School dispute won’t prevent education changes

| 29/11/2009

(CNS): Education Minister Rolston Anglin said this week that, despite the fact that he has issued a notice to quit to the general contractor on the two new high school projects, the restructuring of school organization will not be dependent on the building schedule. The minister gave notice of termination to Tom Jones International (TJI) last Wednesday, claiming breach of contract following the stoppage of work at the two sites earlier this month. Although government has given no details of what its intention is for the partially built sites, the goal of completing both schools by September 2010 is now elusive.

“If the new school buildings are not yet ready at the start of the 2010 school year, the move to all-through school will still happen using existing facilities,” the minister said. We need to decouple construction from much needed educational improvements."

Plans are still in motion to introduction the changes to the Cayman Islands education system, as envisioned in the new education law passed by the previous administration, including the change from the current middle school/high school arrangement to two “all-through” high schools in Grand Cayman, which will cater to students aged from 11 to 16 years.

Although during the election the UDP had talked of developing a separate vocational institution, the new administration has now revealed that it will be using George Hicks as the technical centre for post-sixteen education as intended by the previous minster. However, the implementation of the new education law, which was passed in March 2009, is still in question. Although that law was intended to come into effect for the 2009/10 school year, when he came to office and was appointed education minister, Anglin said there was not enough time to complete the regulations by then, so the date the law would be implemented was postponed and as yet no new date has been set.

Under the forthcoming educational plan, however, which is effective September 2010, students within each high school will be organized in academies, each with 250 – 300 students in Years 7 through11.  A student will then normally remain in the same academy throughout their secondary education years the ministry said.

In Years 7 through 9, when children first enter high school, classes will be conducted in the academy group, allowing the younger students the security of a smaller setting within the larger school.  As students move into Years 10 and 11, they will have more opportunities for joining classes alongside students from other academies across the whole school, particularly in option subjects. 

The ministry stated that this would allow older students access to a greater range of specialized subjects and helps prepare them for the challenges of further study and the world of work.  

Students will then sit their CXC/GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 from 2010 onwards. For the mandatory Year 12, students will be able to choose a personalized plan of study at the redeveloped George Hicks Centre for Further Education.

“This reorganization of secondary education will offer a number of advantages for students”, says Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler.  “Most importantly, it will remove the disruption in education many students currently experience in changing schools from middle school to high school – a shift that occurs just as students are preparing for their critical examination years.”

She said the continuity provided by all-through secondary schools would enable teachers to get to know and nurture students over a longer period, allowing for better knowledge of their needs. She said it also permits a smooth transition to examination preparation in each subject area, as the same teachers are involved with students throughout their secondary studies.

Education Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues explained that the smaller size of the academy groupings will “help to foster strong relationships and a sense of belonging for the students.”

While Cayman Brac High School is already an "all through" school with less than 200 students, the ministry has still not said why the the reorganisation of academic study, particularly the taking of external exams in Year 11 followed by the additional compulsary year, will not apply to the Brac school.

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  1. Common Sense says:

     We are a small community.  There is NO reason that our students are not the smartest in the world…except it must become a top priority.  Want to improve Cayman?  CHANGE the system!

    1.) Why oh why not have school year round?  There are no crops to harvest in the summer.  Parents lament over what to so with their children over the summer break.  Helpers cost money, the summer camps cost money, and the kids forget half the stuff they learned….Why not set the benchmark for global education and make our schools year round?

    2.) Pay our teachers attractive salaries so that the very best WANT to move here.  Get the top teachers to live here long term (point 3) and you will see long term success in our school systems.

    3.) We are talking about less than 300 teachers (6,000 students / 22 per class= 272) so let’s attract the very best teacher and give them key employee status after three years and citizenship after five….now there’s a carrot to get the cream of the crop….and before you complain that more ex-pats come in, THINK about the quality of life they could bring by having 300 forever dedicated top teachers amongst us…..

    Now that I think about it, we should do the same to attract top nurses and doctors too.

    We are small and we can make a global impact….how about the headline reading: "Cayman led the world in education reform!?!"  try it….



  2. Anon says:

    Just goes to show what the people have said all along – you don’t need a fancy (and expensive) building to improve education. You need good teachers, supported by parents.

  3. Anonymous says:

    By "elusive" you mean "impossible"!