20 June 2021 (Father’s Day)
Weekly Current (archived version)
What’s the value of a Cayman Islands public high school diploma? More discussion on EdBeat: Episode 4. The emergence of a ‘Shadow Minister’ for Education. Creek and Spot Bay Primary rated ‘Satisfactory’. UCCI registration opens for Fall.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
‘Tis the season for graduation ceremonies. But how much value is there in the pieces of paper that capped-and-gowned graduates cross the stage to receive?
As it turns out, last year nearly half of public high school graduates obtained diplomas that the government deems equivalent to a middle school education, that aren’t sufficient to qualify for government aid for education beyond Year 12, and that can be earned by scoring ‘straight Fs’ on external exams.
The business community has long expressed concerns about ‘social promotion’ and the preparedness of local graduates to enter the workforce.
According to the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, “Finding and retaining local talent is one of the greatest challenges facing the business community.”
On the campaign trail, candidates including Michael Myles (a longtime government social worker, former civil servant in the Ministry of Education, and current owner of a trade school) said far too many students obtain diplomas that are worth far too little.
Myles proposed eliminating the ‘Level 1’ diploma and replacing it with recognised vocational training.
Apart from what businesses and politicians have said, we wanted to peg the value of a high school diploma to a different, arguably more authoritative standard — so we went to the Ministry of Education.
In 2011, then-Education Minister Rolston Anglin announced the incorporation of minimum academic standards into graduation criteria, going beyond simple attendance and behaviour requirements. The government created a ‘National Qualifications Framework’ that details a hierarchy of educational attainment.
Now, public high schools offer 4 kinds of diplomas: ‘Level 1’, ‘Level 2’, ‘Level 2 with Honours’ and ‘Level 2 with High Honours’.
Last year 41% of public high school graduates received a ‘Level 1’ diploma. According to the Framework, the Level 1 diploma is equivalent to a Middle School, Junior High or Years 7/8/9 qualification.
That means, for example, if an employer puts out a job advertisement requiring a certified ‘high school graduate’, then Caymanians with a Level 1 diploma would not qualify, even if they ‘graduated’ high school.
To obtain a Level 1 diploma, students must have 5 ‘Level 1 passes’ on external exams — meaning Grades D-G on GCSEs or Grades IV-VI on CSECs. Those are the lowest grades possible on those exams, other than ‘Absent’, ‘No Result’ or ‘Ungraded’.
A Level 2 diploma requires 5 ‘Level 2 passes’ on external exams — meaning Grades A*-C on GCSEs or Grades I-III on CSECs. It is considered the standard high school diploma for Years 10/11/12. Those requirements are sufficient to qualify for government’s scholarships for A Levels or a local Associate’s Degree, but not necessarily for local law school or overseas undergraduate study.
Only the Level 2 with High Honours diploma (awarded to 12% of graduates last year) has minimum requirements sufficient for scholarships to study law or overseas.
Cayman Life TV’s April Cummings and Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel talked more about high school diplomas and scholarship opportunities during this week’s episode of EdBeat.
Now a word from the Official Opposition:
Barbara Conolly, the former Education Councillor and current member of the Progessives’ Opposition, issued a press release congratulating the public high schools for their improved inspection results.
She goes on to make what could be interpreted as a ‘veiled’ statement to Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly (who of course held the same position under the Progressives government). Saying that the Progressives-led Alliance coalition (including O’Connor-Connolly) pledged that all public schools would be rated ‘Good’ or better by the end of the four-year term, Conolly continued: “I do not expect that the Education Minister will want to renege on that pledge she made to the country when we campaigned together. The question is whether her new PACT colleagues will share the same determination to see our public schools improve that the Progressives have demonstrated.”
Conolly then challenged Premier Wayne Panton “to tell the country what ambition he has, on behalf of the PACT Government, for education across our Cayman Islands. Is he willing, as the Alliance was, to make a public commitment that the standard of all public schools will be raised to ‘good’ or better before the end of his current government?”
What’s perhaps more interesting than ‘what’ was said in the press release is ‘who’ said it. Conolly is dubbed the ‘Shadow Minister for Education‘.
Shadow Ministers are a feature of the Westminster form of government, and could signal what some observers have been discussing since the dust settled on the April elections: that the Progressives-led Opposition stands to be the strongest, most unified and possibly most effective Opposition in Cayman’s modern political history.
Although they failed to form a majority government, the Progressives are Cayman’s only standing political party and have a plurality in Parliament. On the other side, the PACT government still appears to be getting their feet under them, and are a coalition of Independents whose loyalties lie not with a party, but with their individual districts.
Is Conolly’s press release the opening salvo from a well-organised and focussed Parliamentary Opposition, who are prepared to push the PACT government on the entire gamut of issues?
Stay tuned …
More from the Current
- Creek and Spot Bay Primary School remains ‘Satisfactory’
- Applications open for Fall semester at UCCI
- Minister of Education committed to bridging the digital divide among students
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 News Service: Church schools reveal stark contrasts in standards
- Jamaica Gleaner: Floyd Morris | What of the future of tertiary education in Jamaica?
- Jamaica Observer: EDITORIAL | Beyond the summer school debate
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Car rally to save West End Primary School from closure held
The Week Ahead
- Inspection results
- EdBeat, Episode 5