The Legislative Assembly appears to be lining up behind changes in the Cayman Islands education system being proposed by the Education Council and to tap into the budget surplus to pay for those changes. Both government and opposition leaders are expressing support.
Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller is calling on the government to work out ways to implement the changes.
“We’re willing to sit down with the government,” Mr. Miller said. “We’re prepared to help the ministry with funding.”
Dan Scott, chairman of the Education Council, outlined some of the proposed changes in a front page story in Wednesday’s Cayman Compass. Among the changes being proposed are an increase in teacher salaries to a minimum of $5,000 per month, increasing autonomy for schools and classroom teachers, revamping the school curriculum and raising standards, and incorporating Year 12 in the government schools.
On the last of these, Mr. Miller said he supports providing A-Level preparation in the schools.
He said he thinks the chances of the proposals being implemented is “very good.”
“They have indicated we have somewhere in the region of a $50 million surplus,” Mr. Miller said. “All of that should not be spent on the airport. I’m not one of those to be bragging about a surplus when our children are suffering.”
Six-month budget figures are due to be announced Friday. It’s not unusual for the government to see an operational surplus in the first half of the year, as much of its taxation revenue is collected between January and March. In March, the government reported a $199 million surplus. That figure typically dwindles as the year progresses and expenditures outpace revenue.
Premier Alden McLaughlin was unavailable for comment, but his senior political adviser Roy Tatum said he believes there is support among the government’s ministers for at least some of the proposals, including that of increasing teacher pay.
“I don’t think we’re very much out of sync with Dan Scott,” Mr. Tatum said.
He noted that Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly is expected to formally lay out the proposals at an Aug. 23 address to government educators.
“What she announces will have support,” Mr. Tatum said. “There’s a lot of reasons what she’s doing makes sense.”
Mr. Miller said he thinks some of the proposed changes can happen quickly, even in time for the coming school year which starts Aug. 27, including disseminating more control to the school level and incorporating A-Level exam preparation into the government schools.
He said the A-Level curriculum is provided by an external exam body and the number of students pursuing them would not be an overwhelming addition to the high schools.
“It’s not in the hundreds,” he said.
On the control issue, he’d like to see school principals have a greater say in the teachers hired for their schools and greater involvement in their individual school budgets.
He’d also like to see teachers have a greater voice, he said, and is promoting the formation of a teachers association.
“I think it’s now essential for teachers to participate in the decision making process,” Mr. Miller said.