— Harvard University motto
David Marshall, president of International College of the Cayman Islands, is battling for accountability and standards in local higher education.
He should not be the lone combatant in this worthy struggle. In order to succeed, Dr. Marshall needs the support of this country. He surely has ours.
For those not accustomed to straight talk and truth-telling, Dr. Marshall’s frank letter to the Education Council may be somewhat revelatory. In his message to Council Chair and Education Minister Tara Rivers, Dr. Marshall states several concerns. Here, we will review two of them:
The more stringent grading standards at ICCI, compared to University College of the Cayman Islands, means that “Caymanian students at ICCI are more likely to be suspended and/or put on warning regarding their government scholarships than their counterparts at UCCI.” In other words, the fact that it is more difficult to maintain a 3.0 grade average at ICCI puts students at risk of losing their tuition assistance and puts the college at risk of losing funding
“We also have an additional concern about the preparedness of students who are coming to ICCI from both Government Public Schools and UCCI.” Only 16 percent of entering students can pass simple arithmetic tests, and only 22 percent can pass simple English tests. Of UCCI students wishing to transfer into ICCI, only 2 in 10 can pass those tests, despite their UCCI transcripts showing them earning As, Bs or Cs in those subjects.
Although the concerns are not identical, they are aspects common to Dr. Marshall’s crusade to raise the quality of education at his institution. For the government bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education to whom Dr. Marshall has been addressing his statements, the subject is all theory. For Dr. Marshall, who works with students on a daily basis, there is nothing theoretical about it. It is reality.
Dr. Marshall’s points are very clear. First, ICCI students (and ICCI itself) should not be put at a financial disadvantage for choosing a more difficult academic path. Second, students who are not ready to go to college should not be in college.
Here is a third point, of which Cayman’s business community should take special note: “We believe that an employer should have a real and accurate record of a student’s true academic performance.”
At this juncture, let us note that we are not supporting Person A over Person B, ICCI President David Marshall over UCCI President Roy Bodden, or ICCI over UCCI. What we do support is education, higher education and higher standards.
If the words and actions of Dr. Marshall, Dr. Bodden or anyone else align with that vision, then we support them in their mission as well.
Based on what we have seen from ICCI since Dr. Marshall arrived in February 2014, the private sector should be stepping up to deliver greater financial support to the institution so it’s not forced to rely on government’s nickels and dimes.
ICCI shouldn’t have to go door to door seeking assistance from businesses. The private sector should be knocking on ICCI’s door, checkbook in hand.