Education reform and its enemies

| 13/08/2010

During the political era of Mr Truman Bodden and Mr Benson Ebanks the country’s student body was subjected to minor changes every eight years without any real education reform. What these gentlemenpossessed was a clear vision for the country’s economic growth: they took advice from the experts, assessed and managed the threats and ensured stability.

The minister of education leading up to the 2000 elections was Mr Truman Bodden; the minister of education following the 2000 election was Mr Roy Bodden, then Mr Alden McLaughlin and now Hon Rolston Anglin.

Now, during the 80’s and early 90’s the children in this country attended school together with little or no segregation. I, along with many other Caymanian children, attended schools with children of migrants and today continue to be afforded the benefits of those relationships. Sadly, as the country’s wealth grew, so too did our desire for segregation.

My recollection of the first real attempt at education reform was during the last term of Mr Truman Bodden when he introduced Public and Private Partnerships in Education (PPPE), the development of a National PTA, the inclusion of parents in strategic planning and attempts to align the curriculum with corporate Cayman’s labour needs. Once Mr Roy Bodden became the minister responsible for education, he changed the name of PPPE to ITALIC, issued an education policy (read an excerpt), investigated why Caymanian teachers were migrating to other professions, withthe most notable area of improvement being that of increased availability of scholarships.

However, before the real reform could take effect, the UDP and this minister were removed from office in the 2005 election and Mr Alden McLaughlin, under the PPM administration, became the minister responsible for education. Mr McLaughlin set out on a very broad reform of our education system, including the redesign of the plants, teacher qualifications, adult learning villages using the plants in the evenings and nights, and converting the George Hicks High School (GHHS) campus to a technical and vocational school. The cost, the massive change, the inability to “sell” the benefits to the masses, the heavy criticism from the talk shows and opposition resulted in this massive education reform being one of the issues debated during the 2009 election and Mr McLaughlin was replaced by the now minister, Mr Anglin. The resounding comment from the general public was, “Children can learn under trees, we do not need these expensive schools.”

The citizens of this country have been crying out for a technical and vocational school for the last thirty to forty years. However, until recent years, everyone wanted their child in a white collar job within the financial industry. Today, we still refer to persons we “think” should be afforded vocational training to be the “non-academic” student. A mistake.

Many of us have not evolved from the “farming” culture of producing children to work on the farm, while I have witnessed a great change in culture as it relates to education, today, there are still too many of us seeking to secure our children a job after high school to help with paying utilities, assisting with mortgages and ensuring the travel and “keeping up with the Jones’s” lifestyle is maintained. As parents, we need to focus on preparing our children for college, developing technical skills, developing them to become independent adults – not preparing our children to become a source of funding our lifestyle.

We do not have sufficient parents discussing college options with their children, career paths beyond college, and setting aside a small percentage of our income to pay for their college cost. Every year there are scholarships offered by the private sector that do not receive applicants. Why? The most common response to that question has been unawareness. If that is true, my question then is, what have you, as a parent, been doing in preparation for your child’s college for the last 18 years?

As parents, it is our obligation to begin to discuss the education process, including college, with our children at the age of 1 year old (my initial thoughts were 10 years but I have been corrected by an expert in education). We must continue to have these discussions and incorporate their teachers in these discussions as they progress through their education. We must ensure that they do NOT feel obligated to repay us for their education but have a sense of loyalty to their country and the generation of Caymanians following them. This is our obligation as parents.

So, education reform has been occurring for the last twelve years and with each attempt the minister responsible has been punished.

Is the current minister now reluctant to advance our education system? Have our voting actions caused reformers to be fearful of reform?

I therefore conclude that the enemies of education reform are the voting public – the parents. If we refuse to sacrifice our wants to secure our children’s future, we have failed as parents.

