Brac graduates blaze a trail

| 03/07/2014

(CNS): Demonstrating just how far the education system in the Cayman Islands has progressed in less than a decade, 69.2% of students who graduated from the high school on Cayman Brac already have five or more high level passes before the results of external examinations taken this summer are known. Even under the new graduating criteria, in which the bar has been set higher so that those five passes must include maths and English for a Level 2 Diploma, 65.4% of the Layman Scott High School Class of 2014 have already reached that goal, and when the full results are known in a couple of months it is expected that these students will be the highest achieving year group in the history of the Cayman Islands. (Left: Valedictorian Leshontae Missick)

Level 2 passes are grades 1‐3 at CXC, A*‐C at GCSE or IGCSE, or the equivalent for other examination boards. 85% of the 26 Brac 2014 graduates already have a Level 2 pass in English, 65.4% in maths and 85% in science, which does not include any exams taken at the end of Year 12.

Across the system, results have been dramatically improving year on year, jumping from less than 25% getting five or more Level 2 passes by the end of Year 12 before 2007 to 70% in 2013, and while the final results for this year are not yet known, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler told CNS that they are hopeful that they will be at the same level.

Already across the public school system just from the Year 11 results, 73 students (14 on the Brac and 59 on Grand Cayman) have achieved a Level 2 Diploma with Honours, which is seven or more Level 2 passes including maths and English, and 21 students (two on the Brac and 19 on Grand Cayman) have achieved a Level 2 Diploma with High Honours, which is at least nine passes with grades 1-2 at CXC, A*-B at GCSE or IGCSE, or the equivalent for other examination boards. One student from Clifton Hunter High School, Diarra Hoyte, already has 16 Level 2 passes.

Watch Education Minister Tara Rivers comment on the exam results.

The CEO said that in 2005 Cayman Brac High School students set a new standard when 49% of the Year 12 graduating class achieved 5 or more Level 2 passes, which at the time was the highest percentage ever in the government system.

“That taught us that the children could achieve at that level,” said Wahler, who was principal of the school at the time. By 2012, students across the Cayman Islands public school system reached the 49% mark set by the Brac students in 2005 and last year broke all records with a 70% rate achieving 5+ passes at Level 2.

The students graduating this year from the Layman E. Scott Sr. High School (formerly the Cayman Brac High School) have set a brand new standard of achievement, where 65.4% (17 out of 26) received their Level 2 Diplomas at their graduation ceremony, reflecting what they had achieved by the end of Year 11, whereas all statistics for exam results up to this point have been on the results after Year 12. Notably, this class was the first on the Brac to graduate under the restructured Year 12, which has been in place on Grand Cayman since September 2010 with the introduction of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC).

A significant factor in the remarkable improvements in exam results in the Cayman Islands has been a complete change in expectations. In 2007, Wahler said, most children were not entered into five exams so they could not possibly reach that level. There were some subjects, such as social studies, where just 20% of the students were entered because the system looked bad when the children failed. However, the result was that the Level 2 standard was only accessible to 20-30% of the school population and there was an expectation that the majority of students were not capable of reaching O Level standard, she said. Now the system is geared towards giving as many students as possible access to take those exams and raising expectation levels, an approach that has had startling results.

The Cayman Islands is the only English speaking country in the Caribbean that publishes reports on external exams by cohort, which means they include the students that did not take the exam as well as those that failed, in order to have a percentage of the population as a whole. “We’d love to have those statistics from other countries to compare ourselves to,” Wahler said.

The only statistic that they have that offers any kind of comparison is from the CXC board website, which states that in 2009 just 21.2% of students had 5 or more passes, but this is out of students who have been entered, not of all students, so it was a selective group in the first place, Wahler noted.

“So we know that we are doing far better than the region,” she said. Comparing the Cayman Islands with England and Wales, she said, “We are where they were in 2009.”

This year, for the first time, they have raised the benchmark yet again and set new graduation criteria, so that students must achieve high level passes in maths and English plus three other subjects in order to graduate with a Level 2 Diploma.

Under the restructured Year 12, those students that achieve 5+ Level 2 passes (now with maths and English) in Year 11 can begin studies at UCCI in their Year 12 towards their Associates degree or begin A Level or International Baccalaureate Diploma studies in other schools, as part of the dual entry programme. The CEO said that this gives students another huge incentive to get their Level 2 Diploma early and more students every year are reaching for and attaining this goal.

Watch Education Minister Tara Rivers discuss CIFEC's Year 12 programme

One of the challenges the Department of Education Services faces is that the entry age for Year 1, which is five years old in the UK, was four years and nine months in the Cayman Islands and this was often stretched to four years and eight or even seven months, so the Cayman children are often significantly younger than their English year-group peers. In 2012, the Cayman Islands policy changed so that entry age for Year 1 was set at 5 years old by the 31 August, as it is in the UK. However, Wahler pointed out that that those children who started school in 2012 will not be taking their exams in Year 11 for another nine years.

