Where are education results?

In 1837 Danish poet and author, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about an emperor who unwittingly hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth.

This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new ‘clothes’. During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, ‘But he has nothing on!’ The crowd realises the child is telling the truth. The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

This fairy tale reminds me of the state of our education policy in Cayman today. A few years ago our Minister of Education hired a team of foreign architects and education consultants to design ‘state of the art schools’. According to the Minister in a media briefing on 20 October, 2006, one of them was the ‘world’s leading change agents in school design’.

Two months later at the second education conference at the Mary Miller Hall on 1 December, 2006, the Minister told hundreds of educators, ‘I believe that the work we are undertaking to transform our education system is to produce students and young adults, allowing them to emerge more and more as empowered, self-positioned, motivated, capable individuals, able to hold their own in the global market place’.

These are nice fancy words, but where are the results? Our young people are still unable to get jobs when they graduate from high school and many qualified and motivated Caymanians are losing their jobs in record numbers. So where are all of these great results that were promised by the Minister? The answer lies in the details and not the words.

A review of the 2007 Compendium of Statistics will reveal that while the Ministry of Education has spent over CI$111 million in operating expenses in education between 2005 and 2007 – strangely, there are no published examination results for this period. What is really happening here? Are the examination results so poor that the Ministry is ashamed to publish the results? How can we continue to survive in this country if we elect a government that spends this kind of money and has nothing to show for it?

The fact that the reporting of education results stopped suddenly in 2005 after the Minister of Education started his term must be seriously questioned.

If nothing else it shows a grave lack of accountability and transparency in what I personally believe is one of the most important areas of government policy. And this from a Minister and government that campaigned on the basis of transparency and accountability! Our parents and children deserve better.

Interestingly, in the same way that the emperor in this fairytale went on a procession through the capital to show off his new ‘clothes’; our Minister of Education also travelled the world to show off his fancy new school buildings and unique education model. I believe that our Minister of Education has good intentions, but I wonder if he read this fairytale.

It is obvious from the 2007 Compendium of Statistics that the people of the Cayman Islands are not getting what was promised by the Minister of Education and his collection of foreign ‘education experts’. In fact there is a strong possibility that like the people in the original fairytale; when it comes to results in education, all we will really get is a suit of invisible clothes.
Walling Whittaker