Anglin mulls infant class

| 07/08/2009

(CNS): Two months into the job, the new Minister for Education Rolston Anglin says he has not decided on anything but one of the measures he is looking into is the reintroduction of the infant year to the public system, and believes that getting children into the system early would make a more significant impact than having an additional year at the end. Anglin also said that he and the ministers with responsibilities for social services and health all have in mind an individual to bridge all three ministries and act as a liaison between the schools and relevant agencies.

“It’s a cliché that everything starts from home, but there is no doubt in my mind that the education system also has a part to play," he said. "Good teachers and the proper support structure in schools can turn lives around.” Noting that he personally knew people from disadvantaged homes who, because of strong caring teachers, have achieved success, he said, “Good teachers can make failing students into average students, average students into good students and good students into exceptional students.”

He said there were those with potential that were not getting the five O’ levels that they could. “The system does not do enough for the bottom 30% or really the second 20%,” the minister thought.

While he is still taking stock of the situation, one decision made is to move suspension as a punishment out of the Alternative Education Centre and back into schools. The minister said he believes in the structure of discipline but there should also be the opportunity to change and turn lives around. Young people have greater capacity to make mistakes and we should not give up on them, he said.

Anglin said he has asked for the number of suspensions by teacher as he had heard that certain teachers have a higher propensity to suspend students, which he saw as a professional development issue, and believes there should be consistency in the system. He has also asked for all of the schools’ rules and graduation criteria. It is important to ensure that all schools are being consistent, the minister believed.

“While there’s been a lot of glitz and glamour over last four years, I’m not convinced about open space learning — that it is appropriate for the Cayman Islands” Anglin said. They needed to weigh up the cost of changing the plans but he thought this would pale in comparison to the cost of failed students. For example, he said, on the Clifton Hunter site the science lab is in a big u-shape, designed for two classes to be run simultaneously with no barrier. “I cannot be convinced that teenagers can focus on one teacher while another teacher is a few feet away also trying to run a class,” he said.

The minister also questioned the implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) system in primary schools. When he had asked for the policy document on the programme he had been sent a link to the IB website. “How I like to manage, if you have an idea you do a proper business plan listing the strengths and weaknesses after consulting with the experienced practitioners we have in the schools. That has not been done, even though former minister said it was,” he said. Recalling a meeting with principals, he said while they thought some teaching practices that came along with the IB had helped, they were not 100% sure that IB was the way to go.

“There has to be a framework,” he said. “Many times I get answers without details. I cannot live and manage that way, especially in a ministry that is for governing this country. If I wanted to run a business that way that’s my business, but this is the people’s business.”

He and Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues would be reviewing the teaching and learning and the system generally, “taking stock of where are, what works well and what’s not working well. We will look carefully at some of the recent initiatives and make some crucialdecisions as to what will feature long term.”

One thing he had learned on visits with school principals was that the social and learning issues were broader and deeper than he expected. “We know teens have to struggle with behaviour learning, but there are 5 year olds that are seeing a behavioural psychologist,” Anglin noted.

A believer that social workers in the school system can help, Anglin said that he and Minister for Social Services Mike Adam and Health Minister Mark Scotland all have in mind an individual to bridge all three ministries and act as liaison between the schools and agencies. “I don’t believe there is a lack of will but a lot of what has been tried is not working,” he said.

The new education minister has a different approach to the job, which he says is a result of his peculiar background as an auditor. “It was how I was trained to look at things. I see it as a business case – how to minimize risks. It’s definitely an auditor’s mindset,” he said.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Taking a look at early childhood education is very important. Research has shown that students that are failing in Year One will be failing in Year Four and will most likely never be successful in school. Early intervention is key to student success, as is having caring effective teachers.

    As a young Caymanian, who is is financially strapped (aren’t we all!), the idea that I can put my children in government school, in a class that is developmentally appropriate for them without having to pay close to $1000/month makes me very hopeful.

    North Side and Esat End already have the program to which Mr. Anglin was referring, and I have heard great things about the teachers there. Unfortunately I do not live in either of those districts.

    The key to improving the school system in Cayman cannot just be the focus of the government. The huge changes that occured in the US educational system happened because parents were advocates for their chidlren. The same needs to happen in Cayman.

    Parents need to educate themselves as to what good teaching practice looks like. Parents themselves need to look at what good parenting looks like. The old traditonally West Indian way of derogating children, which also occurs in some classrooms, must be seen as damaging and must become obsolete.

    If we don’t show our children that they they are worthy of being respected, then we are not  teaching them to respect. We need to model good behaviour for our children.



  2. Anonymous says:

    This is already in place in the North Side and East End Primary schools and has been for several years…. hello!!  Not a new idea.

