North Side candidates focus on vocational training, parental involvement, STEM

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The four candidates for North Side found some common ground on the subject of education, but also expressed key differences in a debate Monday morning.

Incumbent Ezzard Miller and challengers Debra ‘Debbie’ Broderick, Johany ‘Jay’ Ebanks, and Justin Ebanks, appeared on Cayman Crosstalk to discuss a variety of issues.

On education, they touched on vocational training, parental involvement in public schools (or perceived lack thereof) and concentrating on science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

(Watch the show here.)

In regard to technical education, Broderick said, “Where is the trade school we’ve been waiting on for umpteen years?”

Miller said, “People need to understand that most of the technical courses are already available in the schools and the community college. We don’t need to create something else.”

He said he has been pushing to change “2 minor aspects of 2 laws” that would “remove the plumbing exam and electrical exam from the industry”.

He said then high school graduates who have done the requisite technical courses and qualifications could immediately go to work as wiremen and journeyman plumbers rather than “come out and work for somebody else for slave labour for 2 years”.

Jay Ebanks said he agrees with Miller on this point.

Miller noted that he had gotten the playfield and track installed at Edna M. Moyle Primary School despite the government’s resistance.

Broderick said, “It’s all well and good to have a playfield for the kids, but there’s more to be done. When you look at the private schools, they have high expectations of their children. I know because I’ve sent mine to private schools. I think public schools need to set the bar high.”

She said many public school parents aren’t involved with their children’s education and don’t even attend PTA meetings. “The teachers cannot do it all. The parents have to get involved. That’s a must,” she said.

Justin Ebanks said the government has to be an “extended parent” to children. “You don’t blame parents. You don’t blame kids. The most important thing is to identify it, and let’s move forward. The blame game has got to stop. The goal is to make sure our kids are productive and they’re being taught at the highest level so that they can compete for all jobs.”

Justin Ebanks said the “old ways” of financial services and tourism are creating fewer jobs as time goes on. “Science and technology is taking over. We need to get the young people equipped to be able to partake in science and technology as jobs,” he said, saying there should be streamlined STEM schools and increased afterschool programmes in those areas for parents and children.

Jay Ebanks said the Minister of Education’s duties should be devolved to an appointed education specialist to avoid abrupt changes in policy after each change in government.

“We need to appoint somebody directly that can be in charge of this, and the Minister of Education just needs to sit back and deliver what they need, what the needs are for them — because everybody goes in every 4 years and has their own opinion and ideas on education,” he said.

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