11 April 2021 (Election 2021 edition)
Weekly Current (archived version)
We’re only a few days out from the 14 April General Election, and we’ve prepared a ‘Campaign Report Card’ summarising the positions on education staked out by candidates. We’re also wrapping up the final debates and forums from George Town to Bodden Town and points in between. And of course, there’s more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
While candidates were making last-minute pitches to voters, knocking on doors and throwing neighbourhood parties, the Cayman Current was busy mining dozens of debates, combing through manifestos and reviewing platforms. The net result is our ‘Campaign Report Card‘ that highlights key education issues focussed on by candidates, and where they stand on those issues.
The 5 topics that attracted the most attention during the election are:
- 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)
A majority of the 50 candidates have taken a position on potentially changing the way Cayman’s education system is managed.
In their manifesto, the Progressives and the Alliance formally support the government’s pilot project to introduce school boards at individual schools. Other independent candidates have also supported school boards.
Many candidates support going beyond the introduction of school boards, and are in favour of appointing an independent authority (or other board-controlled entity) to take governance of education out of the Ministry’s hands.
The bottom line seems to be that candidates have been critical of the perceived amount of ‘politics’ that influences the education system.
On the subject of segregation in the public school system, nearly half of the 50 candidates have addressed the issue, with the vast majority of them stating public schools should be integrated immediately.
There remain concerns about the physical shortage of space in classrooms, however, as well as whether private school parents would even send their children to public school if given the opportunity.
Special education needs (SEN) have gotten gotten their share of the campaign limelight this year. Seven candidates have come out in support of fully “inclusive education”, where children of all abilities are taught in the same classroom environment.
That would be a distinct departure from the existing approach in Cayman, where SEN students can be put in different programmes or facilities, such as the Lighthouse School.
Many candidates have targeted their education remarks on teacher performance — and either how to improve the quality of educators, or to support the teachers Cayman already has.
Some candidates have proposed ‘merit pay’ or ‘performance management’ systems, where teachers are rewarded for meeting certain goals or possessing specified areas of expertise. A few candidates have said Cayman needs more Caymanian teachers.
As usual, candidates spent plenty of time talking about technical and vocational education and training (TVET). A majority of candidates expressed more or less general support for expanding TVET opportunities for high school students and adults.
A few support creating a separate vocational track in high schools. And a handful said the government needs to build a new, dedicated trade school.
The above is a quick rundown of our story, which itself is an overview of the reporting the Current has been doing for the past couple of months. Our ‘Report Card’ is a searchable and sortable table of the candidates’ positions on the top 5 issues, and we’ve included a downloadable format as well.
At the bottom of the story are links to our overall campaign coverage, our reporting on the 19 Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce candidate forums, and the Education Platforms submitted by candidates to the Current for publication.
In other words, you can dig as deep as you like to find out exactly what each candidate has said (or failed to say) about education.
The Chamber wrapped up its quadrennial exercise in the democratic process last week, hosting its 19th and final forum, featuring candidates from George Town East. Over on Cayman Crosstalk radio, they aired debates among candidates from Newlands, Savannah and Bodden Town East.
George Town East
- Roy McTaggart (incumbent)
- “Certainly I think that within the public education system, I don’t believe there is sufficient accountability. I think what we need right now is a new governance model within the public school system that would transfer a lot of the decision-making and accountability back to the schools themselves and the leadership of the schools.”
- Richard Bernard
- “There is definitely not enough accountability or transparency in the educational system in the Cayman Islands. It definitely needs overhauling.”
- Emily DeCou
- There is “a clear lack of accountability and transparency” in the public school system, based on students graduating based on “attendance” rather than “attainment”.
- Christina Hislop Rowlandson
- “There’s lots of reports done but they just don’t seem to see the light of day.”
- Frank McField
- “We build the buildings to say we built the best buildings in the world, and we have not built teachers.”
- Alva Suckoo (incumbent)
- “Overall the desegregation of the public school system is something that I wholeheartedly support. I think it goes a long way to community building.”
- Roydell Carter
- Supports integration of nationalities and inclusion of students with disabilities, even if it means adopting a different approach to education.
- Raul Gonzalez
- “Segregation at all levels should not be tolerated. We need to get rid of it.”
- Wayne Panton
- “I don’t believe in segregation of special needs students.”
- Heather Bodden
- Did not appear on Cayman Crosstalk debate
- Malcolm Eden
- “[Public school segregation] is something that needs a dramatic change. We need to revisit the entire system that we have.”
- Jeanna Williams
- Supports “inclusive education” for all students regardless of nationality or disabilities.
Bodden Town East
- Dwayne Seymour (incumbent)
- Did not appear on Cayman Crosstalk debate
- Osbourne Bodden
- “For us to not have a technical and vocational school at this time in our country, a fully funded and proper one, there’s no excuse.”
***Editor’s Note: With that, we’re just about done with our coverage of the 2021 campaign. But before the curtain falls, we’ll have one final story this week highlighting the most ambitious, original or otherwise noteworthy ideas that candidates have expressed in regard to education. If you’re wondering what the purpose of all of this is, it’s not only to inform voters as to their choices on Election Day, but perhaps more importantly we are keeping track of plans, proposals and promises so that: 1) Readers can have an idea of (and perhaps influence) the direction a new administration may take in regard to education policy, and 2) The community can hold those elected officials accountable for what they said during their quest to be elected. Stay tuned …***
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Cayman Compass ($): Parents of special needs children appeal to candidates to make policy changes
- Cayman Compass: Debate review forum talks education
- The Guardian (UK): Schools fear second grading fiasco for GCSEs and A-levels
- Jamaica Gleaner: High rate of absenteeism among students worries education minister
- Jamaica Gleaner: Education advocates split on self-defence training for teachers
- Jamaica Observer: Autistic children facing education heartache
- Jamaica Observer: More teachers now open to taking vaccine, says JTA
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE: Don’t overlook human infrastructure investment, economist urges
The Week Ahead
- The most noteworthy education ideas from the 2021 campaign
- Election results analysis: What will Wednesday’s results mean for education?