Exam results up

| 26/09/2010

(CNS): Cayman Brac High School has had a banner year for exam results with 65% of the graduating Year 12 class obtaining five or more high level passes and 38% obtaining seven or more, parents were told at a PTA meeting last week. At a recent presentation to teachers on Cayman Brac, Education Ministry Senior Policy Advisor Clive Baker said that results for John Gray High School improved slightly over the previous year, with 38% of Year 12 students getting 5 or more high level passes, up from 36% on 2009. Historically, the average at CBHS has been just under 50% and about 24% at JGHS.

High level passes are described as Grades 1 to 3 in CXC or CSEC exams, and A* to C in GCSE exams, which are Level 2 on the new National Qualification Framework. The NQF is a chart showing the academic levels of achievement for the various external examinations that are taken by Cayman Islands students, which allows students, parents and potential employers to assess results on a nationally recognized scale (see NQF chart below). For example, a vocational BTEC Introductory course is the academic equivalent on the NQF as a CXC grade 4-6, while a BTEC First diploma is the equivalent of CXC grades 1-3.

While CXC/GCSE exam results improved in the Cayman Islands, in Britain GCSE pass rates continued to rise for 23rd year in a row. Though the equivalent results statistics are not available, the UK media reported that overall, 69.1% of all GCSE entries were awarded at least a C grade, up two percentage points on 2009, and 22.6% of entries achieved an A* or an A, up one percentage point on last year.

The Education Mnistry has not released results for the current Year 12 students on Grand Cayman (the first year group to take external exams at the end of Year 11) saying that these will be available next year when students have completed all their exams. However, these students now have a range of options available.

Baker said that around 20 Year 12 students at have chosen the Advanced Placement course, for which they must have at least 5 high-grade passes, including English and Maths, at A*-B/I-II grades. “This is a straightforwardly academic stream, aimed at the highest achieving students in the school,” he said.

AP better prepares students for university than the CXC/GCSEs, which are not designed to be pre-college courses. It also provides college credits for most US universities and in some cases could give students enough credit to skip the first year of a US bachelor’s degree, Baker said. Furthermore, as an accepted A-level equivalent, AP also offers a pathway to UK universities.

Advanced Placement courses are created by the College Board and are more rigorous than courses offered at US high schools. APs are individual subjects and college credit is usually given for a grade of 3 or above (5 being the highest).

According to the ministry, in future students must have passed exams at Level 3 on the NQF to qualify for a government scholarships for a bachelor’s degree. This includes the AP programme, but students can also take A-levels, which are offered at several local private schools, or an associate’s degree, which is offered at UCCI and ICCI.

There is around $2 million in this year’s budget for the Ministry of Education to construct a new building on Cayman Brac to house the restructured Year 12 group when it is introduced on that island, Baker revealed. While the restructuring of the high schools on Grand Cayman took place this year, and last year’s Year 11 have now started their new Year 12 options, the first year group on the Brac that will have the same opportunities is the current Year 9, who will choose their exam options at the end of this school year, at the same time as the Year 10 students.

However, CBHS Principal Adrian Jones told parents at a PTA meeting that BTEC courses in engineering, hospitality and music have already been introduced this year. These courses can lead to a Level 2 qualification on the NQF, he said.

To find out more about changes to the education system, go to the ministry’s blog, where there are PowerPoint presentations on what’s happening.


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  1. true caymanian says:

     these exam results are brillient, I think that in 4/5 years the majorety of people in financal  services e,g bankers will be Caymanians

  2. Tom McCallum says:

    Another thought re lifting standards… an amazing charity operates in the USA called Teach for America, encouraging graduates from leading colleges to give up to two years of their time post graduation to work in public school that face challenges of various types.

    They get these top class graduates to give of their time not only as good citizens, but because this is something that builds strength, leadership qualities, and for many other reasons will be looked on very positively by employers in any sector.

    They also find many companies and other sources who will donate to their cause, as it is well run and, simply, such a simple, powerful and effective idea.

    I’ve had some interaction with leaders of Teach for America (though my own charitable work focuses on Cayman), and I’d be happy to work with the powers that be in Cayman to connect them so this can be discussed.

