Year 12 offers bridge to future

| 30/06/2010

(CNS): What we think of as “success” should not be limited to achievement in academic studies but should be looked at as students leaving school and being able to move on and take their place in the adult world, according to Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler (left). Therefore, with the restructuring of secondary education on Grand Cayman, Year 12 students are now offered a range of vocational studies, as well as the opportunity to re-sit CXC and GCSE external exams or take advanced academic courses. This restructuring was achieved without additional funding, with less staff and without the new schools that were part of the original plan, Wahler noted.

Starting in September, Year 12 students on Grand Cayman will be the first year group to have the advantage of the restructured final high school year. However, this has not yet been introduced on Cayman Brac and the education ministry will now embark on a consultation exercise to gauge whether the Cayman Brac community wants the same framework for students there.

Speaking to parents and teachers at a recent PTA presentation at the Cayman Brac High School, Wahler explained that in the early 1990’s students were not leaving school with good exam results and many were leaving school at 15½ to 16½, which was thought to be too young. After much national discussion, the government dropped A’ levels from public school and added a year of secondary education so that external exams were taken after three years of study instead of a two year course. In Britain and everywhere else in the Caribbean where the British system is used the exams are taken after two years, she noted.

However, instead of better results, exam results actually fell – they dropped for a few years then plateaued, then stayed low, Wahler said. While the reasons for this are not clear, she said that for students who are not academic those three years can be really frustrating and they still achieve little success at high school, whereas students who do well in exams do just as well in two years as three.

This year on Grand Cayman 720 students — all of year 11 and Year 12 — took their external exams, and the Year 11 students will remain at school for the compulsory Year 12 at the George Hick campus, the culmination of a process that began under the previous PPM administration.

The new Year 12 provides a safety net for students who achieve poor results (typically D/IV grades), since they now have a second chance to take CXC or GCSE exams. For high achievers who gain at least five higher passes including English and Mathematics, the Department of Education Services (DoES) has introduced the Advanced Placement International Diploma (AP), which offers a bridge to university.

Curriculum Development Officer Clive Baker explained that the courses students have been taking at high school up until now are not designed as college preparation courses. “We have been setting up a large number of kids for failure. We send them overseas and in many cases they struggle academically, particularly with mathematics. CXE does not prepare them, by any stretch of the imagination, for college algebra. So they get disillusioned and often don’t go back to college and their confidence is broken,” he said.

Success in the AP programme can give students credit at college, which could in some cases be as much as a year credit, Wahler explained. “It’s a fantastic programme, but it’s very intense and not for everyone,” she said.

As an alternative to the Year 12 programme, students can take A levels at a private school that offers these or go to UCCI to continue their education, but they will not get an overseas scholarship straight after Year 11 and they will have to show that they have attended and gained suitable achievements in their chosen alternative education path to do so.

However, the CEO said that we must rethink how we regard “success”, which is not limited to the traditional definition of achievement in academic studies but should be looked at as students leaving school and being able to move on and take their place in the adult world. The school system can’t be mother and father to those students who don’t have the advantage of good parenting, Wahler said. “But maybe we can show them a better way. We can’t save every child but it is our responsibility to save as many as we can.”

The Year 12, therefore, now has a strong vocational studies element, which will give students externally accredited qualifications in vocational, career and technical (VoCaT) education in the Further Education Programme.

This will be offered at two levels: Level 2 VoCaT education programmes are aimed at students who have at least 3 or 4 passes at grades D/IV or below. Students will take BTEC First Diploma schemes (equal 2 –4 GCSE passes), which has a work experience component (at least 1 day per week). It is also possible to combine vocational courses with some re-sits. Level 1 VoCaT basic technical skills programmes are for students who have had limited academic success. The focus is on ensuring basic literacy, numeracy, ICT skills, and there is a strong work experience component.

On Cayman Brac it is possible to restructure the high school so that next term’s Year 9 are able to take advantage of the “5+1” system. These students will then choose their options at the end of the next academic year and take their external exams at the end of year 11.

