Officials justify trip to Moscow conference

| 05/10/2010

(CNS): Government officials who went on a trip to Russia recently to attend a UNESCO conference on early education said it highlighted many of the issues that the education ministry is focusing on here in the Cayman Islands, as they justified the controversial trip. The delegation to Moscow was led by Rolston Anglin, the education minister, who said the conference supported his ministry’s priorities. Despite establishing the Early Years Unit, he criticized the previous administration saying it made little progress in this area of education. Anglin said many children were “learning to fail early” and his ministry would be focusing on this area of learning in the hope of identifying problems before children entered compulsory school.

“The whole world is prioritizing improvements in the education and care of our youngest children in pre-schools and reception classes,” Anglin stated in a release from the Education Ministry. “However, in Cayman we have made very little progress in this area, although the previous administration set up an Early Years Unit for this purpose some four years ago. We have no national standards, no curriculum, no training or no inspection programmes, very little data to support decision making, and issues with the registration and operation of pre-schools.”

The minister said he had devoted a lot of time in his first year in office to improving compulsory education and although there was still much to do, making real advances in education was not just about the compulsory years. “Too many of our children learn to fail early,” the minister added. “If we really want to ensure success for all children we mustdo all that we can to ensure their earliest learning experiences are positive and that we identify and resolve problems early.”

Chief Officer in the ministry, Mary Rodrigues, one of several people who accompanied the minister on the Russian trip, said the issues raised at the UNESCO conference were remarkably similar to the initiatives that the ministry in Cayman is working on.

She said these included the establishment of an early years taskforce to assist with the development of standards and an early years curriculum, the launch of a reception programme in George Town Primary this year and a re-launch in other government primary schools and the reassignment of early years inspection to the Education Standards and Assessment Unit (ESAU), among other initiatives.

She said the under-lying message at the conference was the need to attend to the care, nutrition and stimulation of young children. “The early years lay the foundation for later learning and can create a level playing field by reducing the gaps between children of different means,” she said.

Tunisia Barnes, a young Caymanian Early Years teacher and another member of the delegation that spent last week in Moscow, said she found the conference very beneficial. “As an Early Years teacher, it was good to see the recognition being given to what research confirms is the most critical period of development in an individual’s life. We learned a lot and made a lot of good contacts,” she said.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I think it is interesting that the Minister is quick to point out the "early childhood failure" of the previous government. 

    Much of the early years education within our country is private sector.  It doesn’t matter how many conferences our delgegates attend, the only way our government can improve this is through laws and regulations.  These were transcribed within the education law which, reagardless of party, should have been passed by now.  While they are giving themselves permission to raise fees on other private sectors they should give themselves permission to monitor and forcibly guide early childhood education.  The sad thing is that the education of our children, our future is being toyed with by politicians.  This is one area which it would be simple to agree upon and work hand in hand regardless of party lines.  Unfortunately, some of our politicians missed COOPERATIVE PLAY in their early years expereinces.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well Arden endorsed the trip in Rooster because his neice was accompanying the Minister. He also encouraged the Minister to enjoy the Russian architecture while there……..what a bunch of rebels……they’re all connected despite their political fights in their sandbox !!!

  3. anonymous says:

    Call me parsimonius if you will, but I have never travelled anyway other than in coach class on anybody else’s dime…. yet CIG set the opposite example…. they all fly First Class (or Business, I guess, at a push).

    Cost of a First Class ticket to Moscow ? At least $10,000 rt

    6 figure salaries, Platinum pensions (and double dipping), First Class travel…. I know our elected politicians work very hard and under great pressure, but the pendulum has swung too far away from the desire to serve and too much towards the desire to gain from that service



    • Anonymous says:

      As per my research…..the average cost for flight and hotel is US$5,000.00 staying at a 5 star hotel and first class tickets! Which I’m sure they didn’t do. But a "Donald Duck" FOI request can clear the air!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Will our education system and society in general ever recover from the Truman years? Everything we are experiencing now socially is a direct result of the years that Truman, Big Jim and cronies wrecked us.

    But the really sad part is that most governments ever since have followed their template.

  5. We don't need no education says:

    Early years education – out of date, waste of money.  The most successful education systems have significantly delayed the start of compulsory education to around the age of 7.  See Sweden for details.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not true. Sweden’s students may not start “school” until 6 – but Sweden has an early childhood program that requires the state to provide pedagogically sound instruction to all students from 1-6. According to an OECD report, the vast majority of Swedish students now have a place in a publicly funded childcare facility. The preschool programs are required to be” of high quality”. This is vastly different from the Caymanian system where there is currently no quality control over the pre-schools which often have children subsidized by the government. Ask teachers who get the students from the cheaper preschools about behavior & social skills – language development etc. Birth to age 6 are the most important years of children’s development – just because Swedish students don’t start school until 6 does not mean they are not benefiting from quality early childhood teaching. I would argue as we in Cayman have a weaker social safety net making sure our early childhood provision is strong is key to helping the most vulnerable in our society. I am not saying I agree nor disagree with the trip, I am saying that quality early childhood provision in very important to all students – especially those from low SES homes, who are usually those in the government school system.


