A telling tale 
of two diverse visions

As a class, Caymanians struggle constantly with unemployment, underemployment and dissatisfaction with current employment. That’s because the Cayman Islands has – and for decades has had – substandard public education.

Schools are incubators of individuals, and of economies. School health does not necessarily depend on economic health, but maladies within the school system will surely find their way into the broader community and, if not treated at the source, will infect the entire society.

Education correlates almost exactly with economic well-being, strong families, and responsible social behavior. College graduates rarely go to Northward Prison.

Illustrating an inseverable link between schools and employment are two advertisements that appeared recently in the Cayman Compass.

Two Fridays ago, the Compass published an ad from the government’s National Workforce Development Agency, promoting its “National Job Bank Programme,” an online service aiming to connect job seekers with employment opportunities.

The agency, apparently, is reaching out to people who “want to access employment opportunities in the Cayman Islands” and, tellingly, who “want to search for jobs from the comfort of my home.”

(Think about explaining that to the generations of Caymanian seafarers who journeyed thousands of miles away from their families to perform difficult jobs for hardly extravagant pay.)

Elsewhere in the ad, the agency refers to those who “want to know why I am having trouble accessing employment,” who “want support to overcome barriers to employment” and who “want to know that when I apply for a job the Immigration Department and its Boards know that I have applied.”

In other words, these target clients don’t know why they can’t get a job, believe some external obstacle is keeping them from a job, and think those obstacles can be removed by informing the proper authorities within the bureaucracy.

The Workforce Development Agency deserves credit for reaching out, but, honestly, what employer wants to hire someone like that? What has happened in our society to distort the portrait of the Caymanian of yesterday – proud, independent and resourceful?

The answers are hinted at in a different advertisement that appeared the following Friday.
The political group Coalition For Cayman reserved two pages in the Compass to sound off on the dismal state of our public school system, offer solutions and urge Cayman government leaders to make education reform their top priority.

We are encouraged by C4C’s proper emphasis on “accountability,” which is a prerequisite for academic success (or success in any field).

Currently in Cayman’s public schools, no one appears accountable for anything. The policy of “social promotion” ensures that students advance through the system regardless of academic attainment. Low-performing teachers may be shuffled about, but rarely are dismissed (think of this as the “leaf-blower” approach to management). Top civil servants, with stunning records of failure, are still on the job. And to be sure, politicians have sustained themselves from one election to the next with vague promises “to improve our schools” that have led us to the educational morass in which we now find ourselves.

The credo of never being personally accountable for anything trickles down from the top of the government, through the civil service, to the schools and into the minds of our youth, who, in turn, carry this doctrine of disregard with them as they enter the workforce.

It’s not difficult to predict what happens to someone who, though always failing (or not even trying), is never allowed NOT to pass … someone who grows up in a coddling environment where no error is ever identified as being their fault and, political correctness notwithstanding, within their control to correct.

The result is someone who looks down on entry-level minimum wage work, looks forward to an overly generous package of Labour Law-driven benefits, and looks to outside forces – discrimination, work-permit holders, status grants, the now-defunct “Caymanian Protection Board,” and on and on – for their woes.

The proper message of our leaders, including the National Workforce Development Agency, must be one of accountability, self-reliance, hard work and empowerment – certainly not one of victimization.


  1. WORK
    I fully agree that the message must be one of accountability, self-reliance, hard work and empowerment. That being said, the victimization of Caymanians is a reality that should not simply be ignored. Jobs are clearly being advertised with a view to protecting existing work permit holders and in many instances the existing job holders themselves do not have the skills outlined in the advertisements. This is where the work permit board needs to get involved to independently verify that the existing job holders have the skills as outlined in the advertisements for jobs held by work permit holders.

    You will only need to look at the negative feedback to this comment to understand the extent of the problem faced by Caymanians in the Cayman Islands.

    The core problem that exists with the public education system goes beyond the schools and has its roots in dysfunctional home environments. Certainly a lot can be done to improve the system, but until we acknowledge the role that dysfunctional families play in the creation of dysfunctional learning environments we will not be able to implement any meaningful change.

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