Schools’ results celebrated

| 21/08/2014

(CNS): Preliminary results for this year’s external exams indicate that the Year 12 students have surpassed last year’s record breaking Level 2 pass rate, continuing the year-on-year improvements in standards, and while the final tally is not yet known, Year 11 pass rates have also bettered last year's. In addition, there has been a dramatic improvement in literacy and numeracy in primary schools, teachers were told by Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler at the Annual Education Professionals' Welcome on Wednesday. However, despite all the indications that the education system is on the right path, in her address to staff Education Minister Tara Rivers noted that both she and the ministry counsellor, who were both backed by the Coalition for Cayman (C4C) group, were still considering privatizing government schools.

Rivers noted that she and Winston Connolly were elected on the principle of public-private partnerships and were continuing to explore the possibility of adopting it in regards to public schools. The minister also announced that there are to be baseline inspections in every government school over the course of the next year.

Celebrating the continued upward trajectory of external exam results, CEO Shirley Wahler told teachers gathered at the Mary Miller Hall for the welcome back event that results for English Level 2 pass rate for the graduating students, “which were so spectacularly high last year”, are even higher, with a preliminary result of 68.5%.  But, she said, “the real story” was the mathematics results, which have jumped more than 9% over last year’s figures to 46.1%.  (See CNS article Numeracy focus in schools)

Pointing to the startling improvements in results in just two years (from 2011 to 2013) from 45% to 70% of students achieving five or more Level 2 passes, the CEO said that level of change took England 13 years to achieve. “The comparison to our Caribbean neighbours is even starker,” Wahler said, noting that the overall benchmark figure for the Caribbean region hovers around 22%. “And our journey is by no means over,” she added.

Before all the results are in, it appears that Year 11 students have once again done well in English and maths results “have shown a significant surge” over last year. For both Year 11 and Year 12 students, Wahler said, the new graduation requirements, which include academic and behaviour criteria, had a “pronounced influence”.

As well as a sustained year-on-year rise in high school results, Wahler said the percentage of Year 6 students who achieved National Curriculum Level 4 “shot up” this year.  Reading results were up 21%, writing results were up 13%, and maths results rose by 8%. 

“In real terms, this means that the standard of achievement in secondary schools can reasonably be expected to continue improving as well, with Year 7 students coming in with significantly higher levels of achievement than in past years.  All of this translates to continued and sustainable success,” the CEO said.

Dismissing “the relentless rhetoric” about Cayman’s “failing schools”, the CEO told teaching staff she was proud of them “and proud to give testimony today to the amazing results you have achieved and continue to achieve as you guide and develop our country’s most precious resource, its children.”

Looking back, Wahler said that for more than a decade before 2007 student results had been stagnant, with only about a quarter ofstudents who finished high school achieving 5 or more O-Level passes. Going back further in time, she noted that the 1995 Annual Report for the Cayman Islands boasted about the historic high performance of students, when 25% of Year 12 students had gained 4 or more passes, “far outstripping the previous high point of 16%, and lauded as the best results in the Caribbean”.

However, she said that “visionary leaders who believed that we could do better, and who refused to remain complacent” spearheaded the turnaround. “It is through that leadership that the process of education reform was undertaken and sustained through successive administrations,” she said. Most importantly, the reforms were about “valuing every student as an individual who has a place in oursystem and offering opportunities for every child to succeed, not just a chosen few,” she added.

“It is important that our students know, that our parents know and that our community know and understand what you, our teachers, through the performance of your students, have achieved,” the teachers were told by their boss.

Turing to the issue of student behavior, an issue that has been the subject of considerable attention recently, she said that overcoming poor behavior would take hard and consistent work on the part of educators.  “It requires the engagement of every school and every teacher,” she said.

“But we cannot do this alone,” the chief education officer told teachers. “Every stakeholder in education, which means everyone in our wider community, has a part to play. Public education is a public good and our work serves not just today’s students but the country as a whole. This is a project for the entire community.” 

But she said the Department of Education Services would be publishing policies and procedures to provide clear and accessible guidance on how to submit and manage complaints and grievances “in a positive and mutually respectful manner that allows us to work together to improve our system. In this way, we create avenues for problems to be resolved in ways that move the system forward, model professional and productive behaviour and ensure that concerns are heard.”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The bell curve still applies in every society in the world. In any range of students (and here in Cayman that would include ALL students of the same age whether they are in private or government schools) a small percentage will be gifted, a much larger group will be "average" and a small group will be learning challenged. Within "average the range is from can read/write fairly well to struggles with reading and writing but is intelligent (a whole other thing). This is true even of countries like the one David Legge is from although he bangs on and on in his Compass editorials as though only Cayman students have numbers among them who struggle with literacy and numeracy.

