year, followed by Standard One through Standard Five. Primary schools offer a broad curriculum, with core courses in mathematics, English language, science, social science, history, geography, physical education, art and music. During the final year of primary school, students are prepared to sit for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), on which their score will determine the type of secondary institution they attend.
Secondary education is divided between two tracks: general secondary school, an academic program for high achieving students who intend to pursue a university degree; and the vocational-technical school, where students receive occupational training and basic instruction in a number of career related fields. Following each of these five-year programs, students will sit for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). Those who score well can opt to continue their secondary education for two additional years in a program that leads to the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Assessment (CAPA).
Tertiary or higher education in Trinidad and Tobago is provided by a handful of colleges and universities, where students can earn undergraduate (Bachelor), graduate (Master’s) and post-graduate (PhD) degrees in a select number of academic and professional fields. Tertiary education is also free of charge up to the level of Bachelor degree for all of the country’s citizens.