      Info on Sweden taken from


  6. Anonymous says:

    What an appalling waste of public funds and an affront to teachers and other civil servants who had their pay cut to fund this sort of useless, non productive "freeby" overseas jaunt. It is disgraceful and all those involved should be ashamed of themselves for their total lack of sensitivity about the desperate economic plight facing the country and many of its residents. From reading this report, it is clear that what was learned was simple Education 101 that most teachers already know. Simply disgraceful.

  7. peter milburn says:

    Just need to add to previous comment that most if not all of this could have been done over the internet.Cheaper and just as good.

  8. peter milburn says:

    I would also like to add my comments to this posting.I agree with many of the above blogs and it never ceases to amaze me the lack of thought that goes into these trips.I dont say that a conference on education is not important but MOSCOW!!!!!!!!!!?????????Come on you govt folks.Time to have your wings clipped and deep enough so that you cant fly away again at least til the next election and beyond.This is an utter disgrace to the people of the Cayman Islands and ESPECIALLY our kids some of whom go without the needed stuff for their classes.Once again the people of this country have been taken advantage of.Time for clowning around is OVER.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am married to a teacher in a high school here who last week purchased rulers, scissors, glue sticks, notebooks, and coloured pencils for her students out of her own money because schools have not been given a budget again this year. When this is the situation in government schools there is NO justification for junkets to far flung places for the minister and his cronies. Rolston Anglin, Mary Rodrigues et al should be ashamed of themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      Indeed they should be ashamed… by your standards… unfortunately, by the prevailing standards (culture? arrogance? ignorance?) they are not ashamed, and won’t be by the likes of you.

      If they’re behavior is alcoholic, your wife is then playing the enabler.  Whole lot of that going on, and a tough call to make when children’s welfare is at stake.  My guess is this arrogant attitude will not change in the near future.  These people are actually heros to many.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS ~ would it be possible to publish a list of names or numbers of those people who accompanied Minister Anglin on this trip with an estimate of the total cost to government?

      Those of us on the chalk face of education in the Cayman Islands could then translate that figure into its purchasing power for essential  items that students and teachers are forced to do without this year.

      I notice many teachers and support staff digging even deeper into their own pockets to help out children in need. Times are hard for all of us and if we are expected to tighten our belts then our education officials should lead by example.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure, this information should be readily available from the Freedom of Information Unit.  To quote their Gov webpage: ‘The purpose of the FOI Unit is to promote open government’.  Great, let’s have some honesty then and publish the details and expenses of this trip in a paper.  Education staff have had paycuts, no resource budgets and NO TRAINING BUDGET this year.  Interesting way of showing their support for early education.  Shame on the Government for needing to be told this trip was controversial!  We look forward to seeing them now put $ behind their words.

    • Anonymous says:

      At least he wont "fall asleep" at the wheel while in Russia!

    • Solution says:

      Or the parents (and the rest of us) could just pay income tax so we could have a decent education system.  The reason we can’t afford to pay for decent education is simply because we don’t want to pay any tax.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your comment makes absolutely no sense.  How can you say that?  United States pays income tax.  Are you saying that the children there have it better than the children here?  If you are, then you haven’t seen or been in a school there.

        Stop waisting funds on people who don’t need to go on conferences and send the ones who are in the classrooms so that they can implement the changes with immediate effect.

        What good is Rolston or Mary going to make?  Are they going to tell the teachers they saw good stuff?  It was not/is not necessary for them to be on such trips.  We would be much better served if 10 teachers had the opportunity to go instead of the elected/appointed people from the ministry. 

        Total waste of money for an MLA/Minister to go.

        • ex-pat eric says:

          First — you cannot compare Cayman to the US in anyway, shape or form.

          Second — as a parent I know for a fact that education starts at home. If parents aren’t constantly involved in the child’s life, reading to them, providing basic instructions, setting a good example, and instilling good values then no school can help!

          That said — a good school and outside resources are extremely beneficial to help a child learn and grow. Cayman unfortunately has a limited base to derive outside learning opportunities so the government sure as hell should concentrate and high quality schools!Possibly look at foreign exchange programs to provide greater diversity for students.

      • Pit Bull says:

        And the thumbs down says it all.  "We, the people of the Cayman Islands, would rather have no income tax than a decent education system". 