    What if we did something like this for Cayman ? Take Caymanian college grads (including the increasing number who have scholarships but no guarantee of a job afterwards) and get them to "build their resume" by giving a year or two in teaching in our public schools. On the other side, encourage financial support not only from the public sector, but also from our private sector employers. Employers would certainly (IMHO) look very positively at lending support to a programme that would clearly help develop the Caymanian workforce, both the college graduates and those they help in the schools.






  3. Tom McCallum says:

    Absolutely fair points made about comparison between the aspirations, parental support and socio-economic backgrounds between Cayman Prep and JGHS students, but surely that alone does not explain the difference between 34% and 92% pass rate ?

    As noted in the article, in the UK some 69% of all GCSEs were at a passing grade (C or above). I don’t have the stats to hand (CNS?), but let’s assume then that this meant that around 50% of all students hit the mark of 5 passing grades.

    The UK has, as a whole, a lower standard of living than Cayman, has many, many socio-economic and cultural issues that negatively impact their education system, yet their results are better than ours, and on a lower budget (take the Education department budget here and divide into the number of students… it is a high figure).

    On a far broader level, and from some related comments above, surely we need to, as a country, aspire for more for our children and place far higher emphasis on their education ? This isn’t a political issue, nor is it simply the job of the Ministry or Education Department to fix this… it starts with ourselves, as parents, as family members.

    BTW, let’s stop being "anonymous" on this issue….let’s voice our opinions on this subject without that shield.


    • Anonymous says:

      Expectations – that’s the main difference.  CPHS teachers expect their students to achieve highly.  Too many JGHS teachers only expect Caymanian children to fail.  Too many teachers at JGHS think all they have to do is give students information and do not consider themselves responsible for getting the students to learn, whatever their ability, background or inclination.  Yes, the students have to put the effort in, but so do the teachers!  

      • Level says:

        Prep also “asks” underperforming students to leave at the end of Year 9, essentially weeding out any possibilities for poor external exam results. Many of these students then transfer to the public system and fall into the group that does not succeed in those exams and, for the record, I am stating this as a matter of fact. Of course, Prep does not willingly publicize this.

        CPHS also has virtually no special needs population, unlike JGHS which has to take kids no matter how challenged they are. Please read the following excerpt from CPHS’


        At Prep, you either keep up or you’re out – if you got in there in the first place.

        I am not making excuses for JGHS any more than I am challenging Prep’s right to attract and keep a high achieving student body, but we cannot continue to compare apples and oranges.

  4. Anonymous says:

    These look like mediocre resuts until you realise that given the behaviour of most JGHS & CHHS students at Wendys/Burger King after school they’re actully execellent. If any child can learn and pass exams whilst going to school with the bunch that frequent to aforementioned then good for them. I wish CITN would take time to go to Wendys/Burger King after school and tape the atrocious behaviour so that parents would realise yes they are our/your kids.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good Job Students!

    : )

  6. Anonymous says:

    Publish details. Why they don’t publish the names, subjects and grade of the results? This use to be done some years ago.

  7. Anonymous says:

     Congratulations to the students and staff on what is, I believe the second or third year of steady improvements… in both schools…..

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is all originating from the work and challenge that Alden has established – improvement takes time – McKeeva cannot take the credit for this.. although he probably will   

    • Anonymous says:

      Utter nonsense. Stop politicising education. It’s a moronic practice and nothing whatsoever to do with furthering the education process, in fact quite the opposite.

  9. Anonymous says:

     Congratulations to the students and staff on what is, I believe the second or third year of steady improvements… in both schools…..

  10. Anonymous says:

    How on earth is the associates degree even on the same line as an IB diploma or an A’level?  This is self serving nonsense at it’s best. The associate’s is not of the same standard at all.  It also begs the question why the Government schools system is so far behind the national averages in the UK  given the amount of money spent per pupil?

    I heard that Cayman Prep had 92% with 5 passes at A*-C from a friend? Which is there a huge difference, probably for a lot less money! 



    • Geoff Small says:

      You cannot even start to compare the results at Cayman Prep with John Grey.  The students at CP are the offspring of aspirational, educated, middle class parents.  They have lessons with similar students and the atmosphere and environment for learning is quite dissimilar from that at JG.

