A lack of space is often cited as the reason for the effective segregation of Cayman Islands public schools. However, according to government data, no non-Caymanian child was turned away from public school this past year due to overcrowding.
Instead, it appears that relatively few non-Caymanian students are applying to gain admission into the public school system — far less than the (limited) number of available seats.
After students with Caymanian status and students who are dependents of Caymanians are registered in public schools, the government permits non-Caymanians to apply for entry as long as space is available.
An earlier analysis by the Cayman Current of public school enrolment showed that, while some schools are near their maximum capacity, in Grand Cayman schools there are more than 1,100 total available spaces (with most of that at the primary level).
For the 2020/2021 academic year, the government received public school applications from 183 non-Caymanian students. About two-thirds of those were approved, with 119 non-Caymanian students entering public schools.
The Department of Education Services cited 5 reasons for denying applications, including ‘duplicate application’, the child not being listed as a dependent on their parents’ immigration documents, ‘not eligible for the programme’, ‘not on island’ and ‘awaiting clearance by WORC’.
No non-Caymanian students were turned away from the public school system this past year due to a lack of space.
The Cayman Current obtained information on non-Caymanian students’ applications, approvals and denials by submitting an open records request to the Department of Education Services. The Current asked for this information for the past 5 years, but the department said the statistics were only available for 2020/2021.
Broken out by Year group, the government received applications from Reception to Year 12 (which isn’t offered in public schools). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest group of applications were from students entering Year 1, accounting for about one-third of applications and approvals.
There are about 5,000 students attending public schools in Cayman. Of those students, about 90% are Caymanian, a figure that has held steady since at least 2014.
The government prioritises admission into public schools according to 5 categories:
- Dependants of Cayamanians
- Dependants of civil servants
- Dependants of permanent residents
- Other — Children approved by WORC
Students in categories 3-5 are not guaranteed entry into government schools, but their applications are considered after categories 1 and 2 are admitted.
According to the department statistics, about 70% of applications were approved for both civil servants’ and permanent residents’ children.
For the WORC category, the approval rate was 38%.
Of the 119 non-Caymanians admitted into public schools, about 42% were children of civil servants, 49% were children of permanent residents and 9% were approved by WORC.
This group of non-Caymanian students makes up about 2% of total public school enrolment. Adding in the denied applications, the non-Caymanian students who applied would make up about 4% of total public school enrolment.
About 4,400 students attend private schools, including about 2,200 non-Caymanians.
The idea of desegregating Cayman’s public schools was a major issue during the 2021 campaign. More than a dozen candidates said that public schools should be integrated immediately. Others said a lack of space in public schools was a major hurdle to those efforts.
One candidate, Rolston Anglin of West Bay North (who ultimately lost his bid against incumbent Bernie Bush) said that even if public schools were opened to non-Caymanians, there’s no guarantee their parents would choose to send them there.
“Education is a commodity. Parents are going to choose where to buy the education commodity that they feel is best for their children. It’s that simple and that’s the way life should be,” Anglin said.