She also noted that many people are under the misconception that they have added a year to high school, whereas there has been a Year 12 included in the public high school system since 1988, when an additional year was included so that students essentially repeated Year 10. What they have done now is to keep the same number of years but restructure the high school to offer more options to the students.

Firstly, the opportunity to do re-sits creates a safety net. “Those children who reach the goal of five or more passes at Level 2 now have the opportunity to move ahead and they have a year head start. This encourages them to excel if they are ready,” Wahler explained. She said that failing to reach Diploma Level 2 acts as a reality check for some children, who then get a second chance. Others have a bad experience in the exams and have the opportunity to recover within the school structure.

Importantly though, the new system accommodates those young people who need something other than the traditional school subjects and gives them, in their final year, an opportunity to take vocational and technical courses with internationally recognized qualifications at the end of it, as well as getting real work experience.

Watch one employer talk about CIFEC’s work experience programme

The Year 12 is a fluid and responsive programme that can be adapted each year according to the needs of the students, Wahler told CNS. She noted that, with the rising standard, they have already been asked to introduce Level 3 BTEC programmes in Year 12 in Business and Creative Media, a very practical and applied study area that ties into emerging technologies.

While the improvements so far have been outstanding, the chief education officer said that they are always looking to the next goal, which has once again been set by students on Cayman Brac.

“Where we aim to be is where the Layman E Scott Sr High School already is,” she said.

Watch more of the interview with Education Minister Tara Rivers

See related story on CNS:

Numeracy focus in schools (May 2014)

Local kids break exam records (October 2013)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The Brac has fewer distractions and dedicated teachers, beginning at the primary level. They also integrate swimming, PE, music and the visual arts for the well rounded child. However, the downfall is in vocational subjects at the HS level. These are the children left behind.

  2. Anonymous says:

    After six pm you never see a child on the brac road roaming about. They are encouraged by parents and familys to study hard as an education is very important. Then the Bracers are usually very successful and without an education they very well know that they would not be successful. Children in the Brac attend church as a family and are not dropped off to Sunday school and left on their own. They are more disciplined and supervised in the Brac. STRONG and AMBITIOUS people. Only thing please stop letting in the wrong people. Enough is enough.

  3. anonymous says:

    Way to go Bracker babies!!!  We are all so very, very proud of you.  Never mind the jealous comments of those who wish they were as smart as you.  May life be forever joyful and successful for you!  This is my wish and my prayer for you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Firstly what is the population of CBHS! Irrespective, how can you compare that school with CHHS and JGHS, by sheer student population alone distorts any statsitical data.  If CHHS and JGHS had the same student teacher ratio, who knows what the results would be for GC.  Overcrowding of classrooms as always and continues to be one of the major issues within our schools starting from the Primary level through to high school.  I'm not naive to other dynamics that interfere with GC students when compared to CB for not achieving great results in the past i.e. lack of parental involvement, high teacher turnover, many other distractions, but it is what it is and let us not compare apples and oranges.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, apples are still apples, regardless of the container, the number and environment within which they grow.  So, nothing is wrong with comparing apples grown in one environment with apples grown in another.  At the end of the day, what we want are good apples, whatever it takes.  Grand Cayman has been trying for a few years now to adopt the successful strategies of the Brac High school and that's good.  This is often echoed by the CEO, even recently.  One key structure adapted was that of smaller campuses, hence the Academy structure which makes class sizes smaller and more manageable. Well, there is more to adopt, so let us continue to compare the apples on the Brac with the Apples on Grand Cayman.  Afterall, the aim is to adapt best practices for the ultimate success of all our students.  So what would you like to drink, Motts or Apple & Eve?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent to read. Keep on keeping on students.  CNS- love your feel good stories! Really lifts up my day and gives me hope.

  6. Anonymous says:

    One does not graduate from secondary education.  One graduates from tertiary institutions.  What a ghastly Americanism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even worse is that they graduate from primary school as well. Then to top it off I see kids graduating from pre-school. Un-friggen believable.

      Mind you did you ever go on a 1/2 day training session here and not get a certificate. I have a draw overflowwing with useless pieces of paper, wheras at home I have a draw with pieces that actualkly mean something. a BSc and an MSc, the only two things I ever graduated in.

      • Anonymous says:

        It's a positive story about local education you dimwit. It is not about what you might have done. If you don't want to embrace the local culture, you can always go back to where you come from.  

      • Anon says:

        Guess you mean a drawer – and you have  BSc and a MSc? 

      • Anonymous says:

        Even worse, in my books, claiming to have any kind of tertiary education, while ending a sentence with a preposition.

        • Anonymous says:

          I would suggest that writing a sentence without a verb in it is a worse crime against grammar.