For more on the restructured secondary education, visit the Department of Education Services blog.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As I sit here ready some of these comments it surely amazes me the ignorance of people Caymanian or non-Caymanian living in these our Cayman Islands. I am a proud Caymanian and love my islands dearly, but wondering what our islands are coming to.  We as a country should stop laying blame on one another and just get down to doing what is best for the children of this country.  I graduated 27 years ago from the then Cayman Islands High School and wish I had many of the opportunities that young people have today.  My parents did not have money for me to go to University, so I had to wait until my adult life to attend University but I am proud to say that I am a University Graduate even though it took over 27 years to get there but I did it because I wanted more for myself.  We have to realize that its not where we have lunch or if we have air-conditioning in our classrooms that make us successful, it is what we do and what we make of what we have that make us strive to be successful.  When I went to school, there was not air-conditioning in classrooms, only in a few places at school and until my last two or so years of high school that we had a canteen, but we made the best of what we had. I think a lot of us remember going to the little wooden buildings where Mrs. Kay and Mr. Ivan Farrington had their canteens and get our "chili and rice" (the best) and our bbq chicken (another favorite) and going under the big tree and eating and socializing with our friends. We didn’t graduate in air-conditioning either, we had our graduation in the open air on the cistern between the English and Math Blocks. Our graduating class produced Lawyers, Doctors, Minister, Bankers, and the list goes on.  We were a proud and close graduating class and we remain so up to this day.  We pride ourselves on what we achieved with what we had.  I am so proud that my parents gave me the necessary tools to strive for something more in life, they instilled in me my "values" and that is what I use to carry me through today and make me the person I am today.  So please Cayman let us focus and stop laying blame and work together for the betterment of our students and let us help them succeed.  In closing I would like to thank all of my educators, which I had a lot of them in my life and when I say educators I not only mean teachers, I mean everyone that helped me become the person I am today.  Thank you.  So please I ask you let us focus on the ultimate goal here "OUR CHILDREN".



  2. Anonymous says:

    Based on the presentation Mrs. Wahler, an extremely bright Caymanian lady, made at JGHS some time ago; which I and some 10% of the parents of students made the effort to attend, I consider this strategy very well thought-out.

    But no strategy will help a child if that child (AND ESPECIALLY HIS/HER parent/s) does not decide to take responsibility for ttheir own progress. Some 61 very bright children passed 7 or more subjects and have the ability to make good progress in their academic lives. If this many can do it, more could have done it with more effort and discipline.

    My child is one of these latter ones, who due to personality challenges did not the achieve his full potential and I as a parent share the responsibility for not helping my child achieve his full potential. Mind you, my son had great reports of excellent behaviour and good effort and so he will be given full credit for this as today THIS APPEARS TO BE THE EXCEPTION RATHER THAN THE NORM!

    My primary point is that, despite the many challenges that the Govt. schools have (unfinished accomodations, uncertainty, etc.) which the past and present Govts. should take full responsibility for, children must be made to understand that THEY are the lowest level of responsibility (that is, "the bucks stops with them"). They must, despite any adversity, persevere to overcome these obstacles instead of using the obstacles as excuses or stumbling blocks, and make thenselves exceptional by excelling DESPITE the challenges. They should make the stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

    I am speaking from experience as a father of two older siblings of my son; one of which excelled academically while the other, equally bright, decided to have more fun. We can blame the "system" all we want but it is up to the individual to decide what to do with what they have been given.

    Finally, I wish to point out that Ivan affected this country in more ways than we recognize; our country got "out-of-control" in many respects and we acknowledge this. However, it is time to realize that enough time has passed to place all of this behind us and move forward by reestablishing, law and order, and justice in generally especially for the Caymanian people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So, success = lowering academic expectations to meet academic achievements?  Really?  What a cop-out education policy!  "The new Year 12 provides a safety net for students who achieve poor results."  Okay, let’s not look at the quality and performance of teachers, or try to dicsover why MANY of our children are failing academically; let’s just dumb-down everyone’s academic expectations and throw the kids a vocational "life-line"; so they’re ready to . . . do what?  Take up one of the hundreds of jobs that are out there in the Cayman economy?  

    • Anonymous says:

      Former education minister Alden McLaughlin called this initiative  "Better Pathways, Brighter Futures" because it will keep kids in school at least an addittional year, give them a host of career and tertiary education options and provide second chances. Minister Anglin is to be commended for implementing this post external examinations plan developed under the previous administration.  This is the kind of continuity needed if we are to better the lot of our young people. One minister must build on the work of his predecessor.  Now if Minister Anglin would only have the grace to acknowledge the vision and hard work of the former minister and his team and give credit where it is due instead of constantly trashing the man whose work product and vision he has adopted as his own. But perhaps I’m asking for too much.

