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Part I Descriptive Section


The point has been made in this Report that the Cayman Islands were not party to any of the Education for All initiatives prior to our participation at the Jamaica workshop, March, 1999. This is a critical issue in that it sets the parameters for this Report and dictates the discussion therein.

The education reforms that took place in this decade in the Cayman Islands were in response to the perceived specific needs of the local education stakeholders. And were gleaned through interviews, surveys, discussions, district meetings, community participation, including leadership roles, in the planning processes. No doubt they bear some parallel to the needs of our neighbours and many other developing countries. However, they do not speak directly to the EFA goals or targets vis--vis the Basic Learning Needs as outlined in the suggested guidelines.

This Report, therefore, seeks to tell the story of the Cayman Islands initiatives vis-a-vis education reform during the decade of the 1990's. It takes into account the limited size of the school system, the buoyancy of the financial and tourism based economy, the high standard of living, relatively non-existent unemployment, and the availability of adequate funding for the human and material resources necessary to support the implementation of effective innovation in education.

The Cayman Islands Education System

The Cayman Islands comprise three islands - Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman - situated approximately 400 miles south of Miami and 170 miles North West of Jamaica. The total land area is 100 square miles. Grand Cayman, as the name suggests, is by far the largest of the three islands and its capital city, George Town, is the 5th largest banking centre in the world.

Seven of the country's ten primary schools are located on Grand Cayman and three in Cayman Brac. Both the George Hicks and the John Gray High School are located in George Town, Grand Cayman. The Cayman Brac High School is the other secondary school in the public school system. (Diagram 1) No schools are located on Little Cayman.

In addition to the above-mentioned facilities, provision is made for children and youth with learning difficulties, and behavioural problems within the appropriate environment. While attempts are being made to aim for inclusion for all children within the mainstream, some children with special educational and physical needs are catered for at the Lighthouse School. The present facility is being replaced by a state of the art, multi-million dollar facility which is scheduled to be open for students in September 2000.

Those children with learning disorders and behavioural problems, whose needs cannot be adequately met within the primary or high school environment, are placed in the Alternative Education Programme. This programme which has been housed in temporary facilities will soon have a new purpose-built facility to be opened early in the year 2000.

Policy and Administration

Education is administered by the Ministry of Education, Aviation and Planning. The Minister of Education has overall responsibility for policy and for the maintenance of the system. The Permanent Secretary heads the ministry and links the Executive Council and Government policy with the work of the Education Department and other areas of responsibility.

The Education Council, which consists of twelve members, has the power to close schools, for the use of public funds to provide scholarships the provision of schools, and the carrying out of education in the schools. The Minister is Chairman of Education Council, and the Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer are both members of Council.

The Chief Education Officer, who is responsible to Council for all administrative matters, heads the Education Department. This is the largest single department in Government.

An Overview of Education Reform in the Cayman Islands – 1990 to present

In 1990 the Cayman Islands Government commissioned a qualitative review of the performance of the Education System. This review was to focus particularly on the organization’s management and administration in order to facilitate Government’s decision making regarding the future of the Education Sector. The review was carried out by Mr. James Porter, C.B.E. a UNDP consultant.

Central to this review was the identification of the broader educational objectives to be pursued by all schools in preparing young Caymanians for the society that would shape them.

Intensive discussions were held at every level of the political directorate, the private sector and professional associations. Most importantly, parents and students were fully consulted. Visits were made to public and private schools.

From these consultations the following issues emerged:

Due to a decade of unparalleled economic growth, major pressures had been exerted on the education system. These were evidenced by:

  1. Reduction in the time parents spent with their children.
  2. Increase in behavioral problems.
  3. A lowering of motivation of school leavers.
  4. Uncertainty and lack of coherence of purposes and programmes.
  5. Particular concern with low levels of achievement by children.

Parents and teachers were concerned about the lack of linkages between the main stages of education. There was much concern about evaluation and assessment at the primary and secondary stages. Employers stressed the need for better-prepared, skilled and motivated young people.

At that time it was suggested that the system should be simplified into four stages, Pre-school (3-5 years) Primary (5-11 years) Secondary (11-16 years) and Further Education (16+). These four stages would have a distinctive set of objectives and particular responsibilities.

It was recommended that:

In 1991 a consultancy team of Dr. Una Paul and Mr. Claude Tibi was given a remit to derive a draft five-year Education Development plan for the Cayman Islands. Meetings were held with a cross-section of persons including the Executive Council Member for Education, the title of Ministers of Government had not yet been adopted, Principal Secretaries, Chief Education Officer, Education Advisors and members of the Public Works Department and Statistics Office. From this widespread consultation 63 recommendations were made. The draft Education Development Plan was tabled in the Legislative Assembly, but never debated and accepted.

