EDITORIAL – When Cayman’s private schools run out of space

When pondering a relocation (particularly to a foreign land), three questions rise to the forefront of every parent’s mind:

  • How safe is it?
  • How good is the healthcare?
  • How are the schools?

For Cayman’s hiring managers, it’s easy to provide simple, positive answers to the first two questions. As for the third, well, keep reading …

As we all know, non-Caymanian children are generally not allowed to attend local government schools. Add to that this reality: Increasingly, expatriate families are finding their children cannot attend private schools either. There are no seats available.

On Page One of today’s newspaper, we chronicle just how acute the shortage of private classroom space has become. This shortage is, therefore, becoming as much of an economic and recruiting issue as it is an educational one.

If this shortage is not remedied, Cayman will soon become severely handicapped in its ability to attract top professionals to our local businesses – especially our professions.

Make no mistake: These “knowledge workers” we require are in high demand globally, and no well-educated professional parent will relocate to a venue where the public schools are closed to their children or there are no suitable options (or even openings) in the private schools.

The problem has become so acute that many parents feel compelled to enroll their children in the first school that can take them – regardless of religious affiliation, curriculum or model of instruction. Some families have turned to homeschooling, not by choice but out of necessity. According to the Ministry of Education, the number of homeschooled children in Cayman rose by 17 percent in one year.

Intentional, not de facto, segregation in Cayman’s public schools contributes to the problem, dividing not only foreigners and Caymanians, but also Caymanian families – those who are able to invest thousands of dollars annually in private education and those who have no choice but to send their children to often-underperforming public schools.

(Caymanians might be forgiven for “picking up pitchforks” if they knew how many of their elected members (and those in the upper ranks of the civil service) send (or have sent) their children to private schools. Some time ago, the Compass sent out questionnaires to such public officials asking whether their children attended public, or private, schools. Not surprisingly, our response rate was low.)

Cayman’s two-tiered education system does unknowable, but certainly unfathomable, long-term harm to many Caymanian children who are remanded to not only the poorer-performing public schools, but who are also insulated from both expatriates and their more prosperous Caymanian brethren.

This is government-imposed “ghetto-ization” at its worst, and it constitutes the most unenlightened educational policy imaginable.

What is needed, of course, is to improve our public schools to the extent that they become a desirable option for both expatriate students and Caymanian students, regardless of their economic circumstances.

But back to recruitment realities: In order for the Cayman Islands to maintain their status as a desirable destination for global professionals, we must make our society as attractive and welcoming as possible in order to compete for this in-demand talent.

Adorning our public schools with signs reading “No Foreigners Welcome Here” does not sound like it is in anybody’s best interest.

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  1. Absolutely correct. The separation of our schools is perhaps a major reason for the crime wave that is now rolling over Grand Cayman.
    Segregation of schools was rightly made illegal in other civilized countries. Why does it continue here?

  2. So let me get this straight. Caymanians can go to public or private schools but ExPats can only go to private schools? This seems a highly toxic situation. The last thing you need in any society is segregation and that is exactly what this is. This is not conducive to Cayman being a welcoming, kind place to live and work. It pits neighbor against neighbor and separates children from each other on the same street possibly. I cannot believe that a country so well off , does not have superior public schools. It is not the impression I had of Cayman. Where is the education money going? They should be as good or better than the private ones. I am actually shocked after reading this editorial. As a retired teacher from Canada trust me this is not the road you want to go down. It is not healthy.

    • Welcome to the country where everything is not the way it looks. You are in for lots of shocking surprises. Well off country with dismal state of education system. What one would expect when minister(s) of educations have(had) zero relevant education and experience and would not even get an entry level job in any school elsewhere. Not even in Pitcairn Islands with population of 50.
      Just read about the latest scandal involving director of Port Authority of the Cayman Islands. You can’t make it up. But it is a sad reality for the Cayman islands children and their future. And if you are curious, inquire about education and experience of the current minister of education.
      Lots of dust being thrown in people’s eyes.
      I was too shocked when (and after) I had to open a bank account in one of the local banks that my employer hooked us up with.

  3. I am also very shocked to know that segregation has become so deeply enbeded in the Islands . I had noticed alittle of it from awhile back in some adults, but it sounds like it’s out of control . Now that we are on the suject , I can see it plain as day even on line I notices it .
    Like Connie said that’s a bad road to go down especially with starting at the schools. I think that since the Politicians wouldn’t say what kind of school they put their kids in . Then they all should be made to read the editorial and the comments on this subject. The Minister of Education should take it all home and study it before she return to work so that there would be something for them to address in LA .

  4. Is it in law that Expats cannot enroll in public schools ? Or was that sign that says “No Foreigners Welcome Here” was that put there by the decision of the School Board ? If so , they should be ashamed of themselves and remove it immediately .

    • Ron. Many years ago there was no such segregation. The limited numbers of ex-pat children could go to government schools.
      But the increasing population put pressure on the numbers going to these schools. The government could have decided to build more schools.
      Instead they decided to just remove the ex-pat children from attending the government schools, freeing up some spaces, and require them to attend private schools.
      This was a boost to the private schools, who offered higher paying jobs to the best government school teachers. Better off Caymanians paid for their children to go to these private schools, quite likely including many in government. As good parents they naturally want the best education for their children.

      These private schools cost something of the order of $20-30,000 per year per child. While affordable to a high paid professional, it is not affordable to a person earning a salary of say $50,000-70,000 per year.

      These people will therefore have to move to another country. This helps explains why most of the people working here in middle income jobs are young and childless; they just can’t afford to send them to school.

      The children living here, ALL THE CHILDREN, deserve the best possible education we can afford to give them.

      • Norman the segregation I am talking about is explained in the first part of your comment, where government loaded down the Island with Expats and didn’t make no preparations to keep everyone together . So what caused these Politicians to make such decisions ? Could this be from whom and where the out of control segregation began with these Politicians not thinking and making preparations for the expansion of population .
        Why is the government not allowing all children to play and learn together? I really think that they need to take a good look in their mirror to see if they are the same person .
        And who helped the government make this decision to keep Expats out of the public schools ?
        Thaks for your reply .