      Next step, Minister Anglin, let’s get the Education Modernisation Law, passed by the House more than a year ago, implemented.

    • Florence Goring-Nozza says:

      Vocational Schooling or Technical Training for students who qualify is not to be stigmatized as lowering academic Expectations. There is an important functional element to this piece of fabric appearing to be deceptively simple in the eyes of  only "the prodigal".

      However the "protege" educators has an even greater vision for those at risk and could very well fall through the cracks That is: If you have an intention of Truth to educate these students so that they will be successful in our society: like a compassionate Samurai, you will find a mechanism that works! 

  4. Anonymous says:

    How sad this is, all politics, in the name of Heaven, let’s get Caymanians educated and skilled. I am an expat, but let’s get these young people into apprenticeships and cooperative training, Who cares who started this, put the people first!

  5. huh? says:

    Who cares who started it, or if it was started in 1967 or 1994 or 2010?  Why can’t a great idea (few and far between as they are) simply be supported and given a chance to make an impact without having to allocate blame or divvy up the glory first.

    Geez you guys take the fun out of everything.

    • anonymous says:


      History is not fun, it ‘s truths are to be respected and held in reverence for those pioneers that went before us. And they are to be accredited, remembered, and mentioned publicly for the contributions they made to our society.In addition for what they did in paving the way for our children, for them not to have to fail in school and not for any child to be left behind! This system was in place from the l960’s !! That’s the idea.   so you go ahead with your fun, there is a time and a season for everything. I’m serious about this one.let them work for it and

      If Angela Marrtins, alden McLaughlin or Rolston Anglin is to be given any credit then like  the Rev. John R. Gray, they must earn it! We just don’t pass out that level of credit to just anyone, because we like them or its our buddy from our favorite political Party, sorry not this time!.

      This is not the time to give the credit of a man of great character and the educational caliber of the Rev.John R.Gray  whose name flanks the walls of John R. Gray High School formerly Cayman High School !  We just don’t throw or toss that around lightly to those who did not earn it.

      That’s the problem with our society today, people want to get credit for something they had absolutely nothing to do with! That’s plagiarism!  As a former student  who attended the Vocational School, and commercial department under Mr. John R. Gray.s leadership  "I’m here to defend the cause " got a problem with that?

      Your lesson for the day.

      A former John R. Gray High School graduate

      formerly known as Cayman High School

      June1967 Graduate



  6. anonymous says:


    I have news for all of you. It was not the PPM, nor Angela Martins, it was JOHN R. GRAY one of Cayman’s finest and brightest Cayman High School Principals, a University Professor, from Scotland and his family who moved to the Cayman Islands during the late 50’s. It was Mr. Gray that started this Vocational school system between l960 -1967,

    John R. Gray High School is named after Mr. Gray,

    So shut up all of you, get your facts straight and if you want to prove anything just consult. Joy Basdeo, Florence Goring-Nozza, Betty Ebanks, Jennodel Myles, Phiilip  HIslop, Heather Panton, Judy Hill, Heith Hill, Anna Rose Kirkconnel,  ask Twyla Mae Vargas, and many more. We all graduated in l967 from Cayman High, now John Gray High School, and some of us graduated from the Technical vocational class Mr. John Gray added to the Cayman High School System. We had a curriculum that included:



    Pitman Shorthand


    We had other educational options available to us. If we didn’t pass our GCE and showed no interest or potential as an academic or future rocket scientist, then the Vocational Class, or Technical School was there as an option which many of us embraced with no regrets!.

    Girls were not allowed to graduate from school without knowing at least how to type a letter and take dictation, along with a little bookkeeping.! and it paid off! What happened.

    May I also add that  there was a "Commercial School or Commercial Department also on the Cayman High School Premises on the old Public Works site , in the back of the public library. There is where a number of our youngwomen who wanted to be General Secetaries, Corporate secretaries Legal Secretaries and bookkeepers attended classes and it turned out some of the greatest and professional secretaries the Cayman Islands ever had. They were top notch secretaries, and no need to import secretaries. They were the very best. What happened?

    Seting the record straight for all of you braggers on the wrong people not qualified to get this kind of glory: This all happened s when Angela Martins was a LITTLE GIRL!l, and Alden McLaughlin WAS NOT EVEN BORN YET ! so how could they implement such a program.

    After growing up and working as civil servants maybe they had the chance to do the right thing and bring it back, but where did it all start and where is it today?