    There are problems here in Cayman that need to be addressed-certainly: terrible  parenting leading to ill prepared and undisciplined students. But the USA and UK -to name just two -have  plenty of these too. One thing only Cayman has is the sense of entitlement…….I can get any job because I am a Caymanian. That has killed and is still killing hard work and ambition of a healthy sort.

    • Anonymous says:

      19:03.Cayman has one other thingthta you left out ie a large number of expats who come here with an even bigger sense of entitlement; some even believe that they are more entitled than Caymanians ,as they feel Caymanians are undeserving.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nice to read a considered comment for a change. You should get a job concocting Cayman Compass editorials. The combination of the freedom to invent realities (e.g. one of our customs officers being fired for asking the premier about his belongings) alongside the absence of the need to justify anything and everything – what a buzz!

  2. Anonymous says:

                  What is so disappointing on here is the high percentage of commenters who seem to believe that nothing good can come from our children .In fact these pessimists never miss an opportunity to put our children down,makes me wonder if they are mostly expats who believe that for something to be good ,it has to be foreign. Sad ,very sad.

    • Anonymous says:

      A sad, very sad, comment.

    • Anonymous says:

      The only sad things are your assumptions. Education is not based on "bling", "excitement" "feeling good" etc but on serious work, because it is done for the children, our future. The results of that work are subject to academic scrutiny to ensure that they are genuine acheivements. Sorry, it just has to be that way. I've taught here for over twenty years and I'm an expat. Maybe I know a thing or two?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Private education.  It is like public education.  But much much better.

    • Anonymous says:

      How can something that is like something be so much better? Care to explain?

  4. The Future says:

    Statistics alone should not tell the story – to kow if our improvements are significant we need to know the real numbers too. If the percentage increases repesent small numbers then how long are we willing to wait to see meaningful increases?

    CNS: Below is a page from the The National Education Data Report 2013, which is on the ministry website. In real numbers, 88 Year 12 students left school with 5 or more Level 2 passes in 2007. In 2013 that number was 267.

    • Anonymous says:

      In 2007 did the student numbers include Y12 students who were taking the exams for the second time?

      What are the results for the Year 11 students without the additional Y12 retakes and how to they compare with results before the Y12 programme was implemented? Adding a cohort who are retaking an exam can skew the data upwards. Is this the case?

      CNS: Short answer: no. You're trying to compare apples and cheeseburgers.

      It's a common misconception that the restructuring of the high schools involved adding a year (a cohort), which is the current Year 12. This is not the case. The additional year was added sometime in the 1980's when essentially an extra Year 10 was inserted into the high school in the hopes that this would boost results. It didn't. But what happened is that the intake age got younger and younger. So, whereas in the UK children have to be 5 years old on September 1st to enter Year 1, here they had to be 4 years and nine months, but this rule was not adhered to so you had children that were 4 years and 7 or 8 months starting Year 1, leading to a sizable proportion of students who should be in the year below. 

      The goal then, if you actually listen to what's going on, is to align the system here with the system in the UK, where students take their O Level equivalent exams at the end of Year 11, but you can't right the wrongs of several decades of mismanagement overnight and anyone who pretends they can either doesn't understand the realities of the situation or is just outright lying.

      Among the many issues that had to be corrected is making sure that the children are in the right year group. This has now been done and the intake age standardised but it will take another nine years before the graduating class consists of students who all started at the right time.

      So, to answer your question: in 2007 external exams were taken at the end of Year 12. I have no idea how many of those were re-takes but I don't think there was much encouragement for students to take exams early. If you have been paying attention you will see that more and more students in Year 11 are passing the required 5+ Level 2 exams and overtime there will be less re-takes and more students will go from Year 11 to UCCI or on to do A Levels, etc.

      So, to answer more of your question: what educators are doing now is making that additional year more productive and eventually removing it (not adding it) for most students while retaining vocational options past year 11 for less academic or more hands-on students.

      The chart above compares apples to apples and shows how much has been achieved — i.e. the end result of how many students leave high school with 5+ Level 2 passes — and you have to look at that in order to asses improvement rates. Not doing this would indeed skew the results.