    • Anonymous says:

      i agree that early intervention is critical, but having had a child in the system during the period when the year was added at the beginning, I suggest that the minister looks at this very carefully before he moves on it.

      What happened then — and it may not necessarily happen now — is that the teachers of these basically kindergarten students were not properly trained to deal with this entry level group.  The teachers were trying to teach them in the same way that higher primary levels are taught.

      In one incident, my three year old was given a sharpened pencil to do God knows what, with whichhe ended up jabbing another three year old who was trying to grab his book.  He was actually taken to the principal’s office and beaten with a bealt.  Horrible!

      The teacher of the class said it was the worst group of students she had ever had!  No wonder — she was not properly prepared and oriented.

      The Education Department at the time became aware of the problem — whcih was basically that once you bring children into the primary setting everyone begins to expect from them the same types of outputs and performances as from the regular primary school population.

      True, this happend when it was first introduced some 15 years or so ago — and that does not mean that one cannot control for these issues — but it should give us pause.

      Perhaps the MInister could look at how he can strengthen early childhood education as a whole and how he can ensure that more students are given the opportunity — rather than reaching for quick solutions.

      I wish the Minister well — he is a very capable man and he has a wonderful heart.  I hope that we all support him and that he is able to deal with the issues to the betterment of education.  I pray that he can — and every person in the Cayman Islands should rally to the cause and ask how he or she can help.  We really all need to put our hearts and minds to working towards solutions — and they are not likely to be easy ones.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I dont know how you would do it and where you would add the school year but children should not attend school until they are at least 4yrs and 9 months or 5 years old. That is the age that formal education should start with either receiption of kindergarten and then after a year there go to grade one. They should not leave school etiher until they are at least 17yrs or 18yrs old. In the primary school we should go back to the 3R’s and add computers. Once a child can read, write and spell they can master anything after that. Too much time is spent in primary school teaching unnecessary subjects which they dont need and which they repeat once they get to high school.

  4. anon1 says:

    IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT.  Now that I have everyones attention ……………

    Mr. Anglin, here is a suggestion that you may or may not think is a good one but it is my contributoin towards solving two problems you appear to be identifying.

    The two problems I am talking about are 1. Young people leaving school at 16 years of age which everyone agrees is too young as it seems to highlight immuterity in the work place among our young people which non Caymanians and some Caymanians interpret as lazy or something worse. 2. a small presentage of those graduating at 16 with functional illeteracy which is usually expressed in terms such aslack of comprehension skills, bad penmanship, reading difficulties, bad people skills, bad spelling (like myself in this case, thank god for spell check, perhaps CNS could add this to the menu alongside bold, italics, that posters can stop wasting their time correcting other posters spelling and calling them ignorant and uneducated…. but that’s another topic), ignouant, uneducated, unemployable, gangster, slut and the list goes on.

    Here is my solution to both these problems. Add the extra year in the middle of the Caymanian’s school life, between primary school and high school. Set up a corriculum that teaches nothing else but these topics that have been identified above ( and any other deficiencies thathave been identified by the teachers and the buisness world). No sciences, no trades, no anything else. This should apply to ALL students, the elite as well as the marginal as they ALL need these skills when they get into the real world. By making this year mandatory to ALL students, you will avoid the stigma that is often placed on the marginal few, a stigma that can often shape the entire life of a Caymanian, a stigma that often leads to a life that will include crime as people start be labeling them unemployable. This solution allows the student to be a little more mature at 17 when they are forced into the real world and insures that poteltial employers and polititions do not label them unemployable simply because of a lack of these basic skills.

    High school can then have the task of polishing these skills that are learned in the middle year and develouping the elite students to their true potential while at the same time teaching new skills to the not so academically inclined.

    It is IDIOTIC (there is that word again) to think that it is the responsibility of the parents to teach these skills when that parent may be holding down two jobs to keep a roof over the students head and food on their table. it is even more IDIOTIC to expect a parent who may not have those skills themselves to teach them to their children. It is a proven fact that ALL children that you Mr Minister catagorise as unemployable, come from some of the families that do not have these skills themselves (notice I said some as many families without proper education in the Cayman Islands have produced some of the brightest minds in the Cayman Islands history). How can you or anyone else expect them to teach their children. We have to break this vicious cycle by thinking outside the box.

    You will note from my earlier posts that it is my opinion that there is no such catagory as "unemployable" as the Caymanian society needs every Caymanian to pitch in in whatever catogary or position they can.

    It is only when every Caymanian is employed that Caymanians will stop resentiong expatriate labor being imported into the island. This employment of ALL Caymanians in the workforce at whatever skill level they happen to be at, will completely eliminate the resentment that is always fely by a Caymanian in his or her own country when they do not have a job, but can look around and see 30,000 non Caymanians going to work every day.

