Education changes needed

Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said he is not sure yet how deficiencies in the government education system will be corrected.

‘We haven’t worked out all the things that have to be done, but we’ve worked out some of them,’ he said at the Cabinet press briefing last Friday.

One possibility of a new approach would affect George Hicks High School dramatically.

‘We would abolish George Hicks as it is and establish four small schools in its place,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The four small schools would each have different administration, different teachers, different classrooms and different uniforms. However, there would be a minimal sharing of resources between the schools with facilities like the sports field and computer lab.

With only 230-240 students per school, the move would allow for smaller class sizes and higher teacher-to-student ratios, Mr. McLaughlin said.

The change would be fairly easy to implement.

‘It would take very little additional cash outlay to make this happen,’ he said.

A resulting benefit of splitting up George Hicks would be the creation of real academic competition between the separated schools.

One thing that has not been worked out yet would be how to choose which students went to which school, and whether parents would have the right to insist their child went to a particular school.

‘If there aren’t a catchment areas, how do you keep parents from insisting their children go to what they perceive is the best campus?’ Mr. McLaughlin asked.

Teachers had until yesterday to respond to the proposal, and no decision has been made yet as to whether to adopt the move.

Mr. McLaughlin noted that other changes needed to be undertaken as well.

‘The number of children in our schools with ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is absolutely astounding,’ he said. ‘We do not have the facilities in Cayman to deal with all of these children,’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said one thing that would be addressed in the next budge was increasing the number of reading specialist to help deal with some of the special needs children.

Another thing Mr. McLaughlin would like to see addressed soon is teachers’ salaries.

‘My view is that we need to re-grade teachers,’ he said.

‘It’s not just a five or six per cent increase I’m talking about,’ he said. ‘I’m talking about reviewing the post.’

Mr. McLaughlin also wants to get away from judging the success of the schools by the number of children who excel, which can sometimes actually be a small percentage of students.

‘Absolute numbers don’t really tell you a great deal,’ he said. ‘Yes, you might have 30 children that did well, but what about the others?

‘The performance of the school itself should be where the bright light should be shone,’ he said. ‘That’s the only way we’re going to improve.’

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