On Literacy Day, minister cites local issues

Education Minister Tara Rivers, marking International Literacy Day on Tuesday, said that despite recent improvements in literacy for Cayman students, there are still students leaving school without the reading and writing skills they need for the modern workplace.

In a similar statement last year, the minister said the number of Year 11 students who received a Level 2 pass in English went from 59 percent in 2011 to 70 percent in 2014.

A new strategic plan for government schools aims to have 85 percent of students reading on level in Year 1 by the end of this school year. By 2020 the goal is to have all students leaving Year 2 reading and writing on level, according to a separate statement from Ms. Rivers.

“There still remains a segment of students who leave our schools without obtaining the literacy levels they require to contribute fully to the development and sustainability of our society,” Ms. Rivers said in the written statement this week.

She writes that the new 2015-2019 Cayman Islands Teaching and Learning Strategy puts the initial focus on literacy. She notes, “Improving literacy standards continues to be one of the highest priorities for the Cayman Islands Education System, as literacy underpins the life-skills of all individuals in our community.”

Ms. Rivers continues, “Literacy enables all of us to create sustainable societies, allowing for lifelong learning which enables individuals to make choices that promote economic growth through employment, gender equality, and social development.”

The theme for this year’s International Literacy Day, a program from the United Nations, is “literacy and sustainable society.” At the opening ceremony for the two-day literacy conference in Paris, UNESCO’s Qian Tan, assistant director general for education, said Tuesday that there are more than 750 million people around the world without basic literacy, two thirds of whom are women.

“Without literacy,” he said, “an equitable and sustainable society cannot be realized.”

In Cayman, Ms. Rivers said, the theme for the year “demonstrates the interconnectedness of literacy learning and the implications it has on developing sustainable societies in our home here in the Cayman Islands and across the world.”

In her welcome message to teachers this year, the education minister said, “Literacy is the building block, the foundation, for all other learning.”

In the prepared statement, Ms. Rivers said, “We know that there still remains a segment of students who leave compulsory education at the end of Year 12 without obtaining the literacy and numeracy skills they require to be successful in life. This reality has become even more evident in the wake of the baseline inspection reports.”

Government schools have a partnership with the Rotary Sunrise offshoot LIFE program – an acronym for “Literacy is for Everyone,” – to tap volunteers to help kids catch up on their reading skills and work with adults to improve literacy.