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.