Minister of Education: Cayman schools dealing with COVID-related ‘learning loss’

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to ‘learning loss’ among Cayman Islands students, and local schools are still trying to close gaps in academic progress.

Initiatives taken by schools include additional focus on literacy and numeracy, more intervention outside normal class time, and investments in digital technology, Minister of Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said in Cayman Islands Parliament last week.

Progressives Shadow Minister of Education Barbara Conolly posed the Opposition question: “Can the Honourable Minister state what action she has taken or plans she has made, in light of the serious concerns raised by the Office of Education Standards that students across the public school system experienced ‘learning loss’ caused by interruptions to their education, as a result of the various pandemic restrictions?”

Saying that learning loss is a regional and global issue, O’Connor-Connolly said, “The public and private schools in the Cayman Islands identified learning loss due to COVID. This was measured in government schools by progress tests and comparisons to previous benchmarks and expected progress at the current stage of the students’ development.”

She said schools implemented measures such as “additional classes, increased intervention outside of class time, or pullout sessions where the need is more urgent”.

She said, “Identification of additional resources and training in particular for reading and numeracy to help support teachers to further close these gaps for students is also an ongoing process.”

The Ministry of Education, Department of Education Services and schools collaborated to increase teaching hours dedicated to literacy and numeracy starting in August 2021.

Due in part to the nearly-universal provision of devices to Cayman students, as well as Cayman’s schools being able to remain open since fall 2020, the territory has appeared to fare much better through COVID than its Caribbean neighbours, O’Connor-Connolly said.

She said senior ministry staff were engaged to help produce plans to resolve learning loss for the Caribbean region.

“I am extremely proud of my team because other Caribbean nations have come to Cayman to ask for us to assist and give guidance on how we were successfully able to navigate through this COVID time. This collaboration included the sharing of best practices for the Cayman Islands, which we were happy to do with our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean,” she said.

O’Connor-Connolly said the ongoing end-of-year assessments will help educators quantify how much learning gaps have been closed this school year, and will assist with planning for the next school year.

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