      But the bar is being set higher: the graduation criteria includes English and maths in those 5+ passes and the baseline for results in year 11 (which did not exist until 2012) is now also looked at.

    • Anonymous says:

      If the stats. are true then why are we still producing so many illiterate kids after graduation?

      Ask the right question and you get the right answer.

      What is the standard of the exams students are taking today? Is it accredited world-wide?

      If NOT, then that's why your results seem so superb, beause you have been giving them easier exams which produces a bigger result in passes but does not mean they are educated.

      Your kids are getting the $hitty end of the stick. Jus' sayin'

      CNS: What is sad is that there are so many people here who don't understand what exams the students are taking. Yes, they are all internationally accredited. If you actually bothered to click on the link above instead of declaring that all the kids are illiterate you would have found your answer. But here it is:

      • Caribbean Examinations Council— Secondary Certificate (CXC)  
      • General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)  
      • International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)
      • Business and technical Education Council (BTEC) awards  
      • Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) awards
      • Award Scheme Accreditation and Development Network (ASDAN) awards



  5. Joe B says:

    The problem here is not the schools.  The problem here is not the teachers.  Its the kids.  Or rather its the attitude of the kids taught to them by their parents.  Fix that and the rest will take care of itself.  But first ask yourself this,  Who's responsibility is that?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I would like to congradulate the hard working students, teachers and parents for achieving these fantastic results and I would like to offer the Minster some suggestions,

    1.Stop blaming and critizing the system looking for a reason to make change.

    2.Give credit where credit is due thank both Alden and Roulston for their hard work to improve the eduation system.

    3. Justify your changes on improvemnts, the need to change the existing Governance system  to allow wider participtation of the community and the private sector is to provide the addiional resources that the Government cannot provide to take the results even higher 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just the other day I heard that the schools were failing and that we were looking to make major changes in the way education is delivered in the Cayman Islands.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Your message minister rivers was heard loud and clear yesterday.  You will ignore  the people at your peril.  You know nothing about education yet feel able to stand up and frankly give a veiled warning that you will not give up on your ark academy pathway in whatever form it takes.  If you knew anything about education you would acknowledge the huge strides we have made in education in our country in recent years.  No one denies we still have mountains to climb and we as teachers with support are up for the challenge but privatisation is not the route.  You are arrogant and most of all ignorant.  

  9. Anonymous says:

    People remember all that glitters is NOT gold,

    Consder for a second govt dept showing you on what thy wantyut seem and the posibiolity of a media outlet coloring a story

    Just considerthe posibility.

    • Hot Comb says:

      I hate to be that person, but your spelling and grammar could do with more(?) schooling/learning. Pot>Kettle=Black. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    Forgive us if we don't believe your "statistics".

    • Anonymous says:

      04:52 You had better believe them,because soon some of these will be coming after your job and you will have to return to your home country to seek employment.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Deja vu……again with the propoganda while children are used as pawns. Wake up and demand more, parents. 

  12. Anonymous says:

    Stop comparing us to the Caribbean! It is irrelevant, we play and compete in an increasingly global economy. Adhering to Caribbean standards compels us to fail!

  13. Anonymous says:

    The whole world is against privatizing governmental schools and records show that it is not in the benefit of the children. 

    But still ONE politician pushes for it. So typical for people with an oversized ego.

    The results of students are determined by the teachers and the parents and NOT by the type of education or whether there is a greedy businessman behind it.

    Unfortunately business is controlling this world and it can't be stopped, thanks to our politicians it will only get worse.

  14. And Nother Ting says:

    Wait a minute who was elected on whatts do what with schools- private public partnership? You Minister Rivers ain't gonna make no unilateral decision with this country's future citizens. Remember this you were elected in West Bay but there are no guarantees tha that will happen again. Don't play with our children's future on some whim, or political promise. We indeed have been changing the system for the past 12 years, now 3 different Ministers and we still have issues.  It is not necessarily the school system that is in problem, or causes the problems , but, the lack of and without a carefully thought out vision of why and where we need to be down de road. If the true argument is that Government has decided as a policy that they will change to public private partnership of our school system, it is too big an issue for it to be left in the hands of ego centric transient politicians and should be a matter for the people to decide. It is too important an issue to leave it in as we say in ona hands. So think really hard, really really hard ya hear.

  15. Just Sayin' says:

    “An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.”
    – Andrew Lang