We must honestly answer the following questions:
1. Do we desire greater opportunities for our children?
2. Are we contributing a small percentage of our income to our children’s future academic needs?
3. Do we want our children to stand as proud, qualified citizens with the self esteem to be independent thinkers and to create progress for our country?
4. Are we our children’s blessings?
5. Do we dress them properly for school?
6. Are we teaching them good morals and manners?
7. Are we proud of them?
8. Do we have a strong relationship with their teachers?
9. Do we value the role teachers’ play in their development?
10. Are we spending the time necessary to develop well rounded productive citizens?

If you have answered no to any of these questions, like me, you must now commit to the relevant changes to improve the future of our country by securing a better future for our children. No one is perfect; perfection is a journey that requires assistance from others and lots of time, so take your time and enjoy the ride with your children.

Immigration, education and employment are issues we, the citizens – ALL the citizens of this country – need to debate publicly. This forum allows us to do so, anonymously if necessary, so let us do just that. Debate these issues and seek consensus. Or not!

 

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Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The discourse based upon this thoughtful and important topic was a disappointment.

    The egos playing college selection games and adolesent one upsmanship misses the point completely.

    In any small town with a population of 50,000 the basic bell curve apply as to intelligence and aptitude.

    In my opinion the school is not as vital as the work ethic of the young person.

    Providing young people with morals, respect for elders and a work ethic will provide them with a much greater opportunity for success in life.

     

  2. Marl Rhodes says:

    Well given the relative size of the US and the UK the distribution of awards seems proportionate.  My point at the beginning was about value for money. 

    Caymanians aren’t going to Stanford or MIT.  They are going to the University of Tampa and the like.  And that is a waste of money when the equivalent (actually better) education is available in the UK for a fraction of the price (either to the student or the Cayman government).  Seriously look where Tampa is on the college rankings – it is way way down there.

    Even if we were talk the big star colleges why pay $50,000 a year at Columbia when you could spend $6,000 for Cambridge?  It is like offering a Lamborghini for $200,000 and a Ferrari for $25,000.

    The bottom line is that for the overall education experience, which goes beyond just degree study but also proximity to history and culture (two things notably lacking on Florida) Europe offers so much.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Your point was pretty clear in denegrating USF, and it was obviously unfair to compare it to Cambridge as if the latter was freely available to anyone. One might also ask how many live Nobel winners Cambridge has within its walls if one wanted to be snarky.

      • Marl Rhodes says:

        Well as the 183rd ranked college in America USF costs $15,000 per year .  Fees for 2010/2011 at Cambridge (ranked in the top 4 in the World) costs $4,500.

        So a complete three year honours degree at Cambridge costs less than one of the four years at USF.

        By the way I was not denigrating USF because I had never heard of it other than on ESPN.

         

    • Anonymous says:

      Many Caymanians do not wish to go to or be associated with the UK. Seeing that the majority of Cayman’s economy is based on interaction with the USA it cannot be a huge negative to attend university there. I do agree with you however on UT and I think that students should be required to make other choices.

      • Sir Caustic says:

        CIG should not offer funding and assitance to more expensive US institutions rather than cheaper and as effective UK ones based upon petty narrow-mindedness.  We need to save money and this would be an obvious cost saving for goverment.

    • Anonymous says:

      If a student can only gain admission to a "third rate" U.S. college (as you put it elsewhere) it is pretty unlikely that he will gain admission to a British University.  

      You have a point re Columbia vs. Cambridge (although I think Cambridge is typically ranked in the top 5 while Columbia is in the top10).  

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is well written and deserving of public debate by parents. I hope those finding money for 3-4 trips to Miami each year take note of their responsibilities noted in this article.

    • Qiz Knows says:

      What do they need to find money for?  Why spend a fortune for a third rate college education when the BOTC passport opens up the UK’s finest schools for virtually nothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Regardless of the country/school of choice, they will require funding. The UK schools are not free.

        • Qiz Knows says:

          But the UK schools are much cheaper and better value.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree, but cheaper is not free. I must say thanks for the info on US v UK schools as I never thought of the UK schools for my children and now I am. In fact, now I am helping them explore and apply!

