7 Aug. 2022
Weekly Current (archived version)
Assessing the PACT’s progress on education goals. Update on school meals rollout. Tertiary institutions tweak admissions due to CXC delays. LIFE and Intertrust complete school libraries project.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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On the first anniversary of the release of the PACT government’s key priorities in office, the Ministry of Education can mark as ‘Complete’ the rollout of the free school meals programme, provision of free devices to students, implementation of adequate Reception classes in public primary schools, and having no maximum age limit for post-graduate scholarships.
The other 29 education-related goals detailed in the 2022-2024 Strategic Policy Statement (SPS) remain on the ‘To-Do’ list, and are either ‘in progress’ or still in the ‘planning stages’, according to information provided to the Cayman Current by the ministry on 14 July – precisely one year after the PACT’s publication of the SPS following the coalition’s victory in the April 2021 elections.
“The Ministry of Education aims to provide a world-class education for learners of all ages. In so doing, we have undertaken several initiatives consistent with the Broad Outcome for education: Improving Education to Promote Lifelong Learning and Greater Economic Mobility,” Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said in a statement provided to the Current.
“These include the introduction of the Public School Meals Programme and the 1-1 Laptop Programme in all our Government schools, ensuring that every student has access to key technological resources and proper nutrition, giving each student an equal opportunity to realise their full academic potential,” she said.
However, key members of the Progressives Opposition said the PACT should have been able to accomplish more, given the Opposition’s support of the government’s agenda.
“The Opposition has supported the PACT government’s stated objective to continue with the programme of reforms which we started in the last two Progressives-led administrations. There is good evidence that the reforms we started have worked and are working,” Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart said.
Shadow Minister for Education Barbara Conolly said, “What we need to see is more effective delivery from the government. The Education Minister began her term with an advantage. The Minister had a plan in place from the last administration and a number of initiatives that we had developed and were ready to be implemented. Secondly, she was the Minister last term and so was not learning on the job.
She said, “COVID has been a challenge, but this has been known for some time. There is no reason why the government could not have achieved more than has been done over their first year.”
In response to a request from the Current, the ministry provided brief status updates on the 33 education-related initiatives contained in the July 2021 SPS.
The ministry marked as ‘Complete’ two of the most ambitious goals contained in the SPS – the provision of free school meals and increasing access to technology through the provision of free devices to students.
Of the 33 objectives, about a dozen were described as being ‘in progress’ or ‘ongoing process’.
That includes strengthening early education, ensuring free tertiary education at the University College of the Cayman Islands and the International College of the Cayman Islands, finishing the new John Gray campus, and expanding the Lighthouse School.
Not counting two items in ‘process’/‘planning’ limbo, there are 13 SPS goals still in the ‘planning stages’.
That includes several major talking points from the 2021 campaign, such as integrating Caymanians and non-Caymanians into the school system, improving graduation criteria to end social promotion, reintroducing ‘A’ Levels into public secondary schools, creating a centralised TVET curriculum beginning in primary school, establishing a Board of Governors to oversee public schools, and incentivising parents to get involved in school improvement.
This story was published by the Cayman Compass in partnership with the Cayman Current. This is our second monthly feature on education provided to the Compass.
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Minister of Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly led a team of public officials on a tour of the canteen at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
This is part of the process to put the finishing touches on the ministry’s free school meals programme, by expanding it to the relative handful of students in the CIFEC-UCCI dual enrolment programme. Of note is that public school students attending Year 12 at St. Ignatius Catholic School have been included in the meals programme, and the ministry plans to do the same for public school students attending Year 12 at Cayman Prep and High School.
The late release of test results from the Caribbean Examination Council has caused local universities and A-Level institutions to adjust their admissions processes.
In essence, tertiary institutions have agreed to accept students based on recommendations of their schools, in the absence of test results. Students recommended for CIFEC programmes who achieved better than expected on CXC tests will be able to register at UCCI if the results are confirmed by 5 Sept. If the results come in after that, they will stay at CIFEC.
Students selected by their school for the Dual Entry Programme who end up performing below expectations on CXC tests will be allowed to remain in the programme but will have to re-sit the Level 2 courses.
The Department of Education Services announced the details for UCCI, A-Level schools and CIFEC.
LIFE and Intertrust Group celebrated their initiative to stock classroom libraries in all government primary schools in the Cayman Islands.
Begun in March 2020, the programme was funded by a $277,319 donation from Intertrust and involves the purchase of 27,734 books.
Erica Dell’Oglio, LIFE’s Executive Director, said, “We are so extremely grateful to Intertrust for their commitment to this ambitious project, they also gave of their time joining our volunteers to assist in stickering and delivering of the books, ensuring that every public classroom in Cayman now has a print rich environment to foster literacy and a passion for the written word.”
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The Week Ahead
- Getting back in the groove after vacation.