During the 2021 campaign, the conversation about Cayman Islands education has been as diverse and wide-ranging as the subject itself.
Candidates have identified multiple problems and areas for improvement, and have proposed a number of ideas and strategies to address them.
The Cayman Current has been monitoring and reporting on all candidate forums hosted by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce and debates aired on the Cayman Crosstalk radio show. We’ve invited candidates to submit their education platforms for publication on the Current, and have also researched the candidates’ own political manifestos.
Topics discussed by candidates have ranged from early years to A Levels to higher education, and from spending priorities to TVET to public school stigmas. Many candidates have pointed to a lack of support from parents, or of support for teachers.
Some have recommended radical changes to the governance structure of the education system, while others have made major proposals such as free education for all Caymanians from preschool through university, merging Cayman’s institutes of higher education, etc.
The Current has identified a handful of key issues that candidates have discussed most often, and we have created a ‘Campaign Report Card’ that summarises their positions on 5 topics:
- Changes to the governance structure of education
- Desegregation of the public school system
- Students with special education needs and/or disabilities
- Ways to support teachers
- Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
Campaign Report Card
|Candidate||District||Governance Changes||Desegregation||Special Education||Teacher Support||TVET|
|Dwayne Seymour||BTE||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Osbourne Bodden||BTE||~||~||early identification||~||trade school|
|Vincent Frederick||BTW||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Chris Saunders||BTW||less government||~||~||empower teachers||~|
|Elvis McKeever||CBE||~||no segregation||~||more Caymanians||expand|
|Juliana O’Connor Connolly||CBE||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Maxine McCoy-Moore||CBW||~||~||separate schools||more Caymanians||trade school on Brac|
|Moses Kirkconnell||CBW||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|McCleary Frederick||EE||~||~||~||more time for training||~|
|Arden McLean||EE||independent authority||~||~||~||~|
|Isaac Douglas Rankine||EE||school boards||segregation created disparities||~||~||vocational track|
|Frank Cornwall||GTC||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Kenneth Bryan||GTC||~||~||~||~||vocational track|
|Emily DeCou||GTE||depoliticise education||~||~||~||tailor courses|
|Richard Bernard||GTE||overhaul system||no segregation||~||~||trade school|
|Christina Hislop Rowlandson||GTE||consider UK 'twin' model||~||~||~||public-private partnerships|
|Roy McTaggart||GTE||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Frank McField||GTE||overhaul system||~||~||empower Caymanians||educators must spark interest|
|Joey Hew||GTN||school boards||facility issue||~||$5,000 per month raise||expand|
|Johann Moxam||GTN||new model||no segregation||inclusion||merit pay||free for Y12~Y13|
|Barbara Conolly||GTS||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Alric Lindsay||GTS||~||~||~||merit pay||vocational diploma|
|David Charles Wight||GTW||school boards||~||~||~||expand|
|Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden||GTW||~||~||~||improve quality||~|
|Ellio Solomon||GTW||~||no segregation||~||better pay||put TVET first|
|Kenrick Webster||GTW||~||~||early identification||~||~|
|Roydell Carter||NEW||separate entity controlled by a board||no segregation||inclusion||~||~|
|Alva Suckoo||NEW||independent authority||no segregation||early identification||~||expand|
|Raul Gonzalez Jr.||NEW||government must lead||no segregation||inclusion||give more resources||~|
|Wayne Panton||NEW||too much politics||other approaches||inclusion||performance management||~|
|Justin Ebanks||NS||~||~||~||~||focus on right trades|
|Debra Broderick||NS||~||~||~||~||trade school|
|Johany (Jay) Ebanks||NS||appointed education specialist||~||~||~||remove plumbing, electrical exams|
|Ezzard Miller||NS||school boards||~||~||~||remove plumbing, electrical exams|
|Sabrina Turner||PRO||remove politics||no segregation||~||~||begin in primary|
|Austin Harris||PRO||school boards||~||~||$5,000 per month raise||expand|
|Michael Myles||PRO||Ministry restructure||~||~||full scholarships||national strategy|
|Sammy Jackson||RB||independent regulatory authority||no segregation||inclusion||~||~|
|Alden McLaughlin||RB||school boards||~||cultural shift needed||~||expand|
|Jeanna Williams||SAV||~||no segregation||inclusion||~||reintroduce basics|
|Malcolm Eden||SAV||~||no segregation||more support||more support||trade school|
|Katherine Ebanks-Wilks||WBC||~||facility issue||inclusion||~||public-private partnerships|
|Eugene Ebanks||WBC||~||no segregation||~||~||Public Works programme|
|Rolston Anglin||WBN||~||not straightforward||~||~||expand CIFEC|
|Raul Nicholson-Coe||WBS||~||no segregation||~||~||create action plan|
|Andre Ebanks||WBS||independent authority||public-private partnerships||~||performance metrics||alternative industries|
|Mario Ebanks||WBW||~||no segregation||early identification||more support||expand|
(If you have information on a candidate’s position on these issues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update the Report Card. Follow this link to view the Report Card on Google Sheets in downloadable format.)
