Education changes recognised

| 23/04/2009

(CNS): It would not have come as any surprise that education was a key issue during Tuesday night’s Chamber Candidates District Forum with the minister responsible appearing in the line up. What was surprising was the acknowledgements given for the work done so far from his fellow panellists. Not only did Alden McLaughlin’s PPM colleague, Lucille Seymour, back his work but so did independent candidates Eddie Thompson and Walling Whittaker, and even the UDP opposition candidate Jonathan Piercy said some strides had been made.

Despite the endless criticism on the hustings of the minister and what has been described as a failure to get results in education over the last four years, when asked what they would do if they did not support the new policies all of them said they would continue with the new law and the recently implemented national curriculum. Thompson said he strongly supported the policies going forward as well as the new law. He also emphasised his own feelings of how important education is to addressing all Cayman’s social ills. ”We also need an education campaign that tells everybody every day that education is important,” he said. “I strongly support what has been put in place.”

Whittaker also said he thought the minister has made noble strides in education and deserved recognition for it, though there was still work to do. He said education was not just about fancy buildings and his concern was that the bullying and toxic environment in the existing schools should not be transferred into the new schools.

Piercy reluctantly acknowledged that strides have been made but still said the buildings were excessive and described some of the curriculum and policies as experimental. Speaking about the need for a vocational school he later admitted that he did not know that the policy included plans for the George Hicks campus to be turned into a vocational college once the new schools were complete, despite the fact that the proposal has been in the public domain for more than twelve months.

Seymour said one of the great things about the revised education law and the policies was that it was all driven by the stakeholders and that with a 21st Century curriculum you needed a 21st century environment. “The whole education system has had to change and we can’t teach kids in rectangular schools anymore,” she added.

McLaughlin listed just some of the changes he had implemented and explained how everything linked together, including the buildings, although he said they were yet to be completed and were not the current focus. The minister explained that the changes for education sprang from the national education conference and had been driven by those working in education. He said professional development had been improved with more than 90% of teachers now engaged in further training, that special educational needs programmes were in place, that the number of counsellors had been ramped up, that learning and behaviour support assistance was in place, and that for the first time a national literacy and numeracy strategy had been implmented, along with many other things.

The panel also discussed small business development, financial services, parking wardens, the George Town port (with mixed response and little full support), and a minimum wage (supported by three of the panellists but not Whittaker or Piercy). A discussion on new revenue measures saw Whittaker support the legalisation of ‘numbers’ and Seymour a tax on remittances, while the other three focused on enhancing existing measures and better management of government expenses.

When it came to problems regarding the need to reform the country’s immigration system and its link with labour, Piercy pushed the idea of a human resource authority, as put forward in the UDP manifesto. They all acknowledged there were problems and Thompson spoke from experience as a previous member of a related board. He said it was inexcusable that the Department of Employment Relations doesn’t communicate with the boards, and thought that immigration should be protecting borders and not dealing with labour. “There is reason why the DER can’t review the applications,” he said.

Whittaker noted that three different boards and the chief immigration officer could all grant permits and it was very confusing and bureaucratic and above all not efficient. “What we need is to restructure the process concentrating on a national manpower office,” he said, adding that Caymanians needed to be up-skilled and there was a need for a coordinating agency that was aware of the needs of the workforce as well as who was unemployed. McLaughlin said he was behind the new accreditaiton system which was being explored.

The panel was also asked if they approved of the new constitution as set out in the referendum question. Thompson said that while he did not think the document was perfect he was going to vote yes, as having been at the talks he felt it was “a heck of a lot better” than the current document. Seymour also urged voters to say yes as she said it was the first time that the country’s constitution actually empowered the people, allowing civic society to sit on relevant councils and establishing the principle of a people-led referendum. Whittaker, however, said he had numerous concerns and felt the people did not understand it and he couldn’t advise people to vote yes if they didn’t get it. Piercy said that the UDP was committed to working with the document if the people voted for it or working for new negotiations if they did not, but he refused to tell the audience what he thought of it and if he was voting for it or not.

