Education on Roatan
Making the move to a new location can be difficult enough for adults, but parents have many other concerns and challenges to consider when relocating with children. As parents, we worry about whether our children will enjoy their new homes, make new friends, and attend good schools. Whether considering a domestic or international relocation, parents certainly need to know that their choice will not negatively impact their children’s health, happiness, and future success, so schooling options are a critical consideration.
Our children's education was something we considered a great deal when my wife and I first moved here. Our three children ranged in age from 4 to 11 when we arrived in Roatan. Our initial plan was to stay for only a few years, and we believed that the life experience our children would gain would outweigh the potential short-term impacts of schools that may not have been up to par with those in the United States. However, our family never left the island, and we definitely experienced some real struggles with the education of our children during that time. Fortunately, all three of our children went on to study at renowned universities, so I can confidently say that the move to Roatan didn’t harm their preparation or opportunity for higher education.
Our story will not be your story as the situation on the island has changed considerably in the past 17 years. There are now vastly more choices in local schools. There has also been a huge growth in online schooling, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when children from all over the world received their education in an online environment. . Online schools can be tailored to your family’s exact needs, capabilities, and income. They can be fully hands-off with your children having classes, tutors, and even summer camps at one end to basic curriculums with you doing all the extra tutoring that your children need.
I am not going to pitch schools against each other. I believe every educational institution is trying to do its best for the kids in its care. My intent is solely to provide you with information on what is currently available and to give some suggestions regarding how to evaluate the options when you are conducting your research. I strongly urge you to talk to other parents and visit the schools themselves to see if they are a good fit for your family. Keep in mind your initial choice isn’t a permanent one. As with your current hometown, if one school doesn’t work for your child, then other options are available to you.
The Honduran school system
There are two systems in Honduras based on when the school year starts. There is the Honduran system, that the public schools follow that starts classes in February and completes in November, and the US system in which schools start in August/September and complete in May/June. Depending on the system, the school definitions and levels can vary. I will be using the US system to explain how the schools are set up for better clarification on grade levels.
Pre-Kinder: Honduran System: Kindergarten
Kinder: Honduran System: (Preparatory/ Preparatoria)
Primary: Elementary: Honduran System: (Basica) ages 6/7 to 13/14 1stt to 6th grade.
Free and mandatory by Honduran law.
Middle School: Honduran System: (Media o Ciclo común) ages 13/14 to 15/16
7th to 8th grade in Honduras is free and mandatory by law.
High school Honduran System (Secundaria) ages 15 to 18
9th grade is the last grade that is mandatory by law. See note below*
10th to 11th grade
12th (if using a USA-based curriculum there is an extra year)
US High School diploma or Bachillerato
University (age of 18+)
Degree and onwards.
*According to the Honduran constitution, all children receive free education up to K9. However, as Honduras is a third-world country with significant economic challenges, there are rarely enough schools, teachers, union issues, textbooks, etc. to provide for quality education. This is especially true for those Honduran children that live in rural areas. It is also a requirement for children to wear school uniforms, and have shoes, backpacks, etc., items that often exceed the financial means of the poorer sections of the population. Less than a third of the population gets to K9 without repeating at least one grade. Classrooms therefore can have a mix of ages within the same primary school grade level and are often 50+ students per classroom. Also not all public schools have room for K7-K9, so they can go to school in the evenings or have to travel to a different school to go to school outside of their community, which is why the dropout rates increase significantly after 6th grade, especially on the mainland
A side note, if you are considering donations for schools, there are some wonderful people who help provide local children with shoes, bags, etc, for the public schools on the island, I recommend donating to them instead of a private bilingual school as the needs are greater for public school children
Middle "Ciclo común" 12-15/16 years
Middle School is not separate in Honduras like in the USA as they do not have different schools to separate elementary students from middle school. In public schools, they are on combined campuses and there is not a lot of difference between these two levels of schooling.
Secondary "Bachillerato" 16-18 years (Colegio in Honduras)
Education beyond the ninth grade is considered “private education” as the government does not provide education past 9th grade and these expenses must be paid by the parents and are usually not affordable for the majority of people. The last two to three years of study, should a student continue their studies, are a student-chosen career track. Commonly a specialization such as hospitality, teaching, business, or technician careers. In other words, they are quickly focused on a job/career track. At this stage, they will say they graduated in "Hospitality." At the end of this time, some students will get their "bachillerato" which they need for continued education.
It can be confusing but when a Honduran says he has been to "college" it does not mean the same thing as in other countries it just they have completed a degree that is like a combination of a high school diploma and trade school certification.
