Education going forward

The Cayman Islands Ministry of Education, Training and Employment recently published its Education Stabilisation Plan, the ministry’s attempt to assist the government to stabilise the finances for the country.

The plan coincided with the publication of the ministry’s Education Progress Report, which highlighted the strategic developments undertaken by the ministry since 2009.

In an interview with the Observer On Sunday, Education Minister Rolstan Anglin outlines Government policy on education.

Management restructuring

Part of the plan was to restructure the ministry to better implement its new policies and improve the schools.

“For me, the key has been about getting the management structure in place. While we still have some recruiting to do there, at least we’re clear now about what the education system is going to look like – what is the role of the ministry, how is the ministry going to be placed to deliver on that role, what is the role of the department, how is the department structured to deliver on that role,” said Education Minister Rolston Anglin. “You really can’t have a proper functioning system unless it’s very clear that the ministry sets policy and the department is about supporting schools and driving performance.”

One of the ways to improve the school is direct contact with the teachers.

“I clearly recognize that given the state of the profession and the system in which I found it, I’m not under any illusions that I’m going to get teacher morale for example turned around within a year. That’s just not going to happen. There’s still a lot of suspicion,” said Anglin.

“This would be a staple of what I would do every year, in terms of having meetings with every single school staff, giving them an opportunity to have that one-on-one, that dialogue, direct feedback, good, bad, or indifferent, and that isn’t something that has happened in the system. Typically ministers would do the school tours and they’ll have whoever they trust as the persons to give them the information, but I believe that every single teacher needs to have that opportunity in those visits.”

Continuing social promotion

A hot-button topic in Cayman has been the concept of social promotion in schools.

“Let’s be clear about one thing from where I stand as long as I’m minister of our education system. If by social promotion you mean kids moving on with that year group, their age group – that’s what I hear some people call social promotion. Then, yes, that will continue to be the policy in this country. From a lower achiever, I do not believe holding them back assists them,” Anglin said.

“If a child has inherent learning disabilities, we need to support that child and get that child to achieve to their fullest potential. Holding back won’t cut it for them. For a child who has social issues that impacts their behaviour, again, holding them back will simply cause more damage to the system than it does to that child. For each child we need to do a better job at attacking and addressing their issues head on so they can achieve. Now there’s a lot in the community that don’t want to hear that. They want to go for the easy fix,” he added.

On health

Caymanians might have noticed an extreme change in the appearance of the Education Minister over the past few months.

He’s lost a lot of weight, and now looks healthier than ever.

“I gave authority for the new (food) policy to move forward from April, so in July I decided you know what I needed to do what I needed to do for myself and lead by example,” he said.

“No one has ever asked me the question,” he added. There’s a first for everything.

“It was a number of things within my personal setting, within my family that also caused me to reflect. But that was a piece of it. A piece of it was, you know what, if you’re going to ask kids to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle then you need to lead by example as well,” Anglin said.

“The message that parents bought was that healthcare costs in this country per capita are skyrocketing. The health of this country is, let’s face it, deplorable. We needed to do something. We needed to act,” he said.

“We’re still going to continue to drive this agenda because it’s in the long-term interest of our kids. First of all, I believe it has a positive outcome on learning,” Anglin said. “Even if we can’t prove that with empirical evidence through research, what I know we can prove is it will have a tremendous impact on our kids down the line and the health-care costs in this country down the line. Let’s face it, we have the majority of our population coming through our system, so no better place to start.”