Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts exploring the results of the first cycle of school inspections by the Cayman Islands Office of Education Standards.
***Update, 27 Jan.: This story has been updated with a new infographic showing the cost of Cayman’s Early Childhood Care & Education Centres.***
What are the most and least expensive schools in the Cayman Islands, in terms of per-student cost?
An extensive auditor general’s report into the education system in 2019 found that the government doesn’t usually keep track of numbers such as ‘cost-per-student’, but using figures from the AG report, private school websites and other information resources, the Cayman Current has compiled a list of Cayman’s 30 primary and secondary schools with the estimated cost for each student to attend for a year.
Excluding specialised schools and schools with fewer than 50 students, the top 10 most-expensive schools ranged from $19,337 per student (Layman E. Scott High School) to $11,226 per student (Montessori by the Sea).
Four of the top 5 (and 6 of the top 10) most-expensive schools were public schools, and the 3 most-expensive public schools are located on Cayman Brac.
The most-expensive private schools are Cayman International School ($17,120), Cayman Prep and High School ($12,049), Island Montessori ($11,275) and Montessori by the Sea ($11,226).
Not surprisingly, costs-per-student were skewed higher for schools that serve students with special education needs, such as Lighthouse School, which was the second-most expensive public school at $30,182 per student per year.
(The most expensive public school, and school overall, was the Little Cayman Education Services facility, which had only 2 students in 2018, at a cost of $30,242 per student per year.)
In terms of Office of Education Standards school inspection results, the most-expensive public schools were all rated ‘Satisfactory’ (except for Clifton Hunter, which was rated ‘Weak’, and Lighthouse School, which was the only public school to achieve a ‘Good’ rating).
The most-expensive private schools were all rated ‘Good’.
At a cost of $5,891 per student per year, Cayman Academy was the least-expensive ‘Good’ school on the list, being the third-least-expensive school overall.
See the infographic here:
***Editor’s Note: For public schools, the costs-per-student were taken from the October 2019 Auditor General’s report on the education system. We used the average costs over the years 2014-2018.
For private schools, the costs-per-student were taken from the individual schools’ websites, or if that wasn’t available, from information on Cayman Resident or Cayman Parent. We used the annual tuition fees, or else monthly tuition fees (prorating for the length of the school calendar, i.e. 10, 11 or 12 months). If multiple tuition amounts were given for different age groups, we used the average.
The cost-per-student for private schools only includes tuition, and does not include other potential sources of funding, such as from an associated church or other subsidies.
This chart only shows schools offering primary and secondary education, and does not include Early Childhood Care & Education Centres. The chart also does not include Cayman Islands Further Education Centre because its cost-per-student does not appear in the 2019 AG’s report.***
Here is an infographic showing the per-student cost of Cayman’s Early Childhood Care & Education Centres. The only public ECCE is Cayman Brac Day Care Centre.
(Note: There are other general education schools with Early Years programmes that do not appear on the chart below. They are included in the previous chart. Also, the Current has contacted the schools with a cost of ‘NA’ and is awaiting responses.)
Auditor general’s findings
The auditor general’s 2019 report contains an array of findings on Cayman’s education system that are not typically published by government, including financial data.
Here are some highlights from the report (and some updated information gathered by the Current):
- In 2018, the government spent $86 million on public school education. Over 5 years, government spending on education increased by 17%, mainly as a result of increases in payroll, building maintenance and student transportation costs. The payroll increase is linked to an increase in education staff size and a rise in teachers’ pay. During that same time period, the number of students in public schools declined by 4%.
- The average annual cost per student increased by 17% over the 5 years, from $14,811 in 2014 to $17,264 in 2018.
- The average cost per student in public schools was 66% higher than the average cost per student in private schools.
- The average cost per student in public schools was the 2nd-highest cost per student in 2015, when compared to 33 OECD countries. (Only Luxembourg was higher.)
- From 2014-2018, education spending rose from 9.8% of core government spending to 12.7%.
- Education accounts for the largest percentage of core government spending.
- About 60% of students in Cayman attend public schools. About 40% attend private schools.
- From 2012-2017, the government provided private schools with about $1.5 million per year. In 2018 that was decreased to $1 million.
- The private school subsidy was reduced to $500,000 for 2020 and zeroed-out for 2021.
- The government also has a line-item allocation for ‘Private and Public School Grants’ which was $125,000 for 2020 — and then increased by $750,000 for COVID-19 assistance. The allocation for 2021 is $250,000.
On 12 Jan., an official from the Auditor General’s Office responded to a query from the Current on updated education spending information.
The official noted that education spending increased from $86 million in 2018 to nearly $95 million in 2019.
The official said they do not have 2020 figures because the Ministry of Education is in the process of preparing financial statements for that year.
The official said, “Unfortunately, it is very difficult to estimate what the total budget for public school education is for 2020 and 2021 due to the way information is presented in the various budget documents (we have recently published a reporting on Government’s approach to budgeting) so I cannot provide you with an estimated cost at this stage.”