Maths and reading skills also a priority
Improving literacy and numeracy rates and a greater focus on vocational training for trades and the hospitality industry are areas of consensus among rival politicians as they roll out their education plans ahead of the May election.
Across the political spectrum candidates have called for a renewed focus on technical skills and a continuation of policies to improve maths and reading levels among schoolchildren – an area where Cayman has struggled.
Osbourne Bodden, a candidate in Bodden Town for the People’s Progressive Movement said opening a technical and vocational training centre was a priority.
He said a hotel training school and apprenticeship programme would also help get young Caymanians retooled for the tourism industry.
“We need to work to change Caymanian perceptions of good jobs, particularly in relation to the hospitality industry,” he added.
He said the previous PPM administration had laid the foundations for the transformation of the education system to “world class”.
He listed the decision to build the Clifton Hunter school and adding another year of mandatory schooling as achievements in the party’s previous term in power.
Completing the John Gray campus is part of the party’s platform for the coming election.
He added: “Recent research shows that many of our students are failing literacy and numeracy tests. Much more needs to be done by way of intervention to improve these critical skills.
“We must do more to assist the special needs students within our school system first in terms of assessment and then in terms of interventions.”
The United Democratic Party has previously criticised the PPM for wasting money on expensive school buildings rather than the quality of education itself.
Theresa Pitcairn, a candidate for the UDP in Bodden Town, said her party had developed a clear understanding of what worked and what didn’t in terms of the curriculum and was in the process of implementing reforms.
“The challenge for our education system is to prepare ‘work ready’ graduates whose skills and competencies meet the ever changing needs of the new labour market.
“To address some of these challenges, we will raise the proportion of college graduates from where it now stands (around 15 per cent) so that 40 per cent of our population holds at a minimum a two-year by 2020 from competitive universities or colleges. We will close the achievement gap so that more students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and in a career of their choice.
“For students that want to pursue nonacademic routes, they too will be provided with real opportunities through the establishment of relevant vocational studies.”
The party plans to introduce a national apprentice programme for the hospitality industry and partner with the private sector on work experience programmes, if re-elected.
A review of teachers salaries to incentivize and encourage teachers into the profession is also on the cards, Ms Pitcairn added.
The strategic plan for education, produced by the current government, should be the guiding document for decisions going forward, says education minister Rolston Anglin.
Mr. Anglin, formerly of the United Democratic Party and now a candidate with the new People’s National Alliance, said the plan was a roadmap for the next five years.
“The plan will be project managed. An oversight group made up of stakeholders will monitor delivery of the plan and provide advice,” he told the Compass.
“Each strategic goal will have a project leader and will benefit from input from a group of stakeholders who will also receive reports and help to make us accountable.
“We have a system for reviewing performance data and are currently consulting on a set of national targets for improving academic standards, year on year.” He added that technical and vocational education should also be a priority for the next government.
“This would mean expanding the apprenticeship offerings modelled after the very successful Superior Auto Training Programme and offering accredited TechVoc programmes in electrical, plumbing, HVAC and carpentry,” he told Chamber magazine last month.
He said government would need to work with the private sector to ensure a work experience element could be involved in these programmes.
Independent candidate Winston Connolly has outlined his views on education. He believes more needs to be done to prepare Caymanian schoolchildren for the workplace.
He has called for an end to social promotion – the practice of advancing children from one academic year to the next with their peers, regardless of results.
And he wants to see international assessment standards for Caymanian students.
He said: “When our young people leave school they are competing against other young people in a global, multicultural environment.
“We are fortunate to have a multicultural society and our schools, both public and private, should be representative of this diversity.
“This will not only prepare our young people for the global marketplace in which they will live and work, but also foster better understanding and tolerance of each other through their student experience. It will also strengthen our community ties thorough diverse parent participation in school activities.
“Our young people need to be made aware of, and to be proud of, their Caymanian culture and history and national educational standards are an important part of this process.
“While we might have national standards however, we also need to subscribe to an internationally accredited system that will allow our young people upon graduation to compete in the global arena.
“At a tertiary level, we need support, strengthen and promote existing trade schools that train Caymanian students who wish to follow these vocations. Careers counsellors in schools need to be supported so that they can work with our students to help them identify which careers might be best for them based on their strengths and what they enjoy doing. For all students, any learning challenges should be identified and addressed at a very early age so as to support each student’s development.”