Compass ‘sensationalizing’ public education issue

Response to April 4 editorial, “Promoting a higher standard in education”

Of course everyone wants higher standards of education in Cayman, but there are so many false assumptions in your article.

Your attack on education is out there internationally, undermining confidence not just in the education system, but also in the Cayman Islands and its people. This is damaging reputation and ability to recruit the best teachers from overseas, on whom Cayman depends.

Children are growing up in a very different world to the one we experienced. As someone who works internationally, I know that many education systems have been facing the same challenges in schools, as populations change, external influences increase and communities disintegrate. Editorial board members themselves are from Ireland, England, Australia, U.S., countries that have faced huge challenges and introduced their own reforms programs … but it takes time to turn a system around.

[International College of the Cayman Islands President] Mr. Marshall is a new arrival, and whilst you applaud his “no compromise” approach to raising standards, his results must be judged over a period of time. You say Mr. Marshall doesn’t “hear a national conversation about education.” Wrong. There is an ongoing conversation and high interest in education in Cayman, for instance, the UCCI conference last month which was attended by leading educators from across the globe. LIFE, a not-for-profit group of business people, is not only engaged in the conversation, they are making practical efforts to help improve standards in schools. And, Caymanian schools have some excellent school principals who are passionate about improving education and constantly engaged in national conversations about raising standards.

Your article compares apples with pears. Statutory education for children is completely different from higher education for adults. Students choose to attend ICCI, they pay to attend (an incentive to take learning seriously), and often make sacrifices to get there. Many school teachers are passionate about their work but exhausted by the poor behavior of a very small minority of disruptive students. The challenges in the classroom are often created outside of school, (gangs, drugs, mental health issues, lack of supervision, low value placed on education). There are many good parents, keen to support their children’s education, but schools are often hampered and distracted by the problems brought in to school by children who may not be in such advantageous circumstances or supportive homes.

No-one is satisfied with current standards, even though there is actually an upward trend in examination results. You assume that nothing is being done to tackle the problem of low standards in math (by the way, it is an issue in many countries, not just Cayman), but this was identified by the Ministry over three years ago and action taken to focus expert resources on improving mathematical skills and capability. As with Mr. Marshall’s determination to raise standards in ICCI, it will take time for current efforts to translate in to good results.

Education is indeed everyone’s business, but everyone needs to pull together. The Caymanian Compass can add value by playing a more responsible, constructive role in the improvement process rather than sensationalizing the issue.

Jo Wood, an independent education consultant, is the former chief policy advisor for education in Cayman, former OfSTED Inspector in the U.K., and former chief inspector of schools in Bahrain.

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