Public schools enrolment down

Enrolment in Cayman Islands public schools fell slightly in 2008 for the first time in five years, according to statistics released by the Caymanian government last week.

However, 2008 saw a big increase in the number of private school enrolments, up nearly nine per cent from the year before and showed nearly a 50 per cent increase from five years ago.

As of 30 September, 2008, there were 4,579 students enrolled in government schools and 2,933 enrolled in private schools.

According to government records, the largest drop off occurred at the primary school level. About 70 fewer kids were enrolled at government primary schools in 2008 than had been during 2007. Middle school enrolment at government schools also saw a slight drop off, while high school enrolment stayed the same.

On the private school side, student numbers rose slightly in primary school, dropped a bit at the middle school level, but shot up in high school. Private schools enrolment in secondary education went up more than 53 per cent between 2007 and 2008.

There was evidence from the statistical report that the growing number of both private school and public school students are being jammed into increasingly crowded environments.

The number of private schools in the Cayman Islands hasn’t changed in a decade. There are ten such schools. There are two more government schools existing now then there were a decade ago, but the student population there has increased significantly as well.

In 1999, there were 6,153 students in 24 schools across the Cayman Islands. Last year, there were 7.512 kids in 26 schools.

Spending per student numbers were difficult to determine for 2008 because government expenditures weren’t recorded in the statistics that were released. According to 2007, the last year for which figures were available, government spent about $40.7 million on primary, secondary and special needs education.

That spending level works out to about $8,787 per year per student for the 2007 calendar year.

The private schools spent just more than $14 million for primary and secondary education in 2008. However, per-student spending could not be determined accurately because cost figures for two private schools, Cayman International and Cayman Prep, were not included in the statistics report for either 2007 or 2008.

Private schools’ spending in the Cayman Islands is subsidised by the government. Last year, the subsidy given to private schools was increased to $2 million in total. That subsidy is given to the Private Schools Association and then allocated among the schools.

On the tertiary education front, enrolment at the University College of the Cayman Islands in bachelors and associates degree programmes increased substantially in 2008. The number of full-time associates’ degree seekers more than doubled last year when compared to 2007. Full-time students seeking a bachelors’ degree also went up substantially.

Enrolment in certificate programmes and professional training programmes dropped off sharply last year at UCCI.