This review stipulated those four main guidelines; accountability, capacity building, partnership and participation should govern the management and administration of Government schools. Among the recommendations were the following:

In 1992 the Government changed, as there was a general election. In 1994 the Government of the day decided that the 1991 plan was inadequate and that it would be prudent to create a more detailed plan using the strategic planning method. So the services of Dr. William Cook of Cambridge Group from Montgomery Alabama was acquired. Five local facilitators were trained in the strategic planning method of facilitating.

The process began with widespread public consultation and then a thirty-five member planning team was selected. This planning team was a microcosm of the Cayman Community. This team went into a retreat for three days and during that time they created the framework for a 5 year National Education Development plan. This framework consisted of a mission statement, seventeen belief statements, four strategic parameters, four objectives and nine strategies. The nine highlighted areas such as the national curriculum, development of personal education plans, individual and school accountability, strengthening relationships, social problems, developing the moral and social character of each student, development of staff, capitalizing on necessary facilities. These nine strategies were given to nine teams who worked over a three month period to develop action plans to implement these strategies. At the end of the action-planning phase 113 plans were presented to the planning team to be evaluated. One hundred and eight plans were recommended to the Government and these were accepted as the EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT PLAN 1995-1999. This plan was then assigned to Senior Education Officers, who would oversee the work of relevant officers and Principals. Officers at the Education Department monitor the plan on a termly basis. This plan is being implemented in all government schools and it has been revised twice within the last five years and is now due for revision and roll over for another five years.

Part II Analytic Section

The Development of Early Childhood Education, Care and Development (ECECD) in the Cayman Islands.

In the Cayman Islands as well as in some other countries, the development of programmes for young children has been spearheaded by private enterprise. The monitoring and licensing of such programmes is done through the Education Council to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Pre-schools in Cayman are neither new, nor are they foreign imports. Nearly fifty years ago under the trees in their traditional lime-walled Cayman home Miss Izzie and Miss Redleigh Powell introduced many of West Bay’s most prominent citizens to numbers, colours and the alphabet.

Many others through the years in the various districts performed the service of laying this firm foundation for the younger generation before they entered formal schooling, which was the age of 6 years.

The establishment of pre-schools for those who may be deemed less fortunate was probably best recognized with the advent of the National Council of Social Services 1976- following the Lockhead Report (1974) N.C.S.S. – an independent, non-profit organization which aimed to provide, pre-schools in the Islands. The programme was impeded due to a multiplicity of factors comprising limited financial and material resources, inadequate teaching, untrained personnel, and inappropriate physical plant.

Governments intervention in providing care for children under five years of age was probably best recognized with the introduction of the Department of Social Services (earlier referred to as Probation and Welfare Department,) under the Portfolio of Health, Education and Social Services (H.E.S.S.).

As numerous studies have shown, the first five years of a child's life are crucial in his/her future development. For this reason Education for the under fives in the Cayman Islands is a high national priority in improving life for the young child.

The Case of Pre-school Education in the Cayman Islands.

Early childhood development programmes providing education or supplemental cares have increased dramatically in recent years in the Cayman Islands.

Between 1992-95, there were over 400 children enrolled in Day Care or Pre-school and in 1997 there were over 800 children.

There are 26 Day Care and Pre-school centers in Grand Cayman and 1 Day Care Centre on Cayman Brac. The Centers are classified as follows: -

Pre-school – 8(2 - 4 + years)

Pre-schools / Day Care Centers Combination – 12 (12 months – 2 years)

Day Care / Childminders – 7 (under 12 months)

Total = 27 Centres.

National Provision for the Education of the young child

The government of the Cayman Islands is including Early Childhood Education among its top priority areas of its education system. It is the intention of the Ministry of Education and the Education Department to provide services in the field of Early Childhood Education which will ensure a certain measure of "QUALITY" in the pre-school programmes in the islands.

In the light of its intention to provide quality early childhood services, certain provisions were made to enhance this idea. The two main measures introduced were: -

  1. The writing of a Pre-school Curriculum guide for the Cayman Islands
  2. The introduction in 1992 of the Pre-school Assistance Programme which continues to provide needy parents with assistance in fees for up to $300.00 per month. This fee is paid directly to the pre-school of the parent’s choice on behalf of the child.
  3. An effective Early Intervention Programme to support children at risk is in place.

