Stakeholders gathered at the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday in an effort to unite private and public initiatives to address Cayman’s myriad educational needs.
The afternoon’s “Be Informed” session brought together members of the Department of Education, the Ministry of Education, the Chamber of Commerce and the public. Keynote speaker, Education Minister Tara Rivers, was not able to attend due to obligations at the Legislative Assembly.
Despite Cayman’s small land mass, the islands face many of the same demographic problems as major metropolitan areas, said Christen Suckoo, chief officer for the Ministry of Education. He pointed to the real disadvantages created by poverty and the need to address socioeconomic differences.
“The same issues you have on the outskirts of Tampa versus the middle of Miami are the same issues you have in George Town versus the East End,” he said.
Mr. Suckoo emphasized the need for educational partners to work together on common goals. He asked the public to be patient, however, and keep in mind that progress takes time.
“You have this constant conflict between operating a plan and trying to get things done as quickly as possible,” he said.
The session outlined seven priority improvement areas for the school year: numeracy, literacy, data systems, positive learning environments, science, special education needs, and technical and vocational training.
The session highlighted improvement efforts during the 2015-16 school year, including placement of special education needs coordinators to assist students, and greater staff training opportunities. Much of staff training during the year focused on conflict resolution and implementing positive behavioral interventions to address student conflicts.
Mr. Suckoo emphasized the importance of using data and research to drive education choices to yield the best results. The session included a cost analysis of approaches to improve student outcomes, indicating that strong student-teacher feedback and peer tutoring provide some of the most positive results.
Deputy chief education officer Cetonya Cacho shared details on public-private partnerships in the education system. Seventy-five students have enlisted in a Cayman Finance mentoring program and 12 in a Digicel program.
She said 228 students are enrolled in internships through the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre.
Chamber president Kyle Broadhurst spoke about the importance of education in preparing young people to enter the workforce and become contributing members of society. He said the chamber hopes to assist the educational sector without imposing on how schools operate.
The chamber has planned three upcoming focus groups on education.