New options for 16+ students

| 18/11/2009

(CNS): Students will be taking CXC and GCSE external exams in Year 11 following the Education Ministry’s major restructuring of secondary education next academic year, bringing it in line with the British education system on which the Cayman system is based. However, students’ compulsory schooling will continue for an additional year, in which they can take advanced academic or vocational courses or work training. Currently, students take external exams at the end of Year 12 after 6 years of secondary education, while their UK counterparts take GCSE or equivalent exams after 5 years. (Left: Minister Rolston Anglin, CO Mary Rodrigues and CEO Shirley Wahler)

However, it appears that these changes will not be applied to the Cayman Brac High School at this time, though no explanation for this has been given. Brac students will continue to take the bulk of their exams at the end of Year 12 and not benefit from the new offerings of the additional year.

Announcing the changes to be implemented in September 2010, the Education Ministry said the George Hicks Campus, which is currently a middle school, and the John Gray campus, which is currently a high school, will become two “all-through” high schools, catering to students from Years 7- 11 (ages 11 to 16).

A new core curriculum for Years 10 and 11 students studying towards external exams mandates English, mathematics, science, information technology, religious education and social studies, and they will choose a further 3 subjects. According to the ministry, the core subjects “will reflect cultural norms and the need to produce globally competitive citizens.”

The ministry also says that innovative technical subjects available in the two schools on Grand Cayman will include a leisure and tourism option, which is specially designed and accredited for Caymanian students, as well as catering; music technology; and health and social care. These will be offered in addition to already well-established programmes in construction, electrical and electronics and motor vehicles, reflecting a renewed focus on national priorities and the needs of the labour market, the release says.

A mandatory 16+ “bridge year” for students who have completed their CXC/GCSE examinations will also be launched in 2010, the ministry says, and will include a variety of programmes for students at all levels, including technical and vocational options, foundation studies for students who want to improve their readiness for further studies, and will also provide the opportunity for retakes of exams.

The ministry will be introducing Advanced Placement (AP) for academically inclined students, through which they can earn college credit and significant advanced standing for US universities. The 16+ programme is also working towards accreditation for the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme, which, like AP, offers further academic courses and prepares university-bound students but encompasses a more holistic approach to education.

“There will also be largely work-based options for students who would benefit from this training,” noted Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues in the release, adding that many of the programmes will have a substantial real "world of work" element. In addition, students may also opt, as they do now, to pursue different learning opportunities through other providers, including A Levels at local private schools, or studies at UCCI.

Also planned are enhanced arrangements for career guidance, assessment and counselling support. A careers advisory service will be developed, with expertise to be shared throughout all phases of the government education service. Expert career advisers will help students in their earlier high-school years with academic and potential career choices, and later work with them on appropriate 16+ options.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler strongly endorsed the restructuring process. “This is a significant and long-awaited step forward for education in the Cayman Islands. The move to all-through Year 7 – 11 schools will provide young people with better continuity, and an improved learning environment,” she said.

“In addition, the introduction of the 16+ programmes allows us to provide targeted and relevant career and technical preparation for the workplace, while also nurturing the academic potential of our students. We believe that this programme will help us to develop a strong body of future citizens and leaders for the Cayman Islands.”

Cayman schools have already seen improvements in external exam results: last year around 36% of students at John Gray students achieved five or more high-level passes, up from 27% the year before and a record for the school. At the Cayman Brac High School 56% (22 out of 39) of the graduating class gained 5 or more high level passes and 36% gained 7 or more.

With most of the news about education focused on the drama surrounding the construction of the two new schools, Education Minister Rolston Anglin noted the urgency of separating that and the much-needed academic improvements in secondary education.

“Education reform cannot be held to ransom by contractor disputes on buildings,” he said. “Reform is ultimately about enhancements to teaching and learning; the curriculum; and students’ social and personal development. There is much that we can do come September 2010 to introduce significant reforms that will benefit our children in our current school sites. Acting now will also ease uncertainties for all stakeholders, and allow for an easy transition once the new schools are completed.”

Chief Officer Rodrigues said a ministry-appointed New Schools Transition Committee, with representatives from the Department of Education Services, the Educational Standards and Assessment Unit, and the ministry, is busy completing consultations and plans. The committee will provide regular updates on the developments in the coming weeks.

“Given the uncertainties, the group has the difficult task of planning for a range of scenarios: the delivery of one new high school, two new schools, or no schools at all,” Rodrigues explained. “With the Minister’s clear direction, the group is now focusing on the developments that will be rolled out for a September 2010 start, no matter what pertains in relation to the new buildings.”

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  1. Just Sayin says:

    You know, all the fancy schools, extra years, policy this and exams that won’t actually make a damn sight of difference if you can’t fix the root of the problems first, the parents.