    None of these elected members contributed anything to the Technical or vocational School system put in place over 43 years ago! as a matter of fact they did everything to dismantled it destroying the lives of our young men and women instead of advancing the whole process into a Technical School or college!

    We now are a crime ridden society because of the actions of those responsible for the damages to our youth, aforementioned.If they have no where to go, what do you expect?

    • Anonymous says:

      You did and excellent summary, and I commend you for the lesson.  

      The statement, "If we didn’t pass our GCE and showed no interest or potential as an academic or future rocket scientist, then the Vocational Class, or Technical School was there as an option which many of us embraced with no regrets!." 

      That is where the REAL problem lies.  There as been, for whatever reason and for another debate, an entitlement mentality.  Vocational trades are not to be looked down upon, but I would be willing to bet that many Caymanian Mothers and Fathers didn’t encourage you to be involved with a vocation, but pursue academics.  

      You are quite right, and honestly many plumbers make a larger amount of money than those that "managers" that work at the bank.  I would contend it wasn’t even the Politicians solely who tried to dismantle it, but a large portion of the Caymanian society.

      The other issue is that graduating by attendance alone did a HUGE disservice to Caymanians, in spite of every evidence that it was hurting children.  Thankfully that is done away with now, and was talked about way before Rollie took over, so I am not giving credit to him for that one, but am glad he finally signed off on it.  Now if they would stop giving away government scholarships to those failing at UCCI and the other Univerities, life would be grand!

  7. Anonymous says:

    To Anon Wed 12:26 The story above states that this was the continuation of a PPM initiative so thank you to Alden McLaughlin also.

  8. Class of 19-long time ago! says:

    I applaud this initiative and I also applaud the poster "Anglin" for your post -articulate and candid!

    I graduated CIHS at age 15 and was completely unprepared for the working world.  I agree that anything that will better prepare our youngsters for the ‘real world’ is in their best interests, even if at the expense of additional time in school.

    Kids, enjoy it while it lasts, I’d love to have my school dayz back!!  I strongly support the notion that graduation should be earned by passing grades not awarded for attendance.  Our students face a highly competitive market and everything must be done to ensure they can thrive in it.  This new program should be implemented in our sister islands, not proposed because their schools are also government schools and their children should receive the same benefits as Grand Cayman’s.

  9. Rivers says:

    Before anyone start to jump to conclusions about what the government has done to the education system please just stop and think about the options they have given us/ the year 11 students.

    I am a year 11 student and i think it is a good idea after thinking about it really hard and the advantages it has brought to us as young CAYMANIANS trying our best and hardest to get a job in the country  or just the to fulfill our dreams.

     Without education we wont be able to get the qualification we need to get the "big paper" jobs and before you know it our country can also go down if we young caymanians dont get an education and this new school system is offers more opportunities to succeed, especially for those student who didnt do as well on their finals, they get a chance to go back and resit their exam/s for a better grade.

    Although it may have been really confusing and very upsetting to many parents and of course students, we just need to realize that it is an opportunity to make the extra step or to fill in the blanks.

    However, for those who believe that this system wont work, think about the teenagers who seem to have no other intention but to involve themselves in violence and drugs, with a chance they could have taken upon and go back and fill in the blanks, but yet rather walk away from something that could actually get them self some where in life.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Brac, as well as Little Cayman should be mandatorily considered and included in any decisions made by Government regarding any educational programme. There are no private schools on the sister islands and this introduction would benefit the entire Caymanian community.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mr. Anglin, finally someone who really cares about our children’s education and future.  You’re doing a good job, keep it up. God bless you.

    • Anonymous says:


      I guess you did not read this PROPERLY!!

      This was started with the previous PPM administration, so you can thank the Honorable  Mr. Alden McLaughlin.

      It was Alden and former Chief Education Officer Anglela Martins who were ahead of this.


      The new Minister of Education is now only their going along with this and can only be taken at face value because it was not him or his administration who started this.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t know who you want to give the credit for this to but I would like to know who we can thank for reconstruction of the new high schools.

        Still years from completion, while our children have been taught in makeshift classrooms without playing fields for the 3 years. In the mean time we’ve watched a new school building spring up in less than a year  at the Prep for a fraction of the price. And now I hear that the students at John Gray will have to eat their meals in the LIBARARY!! from September because they have no room for the makeshift canteen.

        Are these the conditions that make learning conducive for our children. Someone should be held accountable for this mess the staff and students are trying to work in.