Together with the above- mentioned measures taken by the Government- the Education Council Guidelines for Early Childhood Programmes, is designed for use in Private Pre-schools and Day Care centers in planning and administering early childhood programme and stipulates requirements from the concerned government Departments (Fire, Planning, Education, Social Services, Department of Environmental Health and Public Health).

Policy Direction for the Future

Since the late 1980’s and due to the emphasis given to the importance of education, there has been an increased awareness among parents and non-governmental agencies of the importance of pre-school education for the 2 - 5 year olds. Given parental demand there is a rapidly increasing involvement of the private sector in the Cayman Islands in providing pre-school programmes. However, professional certifications for workers is not as yet being provided, although in-service workshops and seminars have been held frequently.

Parallels Between EFA Goals/Targets and Local Reform Initiatives

During the period under review, no evidence has come to this writer’s attention regarding Cayman’s attendance at "Education for All" forums, or it’s participation in the progress to formulate goals/targets for the basic learning needs as defined in the "Framework for Action to Meet Basic Needs". However, as has been mentioned earlier, a number of substantive reform initiatives were embarked upon locally during this decade.

While the objectives and benchmarks which drive the reform may not be expressed in the same terms as the Education for All basic learning needs, the objectives defined in the 5-Year Development Plan and subsequent Strategic Plan speak to similar issues and concerns in education provision.

The 5-Year Development Plan and /or Strategic Plan either addressed or impacted the following needs:

The Education Development Plan 1995 – 1999

The Strategic Plan which was approved for implementation as the Education Development Plan 1995 – 1999, specifically addressed a number of needs which were boldly expressed as the following strategies:

  1. We will establish a national curriculum with standards at every level which fulfill the needs of students of every ability.
  2. We will develop and implement a personal education plan for each student that ensures his/her success.
  3. We will establish throughout the system individual and school accountability while preserving the unique character and effectiveness of each school.
  4. We will counteract the social problems affecting our students’ education.
  5. We will strengthen the relationship between parents, students and educators.
  6. We will develop the spiritual, moral and social character of each student, to the highest possible standards.
  7. We will ensure the continuous development of all staff, with emphasis on elevating the status of the teaching profession.
  8. We will capitalise all available support services and resources within the local and international community, to achieve our mission and objectives.
  9. We will provide and maintain all necessary facilities that are required to achieve and support our stated mission and objectives.

For each strategy, a number of specific objectives and Action Plans were developed by nine action teams – one team for each strategy.

These nine strategies and their specific objectives will drive education reform in the Cayman Islands into the new millenium.

Programmes Implemented and Progress Made

The majority of public schools have developed site-based management plans within the last three years. Other schools are scheduled to develop their own site-based plans in the coming year. As we enter the new millennium all of Cayman’s public schools will either have already developed individual strategic plans for the management of their institutions or are in the process of developing their site-based plan.

In addition to the advances made in this decade in early childhood education which have been more fully documented earlier, varying degrees of success have been accomplished in the other areas.

Substantive effort has been put into programmes and services geared to improve the effectiveness of the teaching - learning process. The ongoing work in the development of a National Curriculum in the core subject of Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies is an example. The National Curriculum will drive these programs from Year one to Year nine (the primary and junior secondary school).

Indeed primary school programmes are already being impacted by the contents of the National Curriculum. Key Stages 1 and 2 have been completed in Mathematics and Science, and have been implemented into existing programs. Work has also been undertaken and is ongoing in Language Arts and Social Studies. In the latter, in addition to curriculum reform, learning packets have been produced and a textbook for Cayman has been prepared and is in the process of being published at the time of writing.

The School Inspectorate was established to ensure that standards are maintained. Eight schools including two private schools have already undergone inspection. It is intended that as a result of the inspection process, the strengths and weaknesses of schools will be more clearly identified, and the information used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the institution. Each school is required to develop within a specified time-frame action plans that must address identified shortcomings in the onsite inspection.

Greater focus has been placed on professional development as a means of enhancing teachers’ efficiency and effectiveness. More opportunities for in-service workshops, seminars, conferences etc. have been provided. The Education Conference became an annual event which gave educators the opportunity to learn about developments on the cutting edge in education. Designated in service days – one day per term in addition to the two-day Education Conference were included in the school calendar for the first time.

In these innovations in education in the 1990’s parents and other members of the wider community have played an important role. Through PTA’s and Home-School Association, Town Hall meetings and such forums, as well as direct involvement in the strategic planning process, these stakeholders have had their input. Consequently many are aware of what is being accomplished in education in this country.

The Ministry of Education had directed the Senior Education Officer responsible for training to investigate the likelihood of the Education Department making provision for an adult literacy program available to persons who were desirous of improving/ enhancing their basic literacy skills. Consequently a programme catering to adults was stated by the Education Department under the supervision of the Senior Education Officer for training and support services.