    Those whose children can’t do any wrong, whose children are ‘entitled’ to behave how every ignorantly and disrespectfully they so choose.

    Those like the the fifty somethings who post their childrens’ punishments on their open Facebook pages (rather than following the appropriate channels), seeking justification for their childrens wrongdoing by trying to deflect the blame away from themselves and their own ignorance and lack of parenting skills.

    Those same ones whose children will become the next in the series of unemployment figures, not through any fault of their own but that of their parents.

    Anyway, just sayin.

  2. noname says:

    I don’t have a problem with what Government is doing with the school. The only thing I would like to change is the grading system.  For example 84% is considered an "A".  Therefore, one thinks that they are an "A" student until they decide to go overseas mostly USA where an "A" is 95%.

    • Apples and pears says:

      84% on an essay based exam is very different from 95% multiple choice.

      • examiner says:

        I think that you will find that the % mark required to achieve an ‘A’ grade in a GCSE  varies from year to year depending upon how "difficult" the examination paper was.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s a little simplistic.  It is how hard the exam is that counts.  Getting 90% on an easy exam is easier to aschieve than getting 60% on a very difficult exam. 

    • Anonymous says:

      They need to lower the percentage, as if they didn’t many students would fail.   It is this way at UCCI.  You can get less than half right and still end up passing. Oh, and to top it off your grade point average is inflated as well.  Typically A=4, B=3, C=2,  D=1  So in essence in most schools you would not receive a 4.0 if you achieved 85% average, you would receive a 3.5 Grade Point.   Wait until the accreditation team comes in and makes changes.  This "smoke and mirrors" will be gone.


      A: 85-100  (4)

      B+:80-84 (3.5)

      B: 75-79 (3.25)

      B-: 70-74 (3)

      C+: 65-69 (2.5)

      C: 60-64 (2.25)

      C-: 55-59 (2)

      D: 45-54 (1) 

      F: 0-44 (0)

  3. Recent School Leaver says:

    I agree with the comment listed; Wed, 11/18/2009 – 13:58.

    There are some serious issues with the education system in Cayman. If you placed a Jamaica, Barbados, Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman student in an acedemic competion and I can ensure you the first three will do better.

    I’m not saying that there are not some brilliant students in the Cayman Islands, but I am saying that they are actually few and far apart. How many students are in the set 2-4 in the middle and high schools? A lot of Cayman Brac students are actually a lot smarter and graduate a lot younger like 16 years old because there are smaller classes and the students do better over all. Grand Cayman needs to invest a bit more time and effort into the education system and stop thinking that it’s ok the way it is.

    The UK or the US, doesn’t have the best education system in the world but they are by far better. Take a gander and realise that investing in the island means sacrifices in the education of the people. If Caymanians were better educated then less foreigners would be needed for particular jobs. UCCI, one of the largest Universities in the Cayman Islands, isn’t even accedited by an international body…try that on for size.

  4. Texas Bred says:

    I actually support this because almost all first world countries conduct this as part of their curriculum.

    I was born and raised in the USA and I did my SAT’s and ACT’s in year 11 and did general subjects in year 12.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually the US system (which has many merits) is in some respects 2 years nehingd the European (and British System). After 0-levels at 16, the courses I took for the next 2 years (A-Levels) were treated as the equivalent of AP in US University, and full college credit was given for them. This is what enables students in our system to be ready to study law aa early as 18, but in the US as a post-graduate course only. 

      • Anonymous says:

        A British law degree is entirely different than an American one, which is why students of the British system (or American students opting to study at a British university) can obtain an LLB right after secondary schooling. A JD, from an American law university, is a post tertiary studies degree, and enables American law students to sit the bar immediately after graduation if they so choose without articling or taking the PPC. In the end, a law student, in order to become a practicing lawyer, of either the American or British system will still need to spend 5-6 years in post secondary programs, so it all comes out the same in the wash, really. The British system just requires one have a set track earlier in their education. But, as you said, each have their respective merits.

        • John Doe says:

          Having studied at law school in the US and the UK I found them remarkably similar. 

        • Dr Who says:

          An American student will need slightly over 7 years to qualify – college (4 years) and law school (3 years) plus time to sit the bar (3-6months).   An English student can qualify in 5 years as a barrister (university 3 years, Bar school 1 year), and pupillage (1 year) and 6 years as a solicitor (added year as training contract is 2 years). 

          The heart of the difference is as pointed above – the first two years of college in the US bascially take students to the level of a high school graduate in Europe.


          • Anonymous says:

            Ah, but you can finish university in less than 4 years in the American system via advanced standing credits (which most students who end up going to decent law schools usually have done). Whether through AP or IB courses, a student might finish university in 2.5-3 years without having to pile on credit hours (2 years if they really, really felt like putting on a strenuous course load).