        • Anonymous says:

          Please….I live in the U.S. in one of the highest taxed states. I am also a teacher. I also went out in early September and spent over $200. so my classroom would have paper, pencils, glue, scissors, folders, poster board etc.  Taxes does not equal better education, believe me!

      • Macman says:

        You really should go back to school. Have you no idea about indirect taxation? We do pay tax (more than you think) but it is an indirect tax.

        If we were to pay income tax this Government would only take longer and more expensive trups!

  10. Stoodent says:

    All the conferences in the world aren’t going to help our young children when there is no place left to put them. Your people have the projected numbers Mr. Anglin, now how about you update us on the redevelopment of George Town Primary School instead? Where are the kids going to go when every last building is full to capacity?

    And don’t tell us there is no money, private investors have shown a willingness to assist.

  11. Joe Average says:

    This will be known as The Frequent Flyer Government.

    ps.  who gets the Air Miles?  perhaps they could be donated to those who need medical care in Miami?

  12. GR says:

     And don’t forget that Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world

  13. Anonymous says:

    rolston deserves a little break after all the late hours he has put in at ‘the office’….

    remember he is they guy who was working so hard he nearly killed himself in his car due to ‘exhaustion’………………..zzzzz

  14. Anonymous says:

    Rolston needed a break, he’s been having a hard time lately:)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting I guess that is why at Prospect Primary they did not purchase (could not afford) enough math text books for year 6 and are not going to purchase them – and the children who were not "priviledged" enough to get a copy of said text books have to do without and if they are lucky they will get photo copies of the pages. The money that they wasted going on this trip could have provided the necessary books for the children.

  16. The Truman Years says:

    The Education Ministry is still recovering from the Truman years. They would be better served staying at home to concentrate on righting the wrongs.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are many in the education system who would be very glad if Truman were running things again. He would not have wasted a fortune going to Moscow, that’s for damn sure.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re the Truman Years  was it him that cut out the infant classes (except in the brac) to SAVE MONEY! Now cayman is playing dearly for that short sight. NO VISION and the people are perishing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Rolli, Mac & Julie the world travelers. Could we send them on one way tickets?

  18. Anonymous says:

    It appears an official accompanying the Cayman delegation to the Commonwealth Games has taken his sixteen year old daughter along using his "guest pass". One wonders if this guest pass could have been used to enhance sports in this country by taking someone from the sports ministry instead.

  19. ex-pat eric says:

    Wonder if CNS can get an attendance report from the conference organizer or interview another foreign dignitary to see if anyone from the Cayman delegation even went to a meeting/seminar?

    Surely UNESCO would have been able to provide this information, in an electronic format, for interested parties that could not attend in person!

    I’ve worked and presented at similar conferences all over the world and except for those people that are highly motivated, it is just an excuse to mingle and collect schwag/trinckets/gifts.

    Hope you all at least got a picture of the Kermlin!

  20. Anonymous says:

     If they really cared about Early Education why did they get rid of the Speech Therapist in the Brac, that was diagnosing speech problems?  With late speech development, it gets the children frustrated because they can’t communicate so they act out.  Then they are labelled bad and/or have problems learning in school.  Communication is a very important tool.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a little suggestion for our government officials, the next time you have an inclination to travel do your best to resist it, we would all love a free vacation but take the equivalent of the money spent on the trip to Moscow and instead of travelling improve the facilities at the government primary schools, even if it only translates into a couple hundred extra reading books or a few laptops for the teachers. This trip is yet ianother example of failed leadership, Cayman Prep, St Ignatious, Cayman International School- just a a little closer to home than Moscow and the Ministry could learn a few things from these institutions.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Justified??? The only reason for this travel seems to involve a contest to see which minister can burn through almost as much of the people’s money as the Premier.

    As one of the people who has to pay the increased duties and fees that are wasted on these ridiculous world tours I am very angry. This nonsense is just rubbing salt in our wounds.




  23. Anonymous says:

     World tours at the country’s expense. No wonder the country is broke!

  24. concerned says:

    Come on UDP the country is broke and we are going to conferences in Russia and other world tours!  Did we really need to go to Russia to learn to feed our children properly?

  25. Rabble Rouser says:

    Do we have a government in exile?

    It seems like none of them are ever on island, except to attend the occassional cocktail party or claim some perk or other.

  26. Anonymous says:

    In this technological, digital day and age, and in these desperate economic times, there is no excuse for these "junkets’ to far flungplaces. They are as they have always been excuses for politicians and their hangers on (including civil servants ) to see the world at the taxpayers’ expense..If this one was held in a malarial country in central Africa not a single one of them would have been there. The fact that they had to justify it says it all. How much did it cost? At a guess, in excess of $50,000 – a lot of lunches for needy old folk.