McLaughlin noted that he would never understand how it was that the UDP were at the negotiation table, where they fought hard for changes – which they got, and now they have come back home to say they won’t back it. He said the country desperately needed a new constitutional framework and that was fundamentally illustrated by the issue of the special investigation. “I believe this document will move the country forward as well as restrain the excess of Her Majesty’s representative and put Caymanians more in control of our own destiny. I support it and urge everyone to support it.”

One question which achieved complete agreement from the candidates was the proposed reduction of MLAs salaries by 15%, although Seymour noted that she was hoping they wouldn’t cut her food as well.


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Category: Election 2009

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree, Government should publish the number of children who pass their external Exams at the government high schools, the % who pass in relation to the total students. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Surprised at Eddie?!?!  – What should be noted is that Eddie has officially removed his objection to the preschool being located at Bambi Close in South Sound. He must have run into the same problem as the others and couldn’t find a place for the children of the Cayman Islands in Georgetown either.

    What would be even greater is that the other remaining objectors at Glen Eden Condos (mostly expat or status holders) remove their objection to the preschool. I know God is working on their hearts because they will have to consider the impact of their decision to object for their remaining days on earth. These poor children are the ones who are suffering not anyone else. I would give my home to these children if they could all fit inside!

    PPM or UDP both are to blame for the lack of forward thinking in protecting the children of our Island! No development plan that provides a place for them in their own country. How truly sad is that?


  3. Anonymous says:

    What is this I’m hearing about Wally. He is a true statesman. Everytime i hear dis man speak he speaks so clearly and inteligently. He never brings down any of the other candidates.

    and for yall trying to say that he didn’t do anything at labor? He helped me and my husband get a job…. you all just upset cuz he doesn’t give out money like those other politicians!

    Vote for Mr. Wally!

  4. the forgotten says:

    I would like to know what changes have been made? I thought as the minister of education one of your responsibilties was to visit the schools and see what improvements could be made. I am a young caymanian and a first time voter. I don’t claim to have to solution to the problem and to tell the truth I think most of us don’t really know why the education system in Cayman has failed so many of us. What I do know is that something has to be done and not said. Stop talking about what you would like to see and actually implement it.

    As I said before I will not offer an opinion or comment because I dont know where to start on fixing this "mess" we call the ministry of education. I will just offer some facts

    The Minister was sworn in on 18th of May 2005 to his current position. Which means he has been in office for 1436 days. There is 14 government schools on the island. Meaning he ‘could have’ visited one school every 100 days. Yet he hasn’t

    He has said on many occasions that every child should receive a proper education. Yet the Special Education schools on island are years if not decades behind the rest of the world. Just look at the complaint comissions report on the Sunrise Centre. Everywhere else in the world has made strides in mainstreaming special needs students. In Cayman we still hide our special needs students away and forget about them. We are all about building new schools. Has anyone even taken the time to notice how wheelchair accessible our current schools are?

    I am a young Caymanian male who would love to become a teacher. Not once have a heard anything about Caymanians being recruited or trained in the field by the minisrty.

    I would just like for someone to answer what the progress is thats all.




    • Anonymous says:

      I need to set the facts straight.  The Minister has visited every school in the Cayman Islands.  He has in 3 1/2 years done more for education in this countrythan any other minister.  I know as I have been in education for over 20 years.  He does not have a magic wand, but a tremendous of work has been done.  You need to simply read the newspapers to see his visits – you dont have to take my word for it.  Please bear in mind that education was not his only responsibility and he is a human being!!!!!!!

      Primary schools have implemented a Literacy Strategy and quite frankly this is where literacy must begin.  If a child cannot read and comprehend what they are reading then they will struggle for their entire life. 

