Stats delve into every corner of life

From the price of fish to the expanding waist lines of primary school children and the drinking habits of Cayman Islands’ men, statisticians are keeping tabs on almost every aspect of life in these islands. 

Numbers are informing policy decisions on the use of police resources, the protection of endangered species and even the methods used by teachers in the classroom, visitors to Thursday’s statistics fair at the University College of the Cayman Islands were told. 

In an increasingly data-driven world, numbers are more important than ever. Clive Baker, who is part of the Department of Education’s data team, said smart data analysis was becoming increasingly important. 

Teachers now use “diagnostic” tests where the questions are designed to help educators identify areas of weakness and the type of teaching style that would help get the message across. 

“We spend a lot of time working with teachers, helping them interpret the stats and help them use that information to plan lessons and strategies. It even goes down to the level of specific question analysis,” said Mr. Baker 

The broad result of some of that analysis has been a switch to a more practical, hands-on style of teaching in Cayman’s classrooms that officials believe is responsible for helping to lift exam results. 

Jeremy Olynik, of the department of environment, said much of the field work done by researchers was essentially collecting statistics. 

The numbers they collect have led to the protection of endangered species, including the Nassau grouper, and are fuelling policy decisions on containing the lionfish invasion on Cayman’s reefs and protecting wetlands in the west of the islands. 

“When we are in the field, we are collecting statistics. We look at fish biomass, coral cover, distribution of different species. It is all important data to protect our wildlife and their habitats.” 

For police and health officials, statistics can be a matter of life and death. Deciding where to spend money, how to use resources and what health programs the community needs, is all driven by numbers. 

Sergeant Jessie Melbourne, of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, said crime stats and analysis were crucial to police tactics. 

Joseph Anderson, of government’s Economics and Statistics Office, said the point of the fair, attended by throngs of school children from around the island, was to highlight the importance of data to everyday lives. 

From planning for natural disasters to immigration regulations and growing the national economy, he said, statistics were vital to all aspects of running a country. 

“Without this information, we are blind to what is happening. Everything we do socially, economically, politically is built on statistics,” Mr. Anderson said. 


Schoolchildren learned about the power of numbers at Thursday’s stats fair. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER