School inspections: A welcome ‘first step’ toward improvement

On Monday afternoon, the Ministry of Education sent out a lengthy press release, unsolicited, explaining why it commissioned an independent U.K.-led inspection of Cayman Islands public schools.

If they would have checked with us first, we could have whittled the 1,760-word statement down to 10.

Q. Why did the ministry have an independent U.K. consultant inspect Cayman’s schools?

A. “Because it was the proper thing to do. That’s why.”

The appearance is that Education Minister Tara Rivers and her team – finding themselves on the receiving end of criticism from outraged members of the community – felt compelled to issue the statement defending the validity of the inspections.

A word of advice from us to the ministry: Don’t bother with such statements in the future. They are unnecessary and ineffective. The “haters” out there aren’t upset about the inspections; they’re upset about the results.

They’re upset about the results because the results were poor, which is the best indication that the inspections themselves were probably on the mark. (We say “probably” because the reports haven’t been released. The documents are due to be published sometime this month, according to the ministry.)

Though the documents aren’t out yet, last week Minister Rivers went over some of the “lowlights” they contain. As the Compass reported, “Student standards in mathematics, English and science are ‘significantly below’ international standards and generally at least ‘one year’ below U.K. norms, Ms. Rivers said.

“She said the reports, carried out at … government schools by a team of inspectors during the last academic year, also highlighted shortcomings in the recruitment and retention of teachers and management of underperforming staff.”

Minister Rivers and her team are to be applauded for commissioning the inspections and not flinching from their findings.

The fact that our schools are in dire need of educational repair should not come as news to any parent who has children in Cayman’s public school system, or any employer who has sifted through stacks of applications from local high school graduates who are unfortunately, but obviously, in need of more rigorous education.

Inspections by themselves, however helpful and insightful, are mainly diagnostic, not remedial. They constitute little actual movement toward a defined goal. A good second step would be for Cayman lawmakers to approve the pending Education Bill that is designed to bring greater accountability to government schools, and that contains the legal framework for the debut of U.K.-style “academies” (known in the U.S. as charter schools) in our country. If any organization were in dire need of “creative disruption,” it is Cayman’s schools system.

(We direct our print readers to the commentary that appears on the right side of this page, by an academic researcher who has studied extensively the “charter school revolution” in New Orleans following the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The author concludes that – though imperfect – the wholesale replacement of that deeply troubled school system brought about positive change that could not have been matched by alternative reform efforts.)

We offer our full support (and when appropriate, our pages) to Ms. Rivers, ministry officials, and our educators, in their joint endeavors to improve the education of our youth.

We cannot state this strongly (or often) enough: In the long term, the education of future generations is the single most important issue facing Cayman’s society – indeed, every society.



  1. Congratulations to the Ministry for having the inspection. It’s independent and unbiased.
    It is a statement of facts and I somehow doubt there was a hidden agenda. The report told the schools where they stood relative to standard.
    It may not be what everyone wanted to hear, but it’s a factual report and instead of licking wounded feelings, accept it and make a plan to make it better. Nobody loses here.

  2. Good schools need good teachers
    Good teachers need good salaries

    Good teachers also need support from the educational establishment in terms of imposing and maintaining discipline and enforcing standards.

    It’s not rocket science, but it does seem to have been beyond Cayman’s abilities so far. Let’s hope the current political willpower for change survives beyond the next election