    • Anonymous says:

      You tell them old boy! Those ghastly Americans, rewarding young children for such meaningless accomplishments. Why, they even raise their own kids with loving parents at home. Ghastly I say. Nothing like a good Headmaster at a proper English boarding school to teach you about life.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Less distractions, strict Grandparents rearing them

  8. Knot S Smart says:

    Cayman Brackers are generally smarter…

    Just look at all of the major businesses in Cayman – where do you think those families originated?


    • Anonymous says:

      And what stock do they come from 18:53? British? African? Jamaican? Central American? North American?

    • Annie says:

      Way to go Brac!

    • And Another Zing says:

      If anything Brackerss got it going on. congrats students. Continue your good works!

    • MEM says:

      The fact that some classes only have about 8 or 9 students is also a major contributing factor to such a success rate, each student gets more individual attention and teachers get to know their students on a more personal level which helps with them tailoring the way they teach certain lessons to certain students…

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean the same ones overcharging for everything?


      I agree Cayman Brac is probably 10-15 years behind us with regard to social stresses on raising children. I mean who wouldnt want to raise a family in the days of yesteryear but they also have NO way to succeed on the Brac which is why they mostly leave and come to Grand Cayman or go abroad.

      • Anonymous says:

        So there are only Brackers overcharging for items in Grand Cayman? With due respect ,as I must admit that it is a fine grocery store, but   I must state that the grocey prices at Hurleys, which is owned by a Grand Caymanian, tend to be  generally higher than prices at Fosters or Kirks which are owned by Cayman Brackers.

        As to state if any of them are actually overcharging one needs to know the prices they pay for their items and what costs are incurred in operaing those stores.

        As for the hardware stores owned by Cayman Brackers as opposed to those owned by Grand Caymanians I cannot comment on the prices as I have never did any price comparison.

        As for academic excellence, even when Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac were relatively at the same level of development ( 1960s) Cayman Brackers seem to have an edge over Grand Caymanians. Most of the annual Speling Bee championships in the mid 1960s to early1970s were held by Brackers as an example.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why are you soo negative,even in the face of good news,you have to be negative.its people like you that always see the glass as half empty.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it that students in private schools such as Grace, Triple C, Catholic, Prep, Wesleyan, Cayman International etc… don't have such "illiteracy and fallig grades" as those in our public schools ??

      Hide your head in the sand like an ostrich but things won't change in the public schools until greater accountability comes from civil servants (Educational Staff) and sound responsibility taken by parents……. for their children who are left alone at home, while mommy and daddy (baby father/baby mama) go and do their own thing. Kid's will then hit the streets, get involved in crime, immorality and post it on the internet. It dosen't end there; but nine months later the girls are knocked up and then the Police Family Support Unit and Children and Family Services become involved. This is not fiction, it's reality here in Grand Cayman. 

      Teachers, parents and students in Cayman Brac are to be commended. Every year the Bracer's seem to make the grade. We don't need to pay consultants $100 – 200K to tell us what is happening and what we should do. Officials and parents should take note of what the Bracers are doing and follow their model of success in educating their children.

      Their model seems to be totally different from the one down here in Grand Cayman.

      By the way, I'm not a Bracer but born and raised here in the Republic and I sure see it every day, the unforunate reality of our youth.       



      • Anonymous says:

        There are no private schools on Cayman Brac so all nationalities attend school together. This makes for competition. When we start adding the results for ALL students on Grand Cayman together (public and private) then we can compare to the results on Cayman Brac.

      • Anonymous says:

        "Bracker". When words end in ‘ac’ or ‘ic’ always add ‘k’ before adding the suffixes ‘y’, ‘ed’, ‘er’ and ‘ing’, e.g. "trafficking". "Bracer" is pronounced "Braser".

      • Anonymous says:

        Well lets see: Private schools are allowed to ask your parents not to send you back if you are messing up their academic record, public schools must accept  all academic levels

        Private schools have children whose parents have mre economic power, hence hey canafford the support it takes, Public shcools must cater to all rich or poor

        With that said the Education Department needs to pull up it's socks

      • Anonymous says:

        And you don't think they don't get "knocked up" on the Brac?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Brac High School students are way "academically smarter and intelligent" than their Grand Cayman counterparts. In Grand Cayman there are too many negative distractions for our youth, corruption, immorality, parents who don't care about their children and most public school teachers whose interest is mainly about their monthly paychecks, rather than teaching and providing an education.

    The public school system in Cayman is in "Absolute Shambles" and it didn't happen overnight.

    I would "NEVER" send an underage child to a "public school" here in Grand Cayman.  

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope that whatever school you choose teaches you the proper use of quotation marks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lucky for you.  Most people are just working with the hand they are dealt in the game of life.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Way to go Brackers. Parents of Grand Cayman public school students need to demand equal government investment per student and more importantly demand equal results.