Promoting a higher standard in education

We welcome to our islands David Marshall, the new president of the International College of the Cayman Islands, and we especially welcome the remarks he made on the front page of yesterday’s Caymanian Compass. If you missed our interview with Mr. Marshall, you missed the most important story in the newspaper.

Mr. Marshall commits what many of today’s educators will consider heresy, if not blasphemy, namely that he intends to elevate the academic standards of ICCI to the degree that the qualification the school bestows upon its students at graduation actually means something. He makes clear there will be no “affirmative action” or “social promotion” going forward at ICCI — either in terms of getting into the school or, more importantly, getting out.

A quote or two from Mr. Marshall’s interview will speak volumes:

“A qualification from this institution should be a guarantee to the employer that this person has the necessary skills to do the job. If that means we have to go from 61 graduates a year to 15, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Or, “If [students] have not met the criteria, they are not going to graduate. It could take 10 years to get a four-year degree, but we are not going to let them out. If we let them out the door without the skills to be successful, we have let them down … I promise you when those students do graduate, they will be comparable with the best on the planet.”

Ah, if only Minister of Education Tara Rivers would make the same promise for Cayman’s public schools. Is there an employer in Cayman who has not been aghast at the quality of education displayed by applicants who arrive at their doorsteps with diplomas from the local schools?

In our experience, it is the rule — not the exception — that their cover letters and résumés are replete with misspellings, syntactical errors and grammatical guesses. Far too few speak either properly or articulately.

Make no mistake about it: These students, thanks to Cayman’s education system, are crippled for life, and no effort by government (such as its latest contrivance, the National Workforce Development Agency), will ever be able to compensate for this educational felony on a national level.

Ask yourself this question: If you were serious about your education (or that of your children), would you rather be taught in an un-air-conditioned barn by someone with Mr. Marshall’s pedagogical beliefs or in the new lush, plush $100 million–plus Clifton Hunter High School where teachers must contend with unruly students, hare-brained bureaucratic directives and political meddlers who seem to think it’s just fine to “reinvent” the country’s educational strategy in sync with every quadrennial election? It’s the equivalent of pulling plants up by the roots periodically to see how they’re doing.

Mr. Marshall laments that he hears “a national conversation about the cruise industry, about the dump, about the turtle farm. I don’t hear a national conversation about education.”

You need not lament much longer, Mr. Marshall. This newspaper is preparing to engage in the most thorough and sustained examination ever publicly undertaken into our dysfunctional school system.

As we welcome you to the Cayman Islands, we also would welcome your participation in this most important educational undertaking.

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  1. Another excellent Editorial! My word, the new ownership and/or management at the Compass is producing some wonderfully positive advice to our rulers. This Mr Marshall seems to have the right idea, too. If Miss Tara can follow his example, Cayman will be transformed. But – well – politics, you know…
    All intelligent people must HOPE that she adopts ICCI’s new policy to the hilt, but she will have to battle very hard against those who are committed to the policy and practice of entitlement that has been with us for so long. Fingers crossed, eh?

  2. Thank you editorial board for your commitment to our children. Please don’t hesitate to solicit Brac parents to also share with your news team the derelict conditions of the schools in Cayman Brac. We are thrilled that you are prepared to name and shame all, past and present governments, from the Ministry down to the School Administrators who just keep side stepping any real or tangible action. Unfortunately it looks as though public embarrassment via the media might be our only course of action??

  3. I really have to thank the editors for this article it is about time someone got to the root of these issues. Politicians are always claiming to be looking for solutions to the unemployment issues in Cayman yet never want to admit that there’s an issue with uneducation. For a country with such a large financial industry I simply cannot understand why the educational system doesn’t have a strong focus on things like math. Bottom line is that if you want a country’s workforce to be second to non you have properly educate them.