            • Anonymous says:

              I would have thought most top 10 law school students in the US do 4 years at college in part to allow resume maximisation.

              • Anonymous says:

                Nope, because all that really matters to gain entrance to US law schools are one’s LSAT score and undergraduate GPA. Usually those scores are weighted such that the LSAT score is worth about 70-80% and GPA 20-30%. When those scores are combined if a student is above a certain mark, they are very likely to gain admissions. The number of years spent earning a Bachelor’s degree is largely immaterial from an admissions’ standpoint for the vast majority of law schools. Other resume points tend to come in to consideration when a student is just on the cusp of gaining admittance or for certain scholarships. This is, of course, a bit of a generalization, but holds true for the vast majority of students and law schools (including top level schools).

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope this is the end exam called AQA being forced on all the students. 

    This exam is not accepted anywhere outside of Cayman for further studies.

    By some arrangement UCCI and St Ignatius may be accepting the AQA for basic courses.

    Our better students must do the CXC and IGSCE as before.

    Unfortunately my child has been a victim of the AQA, may God now spare those to come.

      • examiner says:

        OCR, AQA and Edexcel are examination boards in the UK offering GCSEs  I have worked for each of them . You can rest assured  that GCSE’s from any of the three boards are perfectly acceptable not only to tertiary educational astablishments in the UK but also to all Universities. In fact many schools, especially the "better" ones in the UK use more than one of the examination boards.

    • ex science teacher UK says:

      Please don’t be put off by the ‘UK’ in my name. I taught science in North East England for 38 years and I know what I’m talking about.

      AQA is one of the three main  Exam Board boards in the UK responsible for administrating qualifications there and overseas. To say that it is not accepted anywhere outside Cayman is total and complete nonsense. AQA is not an exam.

      Unlike CXC and IGCSE, the AQA qualification is balanced. Students following the double science course will learn about Biology, Physics and Chemistry and not just one subject. It is a balanced science course and is of much more benefit (and lasting use) to every student.

      In my experience, it is always better to have a little accurate information before expressing an opinion and making a fool of yourself.

      • Anonymous says:

         My comment referred to the accreditation of the AQA exam for further studies in tertiary institutions. Since you have the ‘facts’ please provide reference or links to the admissions section of Universities and Colleges showing them accepting AQA passes.

        I have tried and my child now have to be doing the IGSCE courses at Catholic school so that she can move on after two wasted years.

        Provide this information or take your own advice.

        • ex science teacher UK says:

          I provided you with accurate facts. In your original submission everything was false except perhaps that you have a child. AQA has accreditation comparable with Edexcel and MEG, the other two main exam boards in the UK. In 2001 my son obtained a place at Balliol College, Oxford to read History as a result of obtaining good grades at ‘A’ level – 3 with AQA and one with Edexcel.

          Please don’t tell me to provide you with additional information. One of the characteristics of an educated person is that they are capable of discovering further information for themselves. I have not the time nor the inclination to do it for you but here is a tip: go to the link already provided and also use Google. 

          You did and continue to write nonsense

  6. Lower Vally resident says:

    This has to be the biggest pile of crap instituted by any minister (although the blame is projected towards Alden).  Our school kids are graduating a year early to enter into a shrinking job market, and over packed UCCI.  Instead if revamping the education system in order to assist students who cannot read or write proficiently, we continue to allow the same old criteria of attendance to determine whether students advance. 

    Furthermore, our education department needs to stop gearing our children into a very narrow avenue of employment.   Not all children aspire life careers within the accounting, lawyer or finanical fields.  Boarden the education base and ensure that all schools educate students about Cayman’s Heritage.  It is high time that we as people should be proud our humble past.  History has a very funny way of repeating itself.  It we cannot learn from the mistakes from the past, well how can the future generations be blamed for allowing the same error to occur?

    The Current Education Officier has had a very limited positive impact upon the public school system.  It is time for someone new to assume the role, with modern ideas and plans.  Our Education administration has continued to fail our students with no clear resolution.

    I am tired of us Caymanians blaming teachers for the inadequacies of our children when in fact the most critical age of learning development is from 0-5.  ( I am not in any way affliliated with teachers).  Teachers in Cayman lack the necessary funding, equipment and staff support to fully integrate new teaching methods.  Parents are also to blame with the lack of concern for how their children perform in school i.e. simply look at the limited turnouts of parents at teacher-parent meetings.  When will parents understand the ramifications of social groups and the impacts they have on children, ranging from peer pressure, gangs, drug, sex etc.

    The blame game can go deeper when we address how much is contributed to education from our annual budget.  Research indicates, up until the late 1980s, the Caymanians government contributed around 3-5 % of its total budget towards education.  This utterly disgraceful and illustrates the lack of importance placed upon education.  Around the same period, our neighbour Jamaica (although bigger in population), percentage wise, contributed ove 20% of their annual GNP.  Wake up Cayman, its time fight for better education for young Caymanians.  I will continue to voice my concern, as I am too a product of the education system. Class of 2000!

    • Tired of the negativity says:

      Oh dear! An example of why we need to improve our education system. You say "Our school kids are graduating a year early to enter into a shrinking job market, and over packed UCCI." Now, how exactly do you square that with the second sentence of this article? Hmmm? Go on….read it again.

      As for your second paragraph, did you read the part about improving an already established vocational studies programme or did you just skim that part? Here’s a clue: go to paragraph 5 of the article and read several times slowly.

      As for bashing the Chief Education Officer (who was not in the post when you graduated, more’s the pity), perhaps you should have a look at the dramatic improvements to external exam results. I’m not giving you any clues this time. You’ll have to find it your self.

      Now, I have children in the school system so I take a lot of notice about what’s going on in the schools. No way is it perfect yet but for the first time in years (ever?) there have been fundamental changes that will in the long run help our kids when they do graduate. Kudos to Mr. McLaughlin for initiating change and kudos to Mr. Anglin for continuing to make improvements.

      Stop with the negativity. It’ll be the ruin of the Cayman Islands.

    • Old Rope says:

      That’s a great idea encourage them to be ropemakers or turtle-killers.

    • Anonymous says:

      20% of GNP? I practically spit out dinner laughing when I read that lie. Considering that more Jamaicans live outside Jamaica than in it, Jamaica’s GNP is significantly higher than its GDP (which is usually the standard of reference for percentages spent on sectors like education). And, just as a wakeup call for your tossing percentages around, Jamaica spent 5.3% of it’s GDP in 2005. (And between 4.6-6.1% during 2001-2005.)

  7. Just another Brick in the Wall says:

    It’s still only a matter of time before those two campuses run out of space anyway. The numbers don’t lie and I suspect Tom Jones knows this too. I trust this is a temporary measure until the much needed space that the two (eventually three) new high schools will offer. I really don’t care how pretty they look but would be most appreciative if we stopped playing silly buggers with the future of our children and face up to the facts.

    Anyway, I’m off to open a savings account to make sure the funds are in place to send my kids to private school when the time comes.

    What a damn shame that our public education sytstem continues to be used as a political football.

    I think it was about 15 years ago (give or take a few)that the years 7-11 were meant to go straight through on both campuses. Oh well.

    Lets just hope that the older students serve as positive role-models rather than negative influences on the younger ones.

    When is construction scheduled to begin on the new George Town Primary School? Anyone?

  8. cf says:

    A lot of kids in the UK take only 4 years as well in many subjects

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks you Rolston for continuing to make the necessary changes in education started by Alden. The two smartest people in the LA should be in the same party. Forget Kurt and Mac. Get together and start a new party.

  10. anon says:

    So who’s idea was it that Caymanian children needed an extra yearto do the same work as UK students? who is it that thinks our children are not as smart?

    • Anonymous says:

      Umm, if anyone thinks otherwise then it is they that need to go back to school.

      The school system in the UK is pretty rubbish but still light years ahead of Cayman. GCSE grades are appalling in Cayman, most school leavers cannot read or write.

      Idiots like you try to convince us that there’s not a problem, but there is and there will be until losers stop convincing themselves it’s ok, just because you cannot admit that you can learn a lot from other countries.

      • anon says:

        It’s very easy, but not very intelligent, to read two lines, interpret into it all sorts of things that aren’t there and then call the author an idiot. I did not say there was not a problem. What I want to know is who thought the solution was to pretend that all our kids are backward and need an addition year rather than see what had gone wrong with the delivery of education. Where did the rot set in?

        You just need a little help with comprehension……and manners.

        • frank rizzo says:

          "However, students’ compulsory schooling will continue for an additional year, in which they can take advanced academic or vocational courses or work training."


          The way I read it, the extra year could be used for additional training in elective areas whether academic or vocational. I do not read "backward" or remedial. While we do not have a dedicated vocational or academic prep school, a year of additional prep on top of the basic curriculum is better than none.

          • anon says:

            I wasn’t talking about what’s happening next year – which seems to include lots of good things. I’m talking about the situation now and in past years. I just want to get it straight why Cayman students are taking 6 years to do what UK students do in 5. When did this start and who’s idea was it? It doesn’t seem like a well thought out idea.

            • Anonymous says:

              Just do not take our students out of school any earlier than they are coming out now-whatever you do.