Top marks for external exams

Education officials encouraged by results

Year 12 students in 2011 have achieved the highest ever external examination results recorded for the government education system. 

The success is being attributed to several new approaches to educating by the Ministry, which youngsters are responding to. 

Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education Mary Rodrigues said, “The pass rate represents a significant improvement over last year’s results and continues a trend of 
improvement nationally.” 

On a national level, 45 per cent of Year 12 students in 2011 attained five or more Level 2 passes (A*-C [GCSE/IGCSE] or 1-3 [CXC]) in external examinations. Just five years ago, in 2007, the figures stood at 27 per cent. This represents a difference of 84 students across schools meeting that target in 2007 and 154 doing so in 2011, Mrs. Rodrigues said. 

In 2008, the national average for government schools was 28 per cent. However, since 2008, results have shown significant improvement, rising to 38 per cent in 2009 and 39 per cent in 2010. 

In Grand Cayman, a year group of 310 students saw 43 per cent of the students achieve five or more Level 2 passes, while in the Brac, students at the Layman E. Scott Senior High School performed the national average, with a 66 per cent pass rate in a year group of 32. 

The percentage of students achieving honours status – with seven or more Level 2 passes, also improved in 2011, with 22 per cent/76 students achieving this standard. Of that number, 62 attended John Gray High School or Cayman Islands Further Education Centre in Grand Cayman and a further 14 were from the Layman E. Scott High School in Cayman Brac. 

Minister for Education Rolston Anglin shared external examination results with educators in the Sister Islands and Grand Cayman at the Ministry’s official launch of the new school year. 

“Standards matter,” Minister Anglin said. “Behind every percentage point increase are children whose life chances have improved, because they have reached an important threshold for further studies or the world of work. These results tell us that Caymanian students can achieve at a high level and that our system can improve. We must believe that every child can, should and will learn.” 

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said the significance of what has been achieved in 2011 becomes clear when the results are compared with performance in previous years.  

“In 2005, for example, only 23 per cent of students in Grand Cayman achieved five or more Level 2 passes,” Mrs Wahler said.  

More recently, the results came in at 25 per cent in 2007 and 27 per cent in 2008, rising to 36 per cent in 2009 and 37 per cent in 2010. 

“In Cayman Brac, results have topped 60 per cent before, with students attaining 65 per cent in both 2006 and 2010,” Mrs. Wahler said. 

She said in other years, results have varied between 45 and 48 per cent on Cayman Brac. 

Mrs. Rodrigues said a more detailed analysis of results and other performance data is being finalised for use by the Department of Education Services and in schools. This will identify specific strengths and weaknesses, as well as to set targets for improvement, by school, subject and teacher. 

She said the Department of Education Services, through the work of newly appointed senior school improvement officers, has been tasked with engaging schools to develop additional strategies for improving results in 2012.  

Mrs. Rodrigues elaborated on some of the strategies being employed to affect more positive results: “When students meet with success, we know it has come with a lot of effort on their part and with caring, challenge and support from their teachers. Our schools on Grand Cayman have taken the lead from best practice elsewhere to provide much greater structure in terms of examination preparation. Classes are now allocated for school based assessment, rather than requiring students to work on the tasks at home. Much greater emphasis is placed on the use of past papers and examination questions – and from the very outset of the course rather than leaving it to the end. Targets are now set for departments to strive to achieve based on the students’ prior performance and predicted outcomes. In addition, revision classes, revision guides and online study sites are being used more extensively to support the students’ revision practice.” 

Other factors positively affecting results include the restructuring of the education system, with the implementation of CIFEC or Year 12 programme in September 2010. The 2011 Year 12 group was the first to benefit from being able to re-sit exams taken in Year 11, as well as to take new exams in their final year.  

This has been a successful practice in Cayman Brac, according to officials in the Education Ministry, who added that previously, students had one shot at exams and that determined their future. 

This Year 12 was also the first group of students to have the opportunity to gain college credits through AP classes or attendance at UCCI. They were able to undertake A Level studies as well; all the while still in their final year of compulsory schooling. 

Ensuring that all students are now entered for at least seven exams has also helped to increase results. 

“From 2001-2009 students were only entered for an average of four subjects, so previously many of our students wouldn never have had the chance to make the standard of 5 Level 2 passes,” Mrs. Rodrigues said. She added that there is still over 50 per cent of students in the government system who the Ministry is determined to get up to the standard of 5 or more level 2 passes, through continued focus on strategy, communication and data.