Recent and anticipated personnel changes within the teaching ranks have raised questions about the future of high school examination streams in Cayman, but Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler says the teacher turnover is merely a reflection of contract renewals and not of any specific policies within the newly-formed Department of Education Services.
‘I’ve heard the word ‘layoff’ used about this year’s recruitment and I can assure you any layoff in the sense of a reduction in workforce is definitely not the case,’ she says.
Ms. Wahler says that at the end of contract for those employees on fixed term contracts, an assessment is made by the school and a recommendation comes to the DofES as to whether the contract should be renewed.
‘The final decision is based on issues of performance, accountability, needs of the school and whether or not a Caymanian is applying for the post. We are lucky this year to have returning Caymanians to fill some posts, and we hope that this trend will continue,’ says Ms. Wahler.
The staff turnover has sparked discussion on the direction government schools will be taking with regard to high school examinations.
The Caribbean Examinations Council provides examinations and certification at the secondary and post-secondary levels. The Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination is offered for students at the end of the secondary education cycle, while the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations are offered for post-secondary candidates who require certification and advanced standing.
Another option for students is to follow the General Certificate of Secondary Education track, a set of English qualifications taken by secondary school students aged 14 to 16.
Clive Baker, the Department’s Head of Curriculum services, says which exams students take depends on many factors.
‘CSEC take students to a pre-A levels standard. In the Caribbean, A-levels or CAPE (the CSEC equivalent) are a precursor to university entry,’ he says.
While A-level is not offered in Government schools, it is funded by the Government for Caymanian students in private schools.
‘Either CSEC, IGCSE or GCSE passes (which are all considered of the same level, though there are obviously differences in emphasis and syllabus) are accepted ‘O-level’ or, in Caricom terms, Level 2 qualifications at age 16-plus,’ Mr. Baker added.
Ms Wahler denied that teachers with Caribbean qualifications are being passed over for those who can teach GCSE exams.
‘There is not by any means a general move away from Caribbean Education Councils exams as is being rumoured in some circles,’ says Mrs. Wahler.
‘In fact, I have undertaken to CXC Council that this year we will have more students entering for CXC exams that in any previous year. We are also adopting new CXC examinations that augment our existing curriculum.’
Mrs. Wahler says that while the Department does look for examination experience as one of the criteria they consider, it also have an obligation to train and retrain teachers for new syllabi and for changes to existing exams.