The Ministry of Education has received another $8 million for local and overseas scholarships and bursaries.
About 50% to 60% of the funds are used to prepay student fees for the spring term, because otherwise the money would be approved too late as part of the regular budget cycle, Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly explained in Finance Committee.
The additional funding was approved after the 7 July announcement that several scholarships for post-secondary and undergraduate students would be increased.
The standard annual funding for all overseas postgraduate studies, i.e. master’s and doctoral degrees, will increase from up to $25,000, to $35,000 per student per annum for current and new postgraduate students.
The minister said, “Following careful consideration, the Cayman Islands Government saw the need to revise the current funding amount to ease more of the financial burden that many of our Caymanian students face when in pursuit of higher learning opportunities.”
One-time grant towards student visas
The Ministry of Education also announced a one-time grant of $1,500 towards the costs associated with obtaining a student visa.
“Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, students, particularly those accepted to institutions in the United States and Canada, have faced increased expenses in their efforts to obtain a student visa,” O’Connor-Connolly said. “They often have difficulties accessing regular flights and incur high costs due to quarantine protocols in the countries where embassies are located.”
The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) requirement for students initiating studies in US-based institutions in fall 2021 have been temporarily waived, she added.
“This will enable us to remove an obstacle in the educational development of a number of students and enhance their pathways to higher levels of tertiary education, thereby allowing Caymanians greater opportunities for advancing within the workforce.”
Increase in A-Level funding
The ministry also announced a broadening of the scholarship award to include funding for all government school students pursuing A-Level studies at St. Ignatius Catholic School and Cayman Prep and High School throughout the prescribed two years of study. The scholarships had previously only covered the first year.
In addition, fees at the two schools have gone up.
The minister said she has tasked the Education Council with looking at the possibility of providing A-Levels in government schools again but said that would depend on costs.
The COVID pandemic had exacerbated some of the capacity issues at the private schools which could mean that some government students may not receive a place, she noted.
Opposition MP for Red Bay Alden McLaughlin advocated in Finance Committee for the reintroduction of A-Levels in government schools.
He said it was a “really bad decision” about two decades ago to discontinue A-Level studies to encourage more students to go to the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Capacity issue at private schools had also been a concern for years.
“I just think it’s missing a really good opportunity to keep our students, who have gone to the government school system, and done well up to GCSE, from being able to attain A-Level results at a government school,” he said.
It would also help address the stigma that private schools are better than government schools, McLaughlin added.