When teachers are unhappy, we all should be unhappy – and from the tenor of the remarks in yesterday’s Compass, many teachers are very unhappy, indeed.
Teacher after teacher during their exit interviews – yes, they have had enough and are moving on with their lives and their careers – told tales of administrative dysfunction, unacceptable lack of student discipline in the classrooms, lack of support from higher-ups, and a litany of other behavioral issues that would be more understandable if they were emanating out of Northward Prison rather than our elementary and high schools.
For the record, these exit interview transcripts were not made public by the education ministry; the Cayman Compass secured them though the usual lengthy and labyrinthine mechanism called the Freedom of Information law.
Two quotes will prove illustrative:
“Despite what the statistics may be saying, any teacher at [school name redacted] will tell you that these students are far, far behind their international peers in literacy and mathematics, and that isn’t an issue that can be pretended away with political speeches and new-age structures.”
“The students feel they have the run of the school and teachers are second-class citizens. I thought I would be sad to leave but all I feel is relief.”
While the Compass freely admits a bias in favor of principals and teachers – the intersection between teacher and student is the point where learning actually take place – we by no means do so blindly. Bad teachers multiply their ignorance by the number of students in their classes, and they must be removed from the system.
Note the word “removed.” Not retrained, not transferred to “administration,” not shuffled here or there. Every good teacher and every good principal knows who the “bad teachers” are. It’s no secret. They need to speak up, if not to Education Minister Tara Rivers, then to us at the Compass.
Our readers, and our public officials, should know that reporters and editors at the Compass have been talking (on and off-the-record) with teachers, principals, administrators, parents, students and others on the state of public education in the Cayman Islands.
In recent weeks, we have published stories about the shortage of supplies, including textbooks and basic essentials, such as paper, in the classrooms – this from a government that administers a near billion-dollar budget.
Chief Officer Christen Suckoo in the Education Ministry denied the shortages, despite the complaints from multiple members of multiple PTAs. (One elected member recently visited an elementary school in West Bay and reported that not only was the school out of paper, it was also out of toilet paper.)
A veteran teacher and administrator tells us that one reason the schools use so much paper is the shortage of textbooks. There aren’t enough books to go around (and certainly not enough for students to take home, say for homework), so they are photocopying the books to make do.
For the next year, and most likely beyond, this newspaper will focus on our education system, both in our news pages and our editorial columns. We are making a major commitment of resources to this subject, including the assignment of at least one, and possibly more, full-time education reporters, supported by a researcher who will aid in our compiling a database of every salient fact and story on education globally over recent years – what has worked, what has not worked, and why.
Education, in our view, is far too important to be left exclusively to the “professional educators.” Every parent, every businessperson, every resident of the Cayman Islands needs to declare with one stentorian voice that we will no longer accept a third-world education system in our first-world country.