18 July 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
PACT government calls for major increase in education spending. Feed our Future backs free school meals proposal. How transparent is Cayman’s education system? Inclusion Cayman CEO steps down. Congrats to Dart’s University Scholarship winner.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
The PACT government plans to significantly increase spending on public education over the next 3 years on new initiatives, expanded programmes and capital projects.
The 29 education-related proposals listed in the 2022-2024 Strategic Policy Statement include free meals to all public school students, free tertiary education at local universities, the creation of nursery classes in public schools, increased scholarship funding, laptops and broadband access for all students, expanded before- and after-school programmes, the reintroduction of A Levels into public schools .. and much, much more.
The SPS also calls for creating new legislation to enhance accountability for schools and teachers, establishing a Board of Governors to oversee public schools, improving school graduation criteria to end social promotion, and integrating Caymanians and non-Caymanians into the school system.
Altogether, the PACT aims to increase the Ministry of Education’s ‘operating expenditure’ to $152 million in 2024. That represents an increase of more than 50% compared to the $95 million spent on education in 2019, which is the latest confirmed figure we have from the Office of the Auditor General.
Under the SPS, education’s ‘share’ of core government spending would rise to 17.7% in 2024 … compared to 9.8% in 2014 and 12.7% in 2018.
In addition to the combined $440 million in operating expenditures on education for the next 3 years, the SPS also allocates another $98.3 million in spending for capital projects, including completion of the New John Gray High School campus, expansion of the Lighthouse School, expansion of schools to create nursery and learning support classrooms, and capital investments into the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Details of the initiatives have not yet been announced, and should become more clear when the government presents its first annual budget later this year. However, initial reactions to the PACT’s plans have largely been positive.
For example, we spoke to Stacey VanDevelde, who is the founder/chairwoman of Feed our Future, a decade-old non-profit whose primary programme is to provide free or low-cost school meals to children in need.
VanDevelde said from NPO Board’s point of view, “For too long this has been overlooked. Poor health and malnutrition have to be considered and incorporated into the efforts to improve our educational system. So this is a very positive move and, in our view, an investment in our youth and country to do all we can to ensure their future.”
If the government effectively takes Feed our Future out of the schools meals business, the NPO can shift its focus to other efforts that might have a deeper impact on chidhood hunger in the long term, such as educating families on how to shop and cook healthy on a budget, or assisting authorities with updating nutritional guidelines on school meals.
In this week’s episode of EdBeat, Cayman Current Editor Patrick Brendel and Cayman Life TV Founder April Cummings discuss the PACT’s education plans, including how the government intends to pay for the proposals.
Generally speaking, the increase in operating expenditures will be covered by an anticipated increase in government revenue when the economy emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown. On the other hand, the government will use a line of credit to pay for the capital projects.
Patrick thinks that since the PACT government is not only new, but comprises independent legislators that did not campaign together as a single unit, this SPS plays a dual role — first as a ‘policy’ document outlining the government’s plans, but also as a ‘political’ manifesto revealing the PACT’s priorities.
How transparent is Cayman’s education system?
A couple of weeks ago, we asked Weekly Current subscribers how they felt about the level of transparency in the local education system. Not one respondent said there is enough information about public and private schools.
We took a look at regional peers (i.e. BOTs and Caribbean countries) and first-world nations (UK and US) to see how Cayman stacks up.
Here are our findings, in a nutshell:
- Cayman is publishing more data every year on local schools, particularly public schools.
- Cayman has greater transparency on school performance than nearly all of our regional peers.
- However, Cayman’s information is a fraction of what is available in the UK and US.
Susie Bodden has resigned from her position as Chief Executive Officer of Inclusion Cayman (formerly The Special Needs Foundation Cayman), though she will remain with the organisation in a different capacity.
After 7 years leading the NPO, Bodden is stepping down into the role of Financial Officer. The NPO is searching for a new CEO, and in the interim, special education needs expert and longtime advocate Brent Holt will sit in the captain’s chair.
Cayman Prep & High School graduate Aiden Watler has won the 2021 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholarship.
Watler intends to pursue a degree in Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It’s about more than learning formulae. It’s about understanding. I’m ecstatic about exploring both mathematics and its many applications in university,” Watler said.
The University Scholarship includes financial support for a period of up to 4 years at an overseas university, summer employment opportunities at Dart, and mentorship opportunities from Dart employees.
More from the Current
- Layman E. Scott Snr High School Celebrates ‘Good’ Rating
- Minister for Education Continues School Tours
- Tradeview Markets is new title sponsor of Women’s Rugby in the Cayman Islands
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: How John Gray rating went from ‘weak’ to ‘good’ over six years
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | How Parliament should discuss UWI
- The Guardian (UK): Schools in England shut early for summer as record numbers are forced to isolate
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Nasa offering virtual events for Bermuda students
- The Virgin Islands Daily News (US): Education looks toward modernization projects as aged V.I. schools deteriorate
- Jamaica Observer: Educator stretches a hand to high school entrants
The Week Ahead
- Comparing the PACT’s education plans to the Progressives’ campaign manifesto
- Interview, Montessori By The Sea, Part 2
- Tiffany’s Pre-School rated ‘Satisfactory’
- EdBeat, Episode Nine