      Scholarships are available to those who qualify including those interested in teaching.  Sadly the deadline for scholarships was April 15th and this was an extension to previous years.  Caymanians do return to join the teaching profession but through the years many Caymanian students have repeatedly stated that particularly the behaviour of our students prevent them from desiring a career in the teaching profession. 

      Educational psychologists, support assistants, Learning and Behaviour specialists have been hired to support students with special needs.

      Much progress has been done but sadly this seems to be forgotten by some.  I for one intend to continue to support the Minister and the team that he is a part of.  If you think too little has been done in the past 3 1/2 years I ask you to cast your mind back to the little that was done for education in the 1990’s and 2000 – 2005.  By the way dont forget all the ground breaking for the new high schools in 2005, by the UDP and they did not even have a plan!!

      • the forgotten says:

        Well Sir/Madam if your facts were straight you would know that he hasn’t visited all schools. (Check into our special needs schools).

        Second. The reason most Caymanian teachers leave is because they don not feel appreciated. Rowdy children aren’t the problem. I thinkit is the reason most teachers enjoy the job. Trying to make a difference in a child’s life is one of the most fulfilling challenges anyone can undertake.

        Many Caymanian teachers aren’t encouraged to further their education or are given incentives. Why stay in a field where there is no room to grow professionally?

  5. Hotair says:

    A tax on remittances would be illegal under the new constitution.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am pleased with the attention given to education and hope that this focus will be maintained throughout and not just  during the pre-election silly season. Since 2005 Alden has not published any reports on the number of students who have achieved examination passes.  This is of great concern to me and begs the question of, ‘WHAT’ is he hiding??

    Are our children failing? Are the teachers competent in assisting them to succeed? What has been the success rates over the years? What changes are needed to ensure that on graduation, each child has a future in advancing themselves and not sitting idly by??  What I do know is that millions have been spent in infrastructure but the PPM has lost focus of the real cause!!

    To have our children in a safe and secured shelter is one thing but for them to leave these institutions with a poor performance record is something not to be desired!  Alden conned us with his sweet talk before but it wont happen again because I can’t allow my child to suffer.

  7. Anonymous says:

    "Had he asked for resources etcetera he would have gotten them".  You obviously have no clue about human resources and should leave that type of comment to the people that do.


    • Anonymous says:


      I agree; Wally Whittaker did nothing for Caymanians when he had the chance.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have to laugh when i read some of the posts about Mr. Wally.

        Mr. Wally has stuck to the issues through out his campaign and not got in to name calling or mudslinging. I would like to hear someone try to attack his policies and not his character. And I agree with the poster that Walling Whittaker WAS NOT your elected representative…. Alden was.

        Walling Whittaker under Roy Bodden tried to implement Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and when Alden was appointed to be Minister of Labor he scratched that project to fund his monuments/schools. And now all of a sudden you hear out of every candidates mouth that we need technical schools.

        I have 4 votes in GT, 3 of which will go to the UDP but I have to give one to Mr. Wally too!

  8. A concerned parent/guardian says:

    Education changes? I ask one important question: How can you implement changes to an education system and then not give teachers and parents the tools, accountability and authority to make it work? What good is a top of the line program and curriculum if it is not consistently and regularly studied, analyzed and critiqued?