      Those gentlemen recently convicted of murder were in classrooms with other Caymanian students.  Can you even begin to imagine the problems that teachers must have had?  Do you think that they and others who may have been their friends, ever said things like, "No, I can’t come out tonight.  I’ve got homework to do."

      Only 92%?  It should have been 100% considering the money spent.

      Alden, the staff at JG and the two or three (expat) officers at the education department who were responsible for implementing the changes should be heartily congratulated.  

      Do you think that they have had any official recognition?  I suggest that you try and find out.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can’t compare Cayman’s Prep results with those of the government schools – the outcome of schooling is highly tied to socio-economic status. It begins before school even starts.

      Most students from lower SES homes begin school with a vocabulary that is millions of words below students from middle class & upper class homes. Students from poverty homes begin school with a vocabulary about 13 million words versus 45 million forstudents from a professional home. This affects the ability to read & understand stories from the get go – and reading is so important to general school success.

      Students from low SES homes go to the low quality preschools or are left at home with helpers, which also affect their learning – this is terrible as birth the age 6 are the most important years for learning.

      Even if you are "poor" and send your kids to Prep, obviously you value education – which also helps with student outcomes – as you would be scrimping and saving to send them there & making sure the money is well spent.

      This not to say that students from low SES homes cannot do well in school – but in order for that the happen the quality of the teacher is paramount. The trend in the US now (finally!) is to let go of teachers whose students are under-achieving:

      D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced Friday that she has fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor appraisals under a new evaluation system that for the first time holds some educators accountable for students’ standardized test scores. –the Washington Post

      Another project is the “Harlen Pipeline” which also believes that effective teaching is the key for students to be successful: http://www.hcz.org/about-us/the-hcz-project.


      Education reform is doable in the Cayman Islands – but it is not as simple as looking at Prep’s pass rate…as many factors affect student success


      • Geoff Small says:

        I don’t know where you got your figures from but they are wildly inaccurate.

        A good rule of thumb is that we add approximately 1000 word families to our vocabulary every year.  For example, "LEARN" is a family word and therefore "learned", "learnt", "learner" and "learning" are words in that family.

        So a five year old starting school will have a vocabulary of around 5,000 word families and a university graduate will have a vocabulary of about 20,000. 

        It has been worked out (by someone who really should get out more) that Shakespeare had the largest vocabulary of anyone who wrote in English using 884,647 different words in his plays and sonnets but only 29,066 different word families.  He is also credited with making up 3,000 words that are in common use today.

        • Frak says:

          I agree – those figures are preposterous. 

          Wiki says: "James Flynn reports the remarkable differences in vocabulary exposure of pre-schoolers between different classes in the U.S.A. Apparently, pre-schoolers of professional families are typically exposed to 2,150 different words, pre-schoolers from working class families to 1,250 words, while those from households on welfare just 620." 

          Another source says: "A native English speaker with a 4-year college degree is able to understand about 20,000 words."

          I say the first poster should list the 45 million words they are on about.  That should keep them out of trouble.

          As an aside, I make up words all the time so I don’t get why Bill S was so famous.  Frak (not my invention).

      • Anonymous says:

        Where did you get your information on vocabulary volume, 05:44? 

        FYI: The entire " Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition"  includes about 600,000 definitions.

        In support of your concept that there is a correlation between socio-economic strata and vocabulary, Wikipedia says this: "James Flynn reports the remarkable differences in vocabulary exposure of pre-schoolers between different classes in the U.S.A. Apparently, pre-schoolers of professional families are typically exposed to 2,150 different words, pre-schoolers from working class families to 1,250 words, while those from households on welfare just 620."

        Another thing:  What is so inherently "terrible" with leaving a child home with a "helper"? Being a two-career marriage, we had to hire someone to help tend to the household and care of our youngest child. This wonderful person, an awesome lady from Jamaica, would talk to and share books with my daughter constantly. There is no absolutely doubt in my mind that the loving attention my child received from "Nanny" certainly contributed  to her advanced verbal and reading skills and her later success in school.

