Campaign Report Card: Where the candidates stand on education

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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

CandidateDistrictGovernance ChangesDesegregationSpecial EducationTeacher SupportTVET
Dwayne SeymourBTEschool boards~~~expand
Osbourne BoddenBTE~~early identification~trade school
Vincent FrederickBTWschool boards~~~expand
Chris SaundersBTWless government~~empower teachers~
Elvis McKeeverCBE~no segregation~more Caymaniansexpand
Juliana O’Connor ConnollyCBEschool boards~~~expand
Maxine McCoy-MooreCBW~~separate schoolsmore Caymanianstrade school on Brac
Moses KirkconnellCBWschool boards~~~expand
McCleary FrederickEE~~~more time for training~
Arden McLeanEEindependent authority~~~~
Isaac Douglas RankineEEschool boardssegregation created disparities~~vocational track
Frank CornwallGTCschool boards~~~expand
Kenneth BryanGTC~~~~vocational track
Emily DeCouGTEdepoliticise education~~~tailor courses
Richard BernardGTEoverhaul systemno segregation~~trade school
Christina Hislop RowlandsonGTEconsider UK 'twin' model~~~public-private partnerships
Roy McTaggartGTEschool boards~~~expand
Frank McFieldGTEoverhaul system~~empower Caymanianseducators must spark interest
Joey HewGTNschool boardsfacility issue~$5,000 per month raiseexpand
Johann MoxamGTNnew modelno segregationinclusionmerit payfree for Y12~Y13
Barbara ConollyGTSschool boards~~~expand
Alric LindsayGTS~~~merit payvocational diploma
David Charles WightGTWschool boards~~~expand
Pearlina McGaw-LumsdenGTW~~~improve quality~
Ellio SolomonGTW~no segregation~better payput TVET first
Kenrick WebsterGTW~~early identification~~
Roydell CarterNEWseparate entity controlled by a boardno segregationinclusion~~
Alva SuckooNEWindependent authorityno segregationearly identification~expand
Raul Gonzalez Jr.NEWgovernment must leadno segregationinclusiongive more resources~
Wayne PantonNEWtoo much politicsother approachesinclusionperformance management~
Justin EbanksNS~~~~focus on right trades
Debra BroderickNS~~~~trade school
Johany (Jay) EbanksNSappointed education specialist~~~remove plumbing, electrical exams
Ezzard MillerNSschool boards~~~remove plumbing, electrical exams
Sabrina TurnerPROremove politicsno segregation~~begin in primary
Austin Harris PROschool boards~~$5,000 per month raiseexpand
Michael MylesPROMinistry restructure~~full scholarshipsnational strategy
Sammy JacksonRBindependent regulatory authorityno segregationinclusion~~
Alden McLaughlinRBschool boards~cultural shift needed~expand
Heather BoddenSAV~~~~~
Jeanna WilliamsSAV~no segregationinclusion~reintroduce basics
Malcolm EdenSAV~no segregationmore supportmore supporttrade school
Katherine Ebanks-WilksWBC~facility issueinclusion~public-private partnerships
Eugene EbanksWBC~no segregation~~Public Works programme
Rolston AnglinWBN~not straightforward~~expand CIFEC
Bernie BushWBN~~~~~
Raul Nicholson-CoeWBS~no segregation~~create action plan
Andre EbanksWBSindependent authoritypublic-private partnerships~performance metricsalternative industries
Mario EbanksWBW~no segregationearly identificationmore supportexpand
McKeeva BushWBW~~~~~

(If you have information on a candidate’s position on these issues, please email pbrendel@caymancurrent.org and we will update the Report Card. Follow this link to view the Report Card on Google Sheets in downloadable format.)

Governance Changes

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.

Desegregation

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?

Special Education

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.

Teacher Support

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.

TVET

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.

More resources

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:

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