EDITORIAL – Envisioning a bright future for Cayman’s schools

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.”
– Henry Ford, inventor

New Education Council Chairman Dan Scott – who is managing partner of Ernst & Young and the first private citizen to lead the council – brings a breath of fresh air and a welcome sense of optimism to Cayman Islands government schools.

Two months into his tenure, Mr. Scott has homed in on a pair of lynchpins for elevated standards in our public education system: Access and accountability.

That means making sure every child in Cayman has access to the best possible educational opportunities, and that everyone in the school system – including administrators, teachers, students and families – are upholding their end of the bargain.

Mr. Scott is living proof of the importance of receiving an excellent education – and the possibility of receiving that education right here in Cayman. He is a product of local public schools (and the progeny of his father “Teacher Scott,” after whom Cayman Brac’s Layman E. Scott High School is named).

Mr. Scott articulates a concise goal for our country’s public education system: “I want parents to say, ‘I want my kids to go to public school.’”

Perhaps the boldest aspect of Mr. Scott’s vision for our public schools is that he believes in our public schools. On a subject that is too often characterized by disappointing news and lower expectations, Mr. Scott provides a much-needed voice for hope.

It is no secret that Cayman’s public school system – to employ “report card” terminology – “Needs Improvement.” Underperformance, student misbehavior and lack of attendance are too prevalent. We cannot allow these chronic problems to become tolerated as the status quo.

On the contrary, as we’ve written before on the topic of education, we subscribe to advice given to us by American performance consultant Tony Robbins: “The quickest way to improve your life is to raise your standards.”

High expectations aren’t enough by themselves to guarantee greatness, but without them, failure is all but inevitable.

Having set an appropriately high bar, the Education Council’s task is to develop a plan to take our schools from “fair” to “excellent.” Mr. Scott told the Compass he is interested in:

Measuring student achievement not only against past performance but also against top-performing schools around the world

Encouraging teachers to use innovative classroom methods, while holding them accountable for results

Encouraging students’ proper deportment and respect for education by enforcing standards, such as school uniforms, intended to cultivate a fruitful learning environment

Allocating scholarship support not only based on grades, but also on a student’s financial need, to make sure funds are targeting high-achieving students who otherwise may not be able to pursue their educational goals.

As always, the easy step is setting the goals. The hard part is achieving them. But with clear-eyed, consistent and realistic leadership, we share Mr. Scott’s confidence in Cayman’s educators and students.

Our country’s schools have found a champion in Mr. Scott. The new Education Council chairman is someone who can communicate a bold vision, hold the system to a high standard and help steer our schools to a promising future.

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