        I wholeheartedly agree that effective teaching is key to a student’s achievement. That God for the superlative job that Cayman Brac teachers have done over the years to contribute to our children’s academic success!

        My eldest daughter graduated from Cayman Brac High School and went on to attend a very competitive private university. This being the first of our children to come from CBHS and go to university, we did not know what to expect. We were quite anxious as we awaited her first semester grades. When she called us to tell of her grades it was obvious in her voice that she was shaken. It sounded like she was in tears. We feared the worst. Imagine our joy when we she told us she had made the Dean’s List!

        Both of our children strove to work hard in school and applied themselves, both achieved success in their post-secondary education, and both have gone on to good careers. Trust me when I say that the dedicated and concerned teachers here on Cayman Brac certainly made a significant contribution to their success.

        In light of this year’s continued good news regarding exam placement of Brac students, I think it is time we Bracker’s give our super teachers, and our brilliant and hard-working students, some lavish praise for a job well done!

        To Cayman Brac’s wonderful teachers: THANK YOU! Keep up the fine work!

        To the students who did well on their exams, and their parents: CONGRATULATIONS! GREAT JOB!

    • Pauly Cicero says:

      Where would you put an AA/AS?

  11. Anonymous says:

     May I ask what the Caribbean averages are?

    • Anonymous says:


      • Anonymous says:

        Its irrelevant if you have no aspirations. Perhaps we are doing better than most.  

        • Anonymous says:

          It is irrelevant because our children do not have to compete with the best of the Caribbean. They have to compete with the best of North America, Asia, and Europe. Saying well done, you are above average by Caribbean standards will destine them to a life of underachievement and even failure in our economy.

          I do not mean to offend anyone  but it is a fact that the decline in our education standards coincided with us turning away from 0 levels to CXC’s, and from teachers from North America and Europe to teachers from the region.  

      • Anonymous says:

        If part of the general discussion is how well young Caymanians can compete in the job marketplace, how well they stack up against the competition regionally is certainly relevant.

        • Anonymous says:

          There is no job market in the rest of the Caribbean. They need to be able to compete in the big world.

          • Anonymous says:

            So the question should be "how do the averages compare to those worldwide"? 

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well done students and teachers at CBHS.

    • Just Sayin' says:

      It would be interesting to see how the Grand Cayman results might match up if the class sizes were the same as those on Cayman Brac rather than double.

      • Just Replyin' says:

        It would be interesting to see how the Grand Cayman results might match up if…

        Grand Cayman was as free of stress as Cayman Brac.

        …drug use was not as common among young people.

        …gangs were non-existent on Grand Cayman.

        …negative peer pressure was not as palpable on Grand Cayman.

        …parents were as pro-active in their children’s education as they are on Cayman Brac.

        …if, if, if, if…

        If frogs had wings they would not bump their butts when they hop, but it is what it is.

        Regarding a smaller student-teacher ratio (STR): While there is good evidence to support the notion that reduction in the STR to between 1:15 to 1:20 will result in notably better outcomes in primary years, research is mixed on the impact a reduced STR has in secondary (high school) years. I seriously doubt that halving the high school STR in Grand Cayman would boost exam achievement to anywhere Brac levels. But I stand to be corrected. I am of the opinion that there are other and very complex factors at play here.

        Then there is the question of the socio-economic demographic. The Brac does not have the wealth of Grand Cayman. This factor would tend to offset the advantage of smaller classes. However, we do not have the option for the affluent or brightest or best to attend private schools either. So the brightest students and the children from more affluent families (who statistically have the potential to achieve higher test scores) attend public schools along with everyone else. Perhaps their higher-than-average exam results may be a factor?

        Perhaps the presence of the students who would be candidates for private schools (if they existed on the Brac) may bring about an increase in competitiveness and enhance the classroom experience in general.


        What if Grand Cayman had no private schools and the affluent-bright-best students went to public schools? Exam achievement might be significantly higher.

        Who knows? Personally I feel Cayman Brac has superb schools, great teachers, wonderful students, and a good number of involved and concerned parents. Moreover, this island paradise is an ideal environment to bring up children who will be empowered to excel in school!




        All I can say for certainty is this (and it is something no amount of conjecture can detract from):