    PLEASE NO REPLIES FROM RABID IGNORANT, IDIOTIC POSTERS WHO HAVE NOTHING MORE TO CONTRIBUTE THAN THE ABILITY TO POINT OUT SPELLING ERRORS. I would like some intelectual discourse that include some of your ideas that can compliment the solutions I put forward, or, even better yet some of your solutions that I have not even thought of yet. I know there are good, deep thinking people out there who have some solutions that I have not even dreaned of yet, I would like to hear from them for a change. Together we can fix this problem. THIS IS NOT A PPM OR UDP PROBLEM, NOR IS IT A CAYMANIAN OR EXPATERIATE PROPLEM.


  5. Caymanians for Good says:

    This is a great idea for the Public schools. It already happens in the private ones and this will allow our public students to get a head start.

    Great Idea Mr. Anglin

  6. Anonymous says:

    CNS – Can you give us an update on the Minister’s condition…..he has been hospitalised.

    CNS: He is in hospital but it’s not serious apparently. We’re waiting on a statement.

  7. Anonymous says:

    By reading both this article, and the other article that was posted a few days ago on this issue, I think it can be safe to say the MoE is contradicting himself a bit.

    In the previous article he said that the current education system is “producing unemployable kids” and that he wants to tackle this problem and help kids not only in high school, but kids who are out of high school, be able to get jobs.

    Now in this article, the MoE states that he wants to get children into the education system earlier.

    Any child can be employed, in any field they choose, not everyone is built to be sitting around in an office, I know a lot of kids who aren’t book smart, but if you give them something to figure out and fix, they can surely do it. Instead of adding in a school year in the beginning, add it at the end! Current graduates of the John Gray School are usually around the age of 16, and some are a little older. 16 years old! The reason they are “unemployable” in the first place! They are too young to hold a job and I do believe most employers will not hire a person of that age if not a summer job. And further more, they aren’t even able to get a drivers license! As the age for that is 17. so they end up at home with nothing to do but cause trouble!

    MoE rethink your measures!


  8. Euclid says:

    Let’s move the school year the vacations do not coincide with the US school vacations – this would reduce holiday costs.  Given that it is summer all year round here, it does not really matter when the long break occurs.

  9. Anonymous says:

    So I don’t undertand the concept of starting children earlier.  They already start between 3 1/2 to 5 years old, depending on the school (public/private).  Are they going to start them at 2 1/2 to 3 now?  Sorry adding a school year is best.  What do you really know when you are 15/16 years old graduating high school.  I was there once, and I didn’t know anything compared to what I know now.  I think students need to be given the opportunity to grow and mature before they leave school.  

  10. Anonymous says:

    Where are all the Caymanian and Caribbean teachers?  there seems to be an influx of "new teachers" who don’t or won’t even try to identify with the students who receive an education in Cayman.  i have even heard my child tell me that she overheard certain teachers referring to the children at her school as "socially challenged" "vagabonds" "idiots" and for he first time in her school career my child asked me if something was wrong with her skin colour.  Mr Anglin, please be careful with who you let manage our children.  Teachers are with our children all day and they play a huge role in the mental, social and emotional development of the children they are responsible for.  Some of these teachers seem to be here on an extended vacation.  I always wonder though.  If things are so great "back in the UK" why the hell are they here?

  11. Anonymous says:

    To add the extra school year to the reception class and not the final year is an obvious and glaring example of the inexperienced hands that are now at the helm !!!

    • Anonymous says:

      "To add the extra school year to the reception class and not the final year is an obvious and glaring example of the inexperienced hands that are now at the helm !!!"

      Actually, it’s the best place to put your money, provided you do not treat the children as pupils.  Early years children go to "school", not to learn to read and write, but to learn how to socialise, how to manipulate shapes, how to play without getting into fights and how to run around to fend off obesity.  In general, full time attendance at these schools removes the children from the negative influences of care-givers and parents who are hustling from job two to job three.

      If you wait till the end of schooling (as we did before), then the children’s attitudes are set (solve everything by conflict, leading to suspensions) and they graduate socially maladjusted and with little sense of responsibility.

      What we need is more early years provision.  Go look at places like South Korea, Singapore and the Nordic countries.


  12. Bob the Builder says:

    Good news for the construction industry then, thought we were curtailing Capital Projects? Where it is you goin put the likkle pickney Rollie? On the grass piece?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I realise costs are being cut everywhere but please give Mr Wallace at John Cumber a second deputy now – not when the Reception class is reintroduced, or later. A large school is defined as 250 students – the size of the George Hicks Campus schools. There were 516 students at John Cumber before the summer.  With the current economic situation this number could very well increase come September. At an average of 21.5 students per class we could also do with a couple more teaching assistants.

    A concerned parent.