A majority of the 50 candidates have taken a position on potentially changing the way Cayman’s education system is managed. Currently, the Minister of Education (now Juliana O’Connor-Connolly) has wide-ranging powers and oversees a vertical system comprising the Ministry, the advisory Education Council and Department of Education Services.
The 8 Progressives candidates and the 4 independent members of the Alliance formally support the government’s pilot project to introduce school boards to individual schools.
Separately, independent candidates Ezzard Miller of North Side and Isaac Rankine of East End have also expressed support for school boards to govern individual schools.
Alliance candidate Alva Suckoo of Newlands has gone beyond the party manifesto, and has called for the creation of an independent authority to govern education. Other candidates who have proposed creating a statutory authority include Arden McLean of East End, Andre Ebanks of West Bay South and Sammy Jackson of Red Bay. Roydell Carter of Newlands supports a separate entity, governed by a board, to oversee education.
Other candidates have offered other ideas (or at least couched them in different terms). Jay Ebanks of North Side has proposed that an education specialist be appointed to oversee the system rather than an elected Minister. Chris Saunders of Bodden Town West said there should be “less government” in schools (and also, for the record, “less business”). Michael Myles of Prospect has proposed bridging the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Education Services under the same Ministry. Johann Moxam of George Town North supports implementing “a new model of school governance”.
Multiple other candidates have generally said politics should be removed from education, or that there is too much political influence on education.
The segregation of the public school system (which is about 90% Caymanian) has also arisen in multiple debates.
Of the 20 candidates who have addressed segregation, 14 directly stated that public schools should be integrated immediately.
Others, while indicating support of desegregation, have pointed to a lack of space in schools (Joey Hew of George Town North, Katherine Ebanks-Wilks of West Bay Central), while Wayne Panton of Newlands suggested other ways to integrate Caymanians and non-Caymanians, such as through sports programmes.
Rolston Anglin of West Bay North said ultimately, education is a commodity, and parents will make the best choices they can afford for their children — so who is to say that, even if a new public school was built and made open to non-Caymanians, that they would even want to attend?
How to approach students with special education needs and/or disabilities (SEN) is another area where candidates have expressed differing opinions.
Of the 14 candidates who have addressed SEN, 7 have supported full “inclusive education”, where children of all abilities are taught in the same classroom environment.
Four candidates (Suckoo, Mario Ebanks of West Bay West, Kenrick Webster of George Town West, Osbourne Bodden of Bodden Town East) have stressed the importance of earlier identification and diagnosis of SEN students.
Speaking at length on the issue during a town hall meeting hosted by Inclusion Cayman, and discussing the legislative progress that has been made regarding people with disabilities, Alden McLaughlin of Red Bay said the greatest challenge is bringing about a “cultural shift” in the population’s attitudes toward people with disabilities.
One candidate, Maxine McCoy-Moore of Cayman Brac West-Little Cayman, has advocated for creating even more separate schools tailored to students of differing abilities.
A total of 17 candidates discussed how to support existing teaching staff, or else how to improve the quality of teachers on-island.
The Progressives’ Hew and Alliance candidate Austin Harris of Prospect pointed to the across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers to $5,000 per month.
Noting that the pay raise did not apply to other positions, such as assistants and specialists, and did not account for differing levels of expertise, experience or performance among teachers, Moxam and Alric Lindsay of George Town South proposed introducing merit pay for teachers, while Panton supported performance management for educators, and Andre Ebanks proposed introducing performance metrics.
Myles said people studying to become teachers should receive full scholarships, while Ellio Solomon of George Town North said money spent on buildings would have been better directed to increased pay for teachers.
McCoy-Moore and Cayman Brac East candidate Elvis McKeever said there should be more Caymanian teachers, while Frank McField of George Town East advocated for empowering Caymanian educators.
As questions on technical and vocational education and training were posed in many debates, and the topic appeared in the Progressives Manifesto, 38 of 50 candidates have declared positions on the subject.
The vast majority are in favour of expanding TVET for adults and in high school, while some (including Sabrina Turner of Prospect) support introducing TVET and practical education down through primary school.
Solomon said the education system should be re-oriented to putting TVET first, instead of focussing on traditional academic education.
Rankine and Kenneth Bryan of George Town Central support introducing a vocational track into high schools, while Lindsay has proposed a separate vocational diploma.
Four candidates (Bodden, Malcolm Eden of Savannah, Richard Bernard of George Town East, Debra Broderick of North Side) support creating a new trade school. McCoy-Moore proposed building a trade school on the Cayman Brac Bluff.
Candidates’ positions on other education issues are well worth diving into, and have been documented in previous reporting by the Current.
Clicking on each candidate’s name in our Report Card will take you to stories that involve that candidate.
Additionally, here are more links that contain information from the Current on candidates’ proposals on education: