Where does Johann stand on public education?
The recent publication of the Office of Education Standards inspections of Cayman Islands schools includes this horrifying statement: “More than 80% of Caymanian students attend schools that do not meet national standards.” (Cayman Current, 13 January 2021)
Our system of public education is broken. For nearly 30 years, it has failed a generation of Caymanians, leaving thousands of Caymanians behind, unable to get decent jobs in a country with over 20,000 work permits at any given time. The public education model is failing our people.
All public schools, apart from The Lighthouse School, have been evaluated as weak or satisfactory. 80% of Caymanian children attend public school. This means we are systematically putting Caymanians at a disadvantage. There is no national plan for technical and vocational training, no plan for ensuring high school graduates are digitally proficient and financially literate and no plan for re-skilling adults already in the workforce.
The Government spends CI$90 million a year on education to disadvantage our children. Caymanians come back from overseas institutions with degrees and are told too often by employers that they don’t qualify for a job. High School graduates don’t have the basics to allow them to get entry-level jobs.
What are the root causes of these continuing failures? Is it the quality of teaching in the classroom? Is it a lack of parental engagement? Too many children with behaviour issues? The home environment and family situation? Is it due to unidentified needs for extra learning support? Is it the policies and management of public education? Is it school leadership?
The truth is, we don’t know. We are not collecting relevant data, and therefore, we are not using accurate and relevant data to make decisions. We are applying solutions without diagnosing the problem.
If elected, I will work hard to persuade the other 18 parliamentarians and senior civil servants that developing our people is the single most important national priority facing the country. Working collaboratively with education stakeholders in the public and private sector, students, parents and civic society, we would update the education policy framework to help our people catch up and prevent another lost generation.
The proposed policies would:
- Provide FREE education for all Caymanians, starting a year earlier at 3 years and 9 months of age.
- Ensure Students in years 12 and 13 are fully supported to opt for either academic-based studies (such as AS and A-Levels) or technical and vocational-based education and training (TVET).
- Ensure all eligible Caymanians receive FREE tertiary education at local institutions
- For Associates or Bachelors’ degrees, a full scholarship to obtain 2 or 4-year degrees at UCCI and ICCI
- Be child and student-centred, with programmes developed to guarantee each student thrives and is able to achieve their full potential in the physical, emotional, intellectual and social arenas.
- Provide integrated and coordinated support for children and families in education, health, and human services.
- Be closely aligned with the needs of the society and the economy’s existing and emerging industries.
- Ensure each and every Caymanian who wants to work is prepared, ready and able to secure employment in this country.
- Encourage continuing education for all, including mature students.
Recommended Immediate Actions (By June 30, 2021):
- Organize Education, Employment, Health and Human Services resources into a single fixed Ministry, to stop the inefficiencies caused by shuffling subjects and departments around every 4 years.
- Commission a 30-day public-private-civic task force to assess factors impacting Caymanians’ educational outcomes and recommend the most URGENT and significant changes to be made in time for the start of the September 2021 school year.
- Deliver a robust 6-week summer camp programme for primary and secondary students across each district, offering life skills and experiences with STEM subjects, the environment, the arts, sports, and civics.
- Provide free afterschool and weekend programmes of homework assistance, learning support, clubs and enrichment activities at each school, with school bus transport to match the schedules.
- In all public primary schools, offer supervised afterschool care to 6:00 pm.
Recommended Actions for Medium Term (By September 1, 2022):
- Implement a new model of school governance to foster a culture of respect, inclusion, accountability and excellence.
- Recruit, develop and retain the best trained and most effective school leaders and teachers, using appropriate class and school-based metrics.
- Implement community-based systems to support children’s learning and development across academics, sports, the environment, the arts, heritage and civics by adding weekend programming at school.
- Provide full Scholarships for all Caymanians who want to become teachers, teacher’s aides, training specialists, sports instructors or coaches, as well as social and youth workers.
- Regularly measure and annually report on child and adult educational outcomes.
It will cost to improve our education. But there is no other way around the issues we are facing. We must develop our human and social capital.
In Cayman, the only way we will change the course of our people is to get them educated to the highest possible standards. Education protects us from being marginalised and impoverished in our own prosperous country. A sustainable future requires the majority of Caymanians to be able to thrive today.
Thanks to my parents, who instilled in me the importance of a good education, and in particular, my father, who sacrificed to ensure I got the best education he could afford here and in the UK, many opportunities opened up for me. I believe every Caymanian ought to have free or affordable access to quality education. It worries me that we are now a society where to access a good education, one has to go to a private school. This should not be the case, especially with the soaring cost of living and rapidly growing population. The average Caymanian family cannot afford private school at CI$12,000 a year per child.
I didn’t set out to be a politician, but this vexing situation is harmful to our society. I’ve talked to so many people who are willing to help turn things around. If getting elected with a group of like-minded change agents is what it takes to make sure we stop ignoring the problems with public education, then count on me.
As part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal #4 is a goal for education and it states “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” With a population of 65,000 and the support of the entire society, this is completely achievable. I encourage all Caymanians to commit to making this part of our own agenda for sustainable development.
I will not stop until we make Cayman’s public education one that we are proud of. Quality education can change lives. We owe it to our children, youth and the adults who need retraining and upskilling to stop making excuses and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Let’s create a better Cayman for all.
***Editor’s Note: We are inviting all candidates to submit their education platforms for publication in the Cayman Current. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.***