Education reforms to enable Caymanian and non-Caymanian children to mix more freely in classrooms across the islands may be more complex than simply opening up new space in public schools, analysis of admissions data for the past year indicates.
Lack of space is often cited as the reason for the effective segregation of children in Cayman’s schools.
However, according to government data obtained by the Cayman Current non-profit education news site, no non-Caymanian child was turned away from the public school system because of overcrowding in the last academic year.
There were only 183 applications for spaces at the islands’ public schools from expat parents in 2020/2021, a Department of Education Services response to an open records request from the Current indicates.
Of those, 119 were approved.
The Department of Education Services cited five reasons for denying applications, including ‘duplicate application’, the child not being listed as a dependent on their parents’ immigration documents, ‘not eligible for the programme’, ‘not on island’ and ‘awaiting clearance by WORC’.
No non-Caymanian students were turned away from the public school system due to a lack of space, the Current reported.
The concept of reintegrating public schools featured heavily on the campaign trail.
In a feature in the Cayman Compass, Dan Scott, chair of the Education Council, said enabling children of different nationalities and backgrounds to mix in school would benefit society.
“When you get young people growing up together and you put kids in an environment where they learn about each other and become friends, you get a global education,” he said.
He said raising quality alongside capacity, would be key to making that happen.
“Parents, as consumers, are going to want to do what is best for their child, which is why it is so important that we raise standards across the board,” he said.
Concern that Cayman is operating in a ‘segregated’ school system is underscored by data from the Office of Education Standards.
The unit’s annual report for 2020, which summarises the outcomes of inspections from 53 public and private schools, found that only a quarter of all schools in Cayman are performing to the expected level.
Only 16% of Caymanian students are attending a school that is rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ by the inspectors.
One in four attend a school that is rated ‘weak’, the data shows.
Around 5,000 children attend public school in the Cayman Islands, of which 90% are Caymanian.
Caymanians and dependents of Caymanians are given priority in terms of admissions.
If there is space, remaining applications from dependents of civil servants, dependents of permanent residents and then children from overseas, approved to be on island by the WORC department, can be considered.
According to the department statistics for 2020/21, released to the Current, about 70% of applications were approved for both civil servants’ and permanent residents’ children.
For the category who require consideration by WORC, the approval rate was 38%.
Of the 119 non-Caymanians admitted into public schools, about 42% were children of civil servants, 49% were children of permanent residents and 9% were approved by WORC.
- This article was published with the permission of the Cayman Current, a non-profit media organisation, that provides coverage of education-related issues.