    My husband and I are the primary caregivers for our 14 year old nephew and every day I am more and more confused with how the teachers have NO AUTHORITY over the students in their classroom, their only recourse is after-school detentions. Comments such as the teachers don’t care if we learn or not they know there is no accountability. Even if the teachers stand up against the current system that they know is NOT working they are terminated or told to be quiet and just do what they are told to do.
    The homework is little to none and the system changes from Primary to Middle to High School. Just as students are getting used to the way they are taught their whole system is up heaved and another system thrown into place. Children need stability and consistency and it seems that you are NOT giving this to them.
    I was sadly made aware that we pass our islands children through the education system with no accountability on their part as well. How can ANY ADVANCED education system say that even if a child is failing all their classes that we will pass them onto the next grade no matter what! This is our fundamental flaw in the Cayman Islands. Children have NO incentive to do better or excel and if a simple rule was put in place "No Passing Grades – No Passing Onto the Next Grade" the children would be forced to go to repeat the year until they ARE EDUCATED" imagine the amount of highly educated children we would be passing through into the work force! Remember Minister God created us all equally but made us all very different. All children do not learn the same way, at the same pace and at the same levels based on age alone.
    Education must be important in the home also and it must be important to the Government but I really think that the current Minister of Education needs some professional help when it comes to implementing and running an education system.
    Minister McLaughlin – it is the parents you have to answer to now, but it is the children that you are not taking care of that you will have to deal with later. Just remember the children of today will be the future leaders of tomorrow and if you do them wrong they will do you wrong. When you are in your retirement days these children today are the ones who will be taking care of you!
  9. Anonymous says:

    HAHAHA….what a joke! No my dear…don’t blame Alden….Wally Whittaker was Director of Labor and he did nothing…still doing nothing….always did nothing…well, he did do lots but not to help anyone but himself….Alden and PPM keep up the fantastic work! These other lame candidates out there must think all of Cayman is as lame as they are….but surprise!! most of us actually keep updated with what’s going on in our Country and check out the facts for ourselves…more than many of them it seems!

  10. Mind Your Business says:

    Education, a small step in the right direction. Now if we could only find a way to stop spending 10G’s at a time on flowers for the Education Conference and instead buy some paper, fill our classrooms with fully qualified teachers ALL the time or find a way to fairly compensate our Educators, we will be making more progress….

  11. Anonymous says:

    If you listen closely to the Minister of Education you will realise that technical and vocational training is not a priority of his.This is unfortunate seeing that over 60% of people in all societies on this planet are more technically/vocationally inclined than academic.

    Mr. McLaughlin claims that his plan hangs together like a tapestry and the George Hicks High school will be transformed into a technical and vocational training centre after the Clifton Hunter, Beula Smith, George Town primary and the John Gray Schools are completed.

    Lets figure that for 4 years he has not managed to complete one of the said schools.

    It will be at least 12 years before we see a tech/voc school under Alden’s leadership. I agree with all of the other candidates. Vocational Training now! (Walling) Public sector Private Sector partnership Now. (Eddie Thompson), We must lift all sectors of society together with technical and vocational training so we can move forward together (Jonathan Piercy).

    The simple principle of democracy is the best decisions for the most people. A tech/voc school will help over 60% of our people and perhaps over 80% of our unemployed so lets develop these tertiary technical/vocational programs NOW!

  12. Anonymous says:

    What i don’t understand is why people blame Wally for all labor issues when he was Director of Labor! He wasn’t your elected representative… Alden is! Blame him!

    A civil servant can only do so much… the minister decides where the funds are allocated. This is probably why he’s running now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wally did nothing!

      Don’t blame the absence of resources for Wally’s failures. Roy Bodden was committed to Labour – he fought for and got passed the Employment Law. Had Wally asked for resources etcetera he would have gotten them. Wally just too busy partying.

  13. Anonymous says:

    "Alden McLaughlin admitted that it was only at the insistence of the UDP that he actually included religious study in the Education Law. Why was Alden reluctant to include this in the law? What could be so wrong with that."

    This is so clearly UDP propaganda and is an out and out lie. They are depending on the fact that their supporters will not have read the new education law or the national curriculum – also that however much people moan about education they actually spend very little time finding out about it (including most of the cadidates, it seems) – so they will not call them up on it. I urge all of you who think this crap is actually true to go to the Education ministry website and have a look for your self.



  14. Yo Mamma says:

    I just want to thank CNS for all this great coverage. You are doing a great job producing well-written reports so fast. This is groundbreaking for the Cayman Islands.

