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(L to R) Jared Myles, Lighthouse School, Trevor Carmola Jr., George Town Primary, Mrs. Gloria Bell, Principal, Prospect Primary

We will continue to build on the solid foundation and existing framework ...a child-centred approach with a curriculum which addresses gifted and challenged students.

Minister Tara Rivers

Published 9th September 2013, 9:12am

The Ministry of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs and the Department of Education Services kick-started the new school year by hosting over 500 education professionals at the Mary Miller Hall, Grand Cayman, and more than 50 at the Layman E. Scott, Sr. High School on the Brac.

The Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome brings together principals, teachers, counselors, ministry officials and department staff with an opportunity to converse, welcome new members and set the stage for the new school year’s’ objectives and expectations.

Ministry of Education’s Acting Chief Officer Mr. Christen Suckoo delivered the official welcome reminding the attendees of the lasting impression they have on their students. “Educators play a significant role in the minds and memories of students they’re in contact with,” said Mr. Suckoo. “They are mentors and relationship builders; instrumental to student engagement and human development.”

A student centred approach was reinforced when six year old George Town Primary School student Trevor Carmola Jr. offered the opening prayer and Lighthouse School student Jared Myles sang the National Song.

Presenters included Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers, Department of Education Services Chief Education Officer Mrs. Shirley Wahler, Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia; and the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce Programme Manager Ms. Tiffany Ebanks.

Minister Rivers highlighted past years’ accomplishments and progress, addressed existing challenges head-on and emphasized objectives for the coming school year. She addressed the need for persistent focus on numeracy and literacy, as well as life skills to develop healthy choices, conflict resolution and crime prevention and intervention. “We will continue to build on the solid foundation and existing framework of the Strategic Plan for Education 2012-2017 and we will further develop a child-centred approach with a curriculum which addresses gifted and challenged students.” said Minister Rivers. “Change is constant in a learning environment, and therefore we too need to evolve to ensure a robust future for our children and our country.”

Mrs Shirley Wahler, Chief Education Officer, presented the dramatic positive improvements in overall student results since the national curriculum was introduced in 2008. The pass rate has doubled since that time, from 29.6% in 2008 to 62.7% of students in 2013 receiving five or more ‘Level 2’ passes (CXC CSEC Grades I – III/GCSE Grades A* - C or equivalent).

Newly appointed Deputy Chief Officer Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia addressed improving opportunities for students to acquire more qualifications and develop skills for independent learning so that they could be positioned for academic, professional and personal success. She noted the importance of the recently introduced Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) in providing opportunities to students who need to close the gap as well as opportunities for those who are preparing for advancement to higher level studies.

“CIFEC provides opportunities through various means for a student to build the bridge to future learning,“ said Dr. Garcia. “It opens a door for those that may have been struggling academically and for those who have a strong academic background it provides opportunities to gain internationally recognized qualifications that support the progression to the next levels of education. At CIFEC students learn life skills as well as gain skills in academic and technical/vocational areas, empowering them to take control of their future.”

The morning concluded with the announcement of the Golden Apple Awards in November 2013. “The Chamber of Commerce is very pleased to partner with the Ministry of Education for this year's Golden Apple Awards,” said Tiffany Ebanks, Programme Manager for the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce (CICC) & Visitor’s Centre. Nominations are open to anyone and further details may be found on the CICC website. www.caymanchamber.ky.

Government officials in attendance for the welcome included the Acting Governor Hon. Franz Manderson, the Honourable Premier Alden McLaughlin, Acting Deputy Governor Hon. Mary Rodrigues, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister of Health, Sports Youth and Culture Hon. Osbourne Bodden, Councillor to the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development and Financial Services, Commerce and Environment Mr. Roy McTaggart, Ministry of Education’s Councillor Mr. Winston Connolly, Acting Chief Officer Mr. Christen Suckoo and Deputy Chief Officer Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia, and Chief Education Officer Department of Education Services Mrs. Shirley Wahler.