            • Anonymous says:

              That’s so good to hear, most people never get the real information. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    While this article has substance, is well written and touches on fundamental errors made and essential cosiderations for rectification,the writer would have done justice by going back to the Seventies in making his/her evaluations.  It is this period which identifies the fundamental reasons for the disarray of our current education system. During that  period our education policies were designed from either:

    1. Applying UK policies which were designed for UK social conditions of the day, definitely not applicable to Cayman society, or;

    2. Creating policies which bordered on a blatant disregard for the diversity of abilities and skill sets and saw all students as ‘necktie’ or ‘white collar’ material, thereby ignoring vocational considerations and, in fact, disbanding prior existing vocational curricula.

    What has not happened to date is that NO Government or Minister of Education since that period has taken any steps to reverse the damage of that time and address the real corrections necessary. One primary measure is to recognize that politicians are not necessarily educators (save Roy Bodden’s tenure) and that they should rely on the advice of the professionals and not direct OUR education policies from the perspective of advancing their own political goals or establishing monuments to themselves. This approach has served to confuse and demoralize students, demoralize teachers and parents (among many other negative effects) and assist in eroding the support base which is essential in educating a society.

    If they can get past that step, then maybe we will see concrete (no pun intended) and positive advances in our education system.

    Additionally, the disconnect between the education system and the societal changes that our country has been experiencing, especially since the late 70’s, clearly defines why, as yet, there is no clear successful policy in addressing the latter. 

    Despite those who feel that we were just a mosquito-ridden swamp before THEY came and ‘developed’ us into a ‘success’, I say that Cayman’s social development has in fact regressed in the past 40 years. Concrete, condos, and numerous banks, etc. etc. are not necessarily a true measure of development.   

  5. Marl Rhodes says:

    Re Question 2) do your kids a favour and forget about saving cash to send them to some awful third rate college in Florida.  Take advantage of the best deal going and let them go to the UK to study at UK citizens rates.  Better colleges and a much better price.  I am firmly answering "No" to question 2.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would not deny that there are third-rate colleges in Florida and elsewhere in the USA, but there are also first-rate colleges in the USA as well.

      As one who attended a US university around the time the "transition" from UK to US universities as a choice of institution for higher education amongst Caymanians was coming into effect, I can assure you that the consensus is that top-tier US universities offer a more broad-based and better education.

      Harvard and Yale cannot replace Oxford and Cambridge as a choice for law simply because our legal system is based on the British system, but generally speaking you would be hard pressed to name a couple of British professors who were awarded Nobel Prizes whilst working at a British university.

      Look at all of the advances in technology over the last 25 years and ask yourself how strong an influence British educated engineers had on those advances compared to their American counterparts.

      A good student will excel in just about any environment, so the choice of institution for higher education is not that important, and we all know that you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cambridge has more Nobel lauerates than anywhere else.

        How many Nobel prize winners has the University of Tampa? 

        Florida degree = sheep with a lack of imagination.

        • Anonymous says:

          Cambridge can claim more Nobel lauerates than any other university because they keep their own score, and each university decides for themselves how loosely to use the "affiliation" with the Nobel Prize.

          Here is a list from Wikipedia that actually puts Cambridge in second place, but more importantly would be to note that seven of the top ten are in the US.

          Columbia University 94
          University of Cambridge 87
          University of Chicago 85
          Massachusetts Institute of Technology 79
          Harvard University 74
          University of California, Berkeley 65
          University of Paris 59
          University of Oxford 57
          Stanford University 51
          Yale University 48

           

          I’m sorry that I didn’t make myself clear in my earlier post, but I was referring to where the body of work took place that led to the award, and it seems to me that one has a far greater chance of rubbing shoulders with someone who rubbed shoulders at a US university than you do at a UK university.

          Here is one of the Nobel laureates from Cambridge for 2009. Tell me where you think the greatest influece on this prize came from. Looks like US vs UK at about 10 to 1 from my perspective.

          CNS: Just the link next time, please.

          • Marl Rhodes says:

            My response ended higher up the thread for some reason (almost certainly my fault!)