An education program at Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward was launched as well, initially to provide inmates with the opportunity to improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills. This program which started in 1987 has grown, and this year twenty-five inmates are participating.

In addition to basic literacy and numeracy, G.E.D. and G.C.E. courses are offered for those inmates who want to complete high school equivalency requirements. In 1998 eight inmates passed the GCE (Cambridge) exam in English - one hundred percent pass rate. Altogether fifty inmates have completed G.E.D., G.C.E. and other courses since the programme began.

The Rotary Club, which has expressed its interest and support in adult literacy, has undertaken to sponsor the Prison’s remedial reading programme. The local Reading Association over the years has also been involved in providing service in this area, either to self-sponsored individuals or those sponsored by companies whose employees wish to improve their basic learning skills.

The expansion of the mandate of the Community College to provide a firm framework of educational opportunity and training for all Caymanians over age sixteen was identified as crucial to the development of education for all. While the courses offered are primarily tailored to students who are desirous of pursuing academic, business or professional careers, there are courses in Basic English Skills, accounting and vocational training for those students who may only want to improve existing competencies or learn a skill. A course in English as a Second Language for migrant workers who spoke Spanish mainly or descendents of Caymanians who had migrated to Latin America, who had now returned to the land of their forebears and joined the labour force, was also introduced.

In Strategy IV, the Education Development 1995 - 99 addressed similar issues as those in the Education For All target : " the increased acquisition by individuals and families of knowledge, skills and values required for better living, made available through all education channels."

From the boldly worded statement, "we will counteract the social problems affecting our students education", the planning teams formulated objectives and action plans that would provide parents and students with skills to cope with the problems of teenaged pregnancy, drug abuse, family breakdown, etc. The plan also proposed to use the various media to inform, educate and sensitise parents, students and the wider community to these social ills.

Some of the objectives, for example the Big Brother, Big Sister and Drug Counselling and Rehabilitation programmes have been ongoing. However, in some instances they may well have been underutilised.

The Education Department’s Alternative Education Programme caters to students of junior and senior high school age with behavioural problems which cannot be adequately met within the mainstream, was instituted in 1991. This programme's main focus is to modify students' behaviour, thus providing them with the necessary skills that will enable them to be integrated into the mainstream.

The Young Parent Programme aims to provide both counselling, support and basic education for pregnant students who are withdrawn from school when the fact of their pregnancy has been established. This programme comes under the auspices of the Social Services Department. Similarly the Cayman Islands Marine Institute was established in 1994 in premises that previously housed the Rotary Club sponsored Boys’ Home. Its purpose is to modify negative behaviour through activities involving the use of the marine environment. Students between the ages of 14 and 16 years with behavioural problems may be referred to the Marine Institute.

Discussion of Data and Policy that Relates to the Data

Indicator 1

These indicators have been fully covered earlier under early childhood provision.

Indicator 2:

Percentage of New entrants to Grade 1 Who Have Attended Some Form of Early Childhood Programme During at least One Year

Sufficient data is not available to adequately complete the table as required. Data is available for the number of children who were enrolled in pre-school programmes, however.


Early childhood or pre-schools education is desirous and encouraged, but Government has not made it mandatory. Government has been very supportive of these programmes as can be gleaned from the description of local provision earlier in this report.

Government demonstrated its commitment to early childhood education by establishing the Reception Class in all primary schools in 1979. In 1992, the programme in Government primary schools in Grand Cayman discontinued following recommendations of the Education Review. However, the provision of the service continued in Cayman Brac. Reception classes were re-established in two of the smaller primary schools since there was no private provision in those districts.

After withdrawal of the programme in primary schools, and the recommendation that the provision of this service should be completely in the hands of the private sector, the available data reflects a significant drop in enrolment in pre-school programmes in 1992, 1993 and 1994. (See Table C)

As a result of the failure of private provision for pre-school service in North Side district, and the inconsistency of the provision for 4 to 5 year olds in East End, the Government re-instituted the reception class in 1995. Consequently, these schools overall enrolment has been boosted significantly, with the children enrolled continuing in Year 1 and beyond.

Indicator 3 and 4 - Apparent Gross and Net Intake Rates in Primary Education

1. Official Primary School Age

The official Primary School age is 4 years and 9 months to 10 years 9 months as at September. That is, a child is eligible for formal schooling at the start of the academic year in which he/she attains his/her 5th birthday. The Chief Education Officer however, has been given the discretion to extend this provision to include children who will be four years eight months in September of that year.


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