Our fear in the Cayman Islands is the opposite – that far too many Caymanian students are severely under-educated, in part victims of the “soft prejudice” of low expectations. Certainly after sitting through 12 years of public education, every student should be capable of attaining basic proficiency in the fundamental skills of reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic. How long do our educators think it takes to teach a student to read?
We are becoming increasingly troubled as we examine the circumstances and documents related to a 2012 review of Cayman schools – including the consultant’s original draft report, a later revision of the report by the Ministry of Education, and a germane chain of emails.
In 2012, the ministry sought to assess behavior in classrooms and on the campuses of Cayman’s schools. Out of all the education consultants in the world – there must be thousands of them – they selected Dr. David Moore as the ideal candidate for the job. Dr. Moore is a distinguished educator and former senior U.K. schools inspector.
Dr. Moore and a team of local educators conducted a three-week review in November 2012, culminating in Dr. Moore’s draft report. That’s when the trouble started. The very people who had selected Dr. Moore for the assignment did not like his conclusions or his recommendations. And so they edited them.
Senior education official Dr. Jo Wood cited a number of issues with the draft report, including structure, scope and “disproportionately negative” findings.
In February 2013, the government produced its revised version, which had been “finalized” by local educator Favourita Blanchard, who had been a subordinate on Dr. Moore’s team.
Not until June 2014 – some 16 months later – did either of the two reports surface in the public domain, not on the volition of the Ministry of Education but because Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush tabled the documents in the Legislative Assembly.
Despite protestations to the contrary by Ministry of Education Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues that the intention was “not to withhold information from the general public,” the facts suggest otherwise.
Let’s be clear: The reports were never “published,” per se. They effectively were leaked.
During its rewrite, the government engaged in the equivalent of “grade inflation,” excising from the draft its most important findings (such as problems with sex abuse reporting), its most pointed critiques (removing, for example, specific references to John Gray High School) and its most substantial recommendations (such as giving principals greater powers to fire incompetent teachers).
Basically, the consultant assigned a “D” to the public school system, and the government, with a few deft strokes, changed it to a “B.”
But even that wasn’t good enough. The educational establishment then (purposefully we believe) attempted to suppress the report, in effect tossing it into the wastebasket (along with the $33,000 it paid for the exercise).
The government’s deliberate avoidance of accountability mirrors its approach to dealing with underperforming students, teachers and schools: If they’re not meeting standards, lower the standards until they do.
We prefer the advice of American performance consultant Tony Robbins, who told us, “The quickest way to improve your life is to raise your standards.”
If we wish to transform public education in Cayman, we need to raise our standards as parents, elected members, educators and students. History will judge us harshly if we do not bequeath to our children schools that will equip them with the knowledge they need to lead rich and fulfilling lives.