Editorial for March 31: Promoting unemployment

We received a sad letter from an unemployed Caymanian writer recently who is experiencing very difficult times. The letter was sad, not only because of the writer’s predicament, but because it was written with the spelling and grammar of someone you’d expect to be in primary school.
The letter underscores a problem here. There are some Caymanians who are willing to work, but don’t possess the basic skills to get a lot of jobs. Most jobs require reading and writing skills and employers can’t be blamed for wanting to hire only those capable of doing the job.
There are people who can’t read and write in every society in the world. In other places, however, these people hold down the more menial jobs, the kind that require physical labour or doing something that most people wouldn’t want to do.
Here in Cayman however, these menial jobs are often filled by expatriates who are not only willing to work for much less money than Caymanians, but who are also in many cases more educated and more skilled.
In addition, the link between skills and job prospects isn’t accepted by all Caymanians, some of who believe they should still get good jobs based on a perceived entitlement. If this doesn’t happen, they blame the government.
We agree government is partially to blame, but not because it isn’t helping unemployed people get jobs, but because it allowed a system where children to go through and leave school without basic skills like reading and writing.
We believe the fact that children aren’t held to any quantitative proficiency standards in order to move up the education system is key to the problem.
It is argued by proponents of what is often called social promotion that failing students who do not meet set proficiency standards and holding them back to repeat a school year is harmful psychologically. Perhaps it is. But it can’t be any more psychologically harmful than being an unemployable adult because of an inability to read and write past an elementary level, and the devastating feelings of humiliation and hopelessness that come from the predicament.