    Thank you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Here we go again, another UDP member who doesn’t know what he is talking about, doesn’t know what is proposed for education. Looks like Alden was right in is accusation that the UDP candidates don’t read the proposals and try to understand them. Typical UDP style, huffing and puffing to appear like they are doing something. Wake up Cayman, Get rid of the UDP.

  15. Roy Tatum says:

     Finally… say it loud please – EDUCATION CHANGES RECOGNISED!

    Well anyway lets wait to see what will be said when they are back on their platforms. 

    I must say that quite often I admire the Ministers patience.  I admire his work ethic as well; but most often I admire his patience.

    I say this because I have heard him explain again and again what is being done to transform education and rarely does it get the attention that it deserves.  And quite often his words are deliberately ignored or reported incorrectly.

    For example; I listened to Minister McLaughlin on two separate occasions on the Rooster radio explain what the PPM were doing with Education.  I heard him tell Ellio and Austin all that is contained in the story above.

    Yet despite hearing this first hand more than once these two very intelligent radio talk show hosts continued for a year +  to pretend that all that is being done are schools.  And they repeated it over and over with a straight face – though they knew better. 

    Congrats Alden & my PPM Government.  Keep up the good work.  You are building for the future and for our people.   Maintain your patience – you have the confidence of the majority of the Caymanian people.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Alden – Religion?

      Alden McLaughlin once suggested that Christianity might not be the most popular religion in the Cayman Islands. in wonder why?

      Alden McLaughlin signed the Cayman Islands permanently up to the Right to Individual Petition under the European Convention of Human Rights. Why did he do this – despite knowing that the European Convention on Human Rights allows so many evils that go completely against the tradional and moral values of the Caymanian people? And without any consultation?

      Alden McLaughlin admitted that it was only at the insistence of the UDP that he actually included religious study in the Education Law. Why was Alden reluctant to include this in the law? What could be so wrong with that.

      All the above makes me wonder where Alden really stands on religious matters – something I believe is very important in a generally accepted Christian community – at least for now.


  16. Anonymous says:

    Let’s tax remittances?

    I wonder how many Caymanians working abroad in the "good old days" would have reacted positively to such a charge being placed on the money they sent home.

    • Anonymous says:

      "Let’s tax remittances? I wonder how many Caymanians working abroad in the "good old days" would have reacted positively to such a charge being placed on the money they sent home".

      Duh! Their earnings were taxed before they ever got it. They would have done what Caymanians have always done – suck it up and observe the laws of someone else’s country.  

  17. noname says:

    I am surprised at Eddie Thompson’s statement about education at this election meeting.  QUOTE “Thompson said he strongly supported the policies going forward as well as the new law. He also emphasized his own feelings of how important education is to addressing all Cayman’s social ills. ”We also need an education campaign that tells everybody every day that education is important,” he said. “I strongly support what has been put in place.” UNQUOTE.  Does Eddie’s statement include educating children for pre-school?  It doesn’t seem so, as Eddie organized a petition to have Planning Authority reject an application by a pre-school to change a home in a residential area to a pre-school.   The irony of this is that  Eddie Thompson owns a pre-school himself, and another pre-school was also located in the general area where the new pre-school was going to be located.   If Eddie believes in education, then you would think he would help all children to get educated.     

    • Audrey says:

      To know Eddie is to realize that he’s candid and outspoken. If he strongly supports Education then it would be education for all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Surprised at Eddie?!?!  Enough already! How long will Eddie continue to be made the scapegoat for Planning Authority’s rejection of a pre-school? If he has that much power then he should be voted in because clearly he has what it takes to make things happen! Either get your facts straight or drop it!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Go Alden!!!!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Walling whittaker was by far the best last night….

    All the other candidates had notes and he had none, that man spoke from the heart.

    I might only vote for him


    • Anonymous says:

      Wally Whittaker!

      Wally Whittaker didn’t do anything for Caymanians when he was Director of Labour – so I fail to see what difference there will be if the people of George Town actually elect him, which I doubt they will.