University 3 to 7 more years
The only public university in Honduras is the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras or UNAH.) UNAH’s website claims that “it is the largest and highest-ranked university in Honduras." I am unfamiliar with how universities may be evaluated or ranked in Honduras, and cannot validate this assessment. UNAH currently offers 180 different degree programs through several campuses (some tiny) all over Honduras. So if a Honduran student has the means to pursue further education to become a doctor, scientist, etc. this is the public university option available to him. UNAH fees are about $1,000 USD a year, contrasted with private university fees, which may go as high as $8,000 USD a year.
It is very competitive to get accepted into UNAH and an entrance exam is required and some degree plans, such as medical, require further testing for acceptance. Unfortunately, most students who only attend public schooling will not have the required level to attend a public university. There are many other private universities in Honduras, however, the only private university in Roatan is UTH.
Education for ex-pats on Roatan
In general, up to 6th grade, I would recommend that you just find a school that makes you and your children comfortable. Choose a school where you feel your child will learn, make friends, have fun, and that is within a reasonable distance of your home. Roatan’s roads are better now than when my children went to school, but even still, roads traveling an hour back and forth on island roads day after day is no fun!
You need to keep a very good eye on your children's education as my children's basic math skills were awful and I sadly missed it. It took them a long time and much pain to catch up. Especially as I was the one teaching them. Obviously the better the private school you send them to the less concern you have.
Private schools are most often known as bilingual schools in Honduras. What is the definition of a bilingual school? Education in an English-language school system in which students with little fluency in English are taught in both their native language (Spanish) and English. The level at which “bilingual” is taught across Honduras can vary from school to school. Many bilingual schools on the mainland and many who follow the Honduran schooling calendar usually only have one class taught in English, so this can be a very general description for schools that are not considered “public” schools. It is important to ask the question “how many / which classes are taught in English?” when you are talking to a school.
As a side note, by the treaty governing the return of the Bay Islands to Honduras from England, the English language is supposed to be respected and taught in schools as part of the culture of the Bay Islands. However, if you ask any native islanders, they will tell you the English language is eroding very quickly in education.
Most important decisions for schooling come prior to secondary school at 6th grade. Most ex-pats want their children to be able to easily integrate into the schools in their country of origin if needed. It is critical to investigate whether education, exam scores, diplomas, etc. are transferrable to school districts in your own country. As an example, for a student to enter an Australian university she needs to have achieved certain scores in her university preparedness or entry examinations. However, Australian universities only recognize certain exams as valid for this purpose. Only one of the college preparatory exams typically conducted in the United States is transferable to Australian universities, and it is not the SAT. Educate yourself on what would be required of your children if you were to return home. No one wants to explain to their children that years of schooling must be repeated!
Generally, the ex-pat schools in Roatan use a USA-based curriculum such as Keystone or Calvert and then they facilitate the education around that curriculum. As these schools are USA-based all diplomas are issued in the USA. So there is no difficulty transferring back into that education system. Check which state issues them from each school before signing up. Be careful though as since these educational systems can allow students to progress at their own speed, they may be ahead (or behind) students of the equivalent age attending public schools in the USA. If they have passed a year the "No child left behind" law means they must progress and they will not be allowed in a class with children their age when returning to the USA and as they move into high school, they will be required to complete the appropriate amount of credits to graduate based on the state requirements (each state can vary on credit counts for graduation).
The school you choose will be based on your budget, location, your assessment of the curriculum, and how comfortable you feel with the teachers and parents you meet. If you are considering staying in Roatan for a while, it is important to understand that not all private schools are legally registered with the Department of Education in Honduras. Each school has a SACE number if they are considered a registered school, it is good to ask for that number. If they are not registered with the government system, it can be difficult to transfer to a new school and will require legal fees and apostille documents to do so. Historically, the private schools that are not registered come and go from Roatan compared to the schools that have done the work to be certified and are more stable and have provided education on Roatan for numerous years.
What follows is a list of schools I know of on the island. If you know of others, you wish to add details, or if I have made some kind of error please contact me so I can correct it immediately. My intent is to inform not to confuse. Where possible I will provide links to web or Facebook pages. There may be smaller or nonsecular schools private schools I am unaware of at the moment. The details were those that were available as of July 2022.
Private Schools on the island
Private and Bilingual Schools on Roatan
Daycare from 1-year plus to first grade
Opposite, Mayan Jungle Canopy, Sandy bay
Elementary School (PreKinder +)
Montessori roots but not official Montessori
Sandy Bay opposite Coral Stone
An actual Montessori school. New to the island.
Sky Lounge, Pristine Bay Rd, French Harbour
An independent Pre-K to K-12 bilingual school, located in French Cay, Roatan, Honduras. East End of the island.
Use Keystone curriculum
Pre-K to K12
English speaking education for all children in Roatan.
Island Academy works with Calvert Curriculums from Pre-K to 8th grade;
Gibson Bight, Main Road, Next to Alba Plaza
+504 2445-1582 / +504 2445-1654
This school is located in French Harbour, Church of God