Accordingly, we applaud Education Minister Tara Rivers and counselor Winston Connolly for the publication of the Cayman Islands’ new Education Bill, which is a comprehensive update of the outdated legislation that underpins our country’s education system.
Mr. Connolly said, “The current law has been operating since 1983. It was high time that this legislation, which is effectively 30 years old, was revised to meet the changes that have occurred in education over the years.”
To its credit, the bill does not delve into detailed minutiae, but comprises a high-level framework to guide the implementation of specific ministerial and departmental policies as they are developed.
The highlights of the legislation include the establishment of an independent schools inspection unit, the creation of a professional standards unit for teachers, and, (in our opinion, most importantly) the formulation of a legal definition for “assisted schools” — meaning, schools that receive public funding but are not managed by the government.
The possibilities, on this last item, are nearly limitless — as are the prospects for Cayman’s children.
In the words of Minister Rivers, “It allows for a number of different types of schools in the country depending on the strategic direction of government.”
That could mean the establishment of U.K.-style academies, known in the U.S. as charter schools, which are education institutions run by the private sector, but that receive funding from the government according to the terms of contracts or other legal arrangements, with stipulations that could (or could not) include the makeup of student enrollment, mandated curricula and performance criteria.
In order for Cayman’s society and economy to continue to flourish, for the benefit of Caymanians and not just expatriates, Caymanian children must have — and they deserve to have — equal access to a world-class education system, meaning safe schools, first-rate teachers and capable administrators who empower educators to do what they do best. Impeccably manicured campuses and beautiful, brand-new buildings simply are not sufficient, and, after a point, thoroughly unnecessary.
Much more vital than any physical settings are the setting of high standards, the granting of freedom to meet and exceed those standards, and the enforcement of actual accountability for those who come up short.
The question of “who” runs Cayman’s schools is irrelevant, in our view, so long as Cayman’s schools are the best, and are accessible by all of our children. The key metric is the performance of teachers and their students, not the identity of administrators.
As we’ve written before, the seeds of social unrest are sown in the classroom but flower in the street. An uneducated generation is an unemployable generation. The converse is also true.
We hope this Education Bill represents the first furrow in a new garden, which in time will yield Edenic bounties for future generations of Caymanians, blossoming with knowledge, responsibility and personal prosperity.