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Minister for Education, Training and Employment, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP.

Published 4th October 2010, 3:37pm

Underscoring his Ministry's commitment to major reform and improvement in Early Childhood Care and Education in the Cayman Islands, the Hon Rolston Anglin, JP, Minister for Education, Training and Employment, recently led a delegation to attend the first World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education. The group joined over 1,000 participants in Moscow, Russia, which included Ministers from 67 countries, along with experts, academics and practitioners of early childhood care and education. The Conference was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO"), the Government of the Russian Federation and the City of Moscow. In her opening remarks at the Conference, the Director General of UNESCO emphasized the importance of Early Childhood care and education programmes: "Early Childhood care and education programmes yield greater investment returns than any other level of education," Irina Bokova said. Minister Anglin explained that the conference supported his ministry's prioritization of the early years. "The whole world is prioritising improvements in the education and care of our youngest children in pre-schools and reception classes. However, in Cayman we have made very little progress in this area, although the previous administration set up an Early Years Unit for this purpose some four years ago. We have no national standards, no curriculum, no training or no inspection programmes, very little data to support decision making, and issues with the registration and operation of pre-schools," he said. "In my first year as Education Minister, my ministry devoted a lot of time and resources to improving compulsory education and we still have much to do. However, if we want to make real advances in education, we cannot just focus on the compulsory levels of schooling. Too many of our children learn to fail early. If we really want to ensure success for all children we must do all that we can to ensure their earliest learning experiences are positive and that we identify and resolve problems early." Minister Anglin explained that the Ministry's reform process was highlighted recently during a special CITN DayBreak programme, and that further press briefings are planned. "We started with a consultation session with pre-school operators, teachers, the Early Childhood Association and parents in July. This was a very important and successful session, to gather information and identify the way forward, as partners," the Minister said. Chief Officer in the Ministry, Mrs. Mary Rodrigues, noted that other initiatives underway include:

  • The establishment of an Early Years Taskforce in July 2010, to assist with the development of standards and an early years curriculum, and advising on other early years' priorities
  • The launch of a reception programme in George Town Primary in September 2010
  • Plans for the re-introduction of reception in other government primary schools within the next 2 years, in concert with a building programme for primary, which will provide much needed additional primary classrooms.
  • The redevelopment of the Early Years Unit to provide the necessary guidance and support to raise standards, with recruitment to start shortly for 3 members of staff
  • The reassignment of early years inspection to the Education Standards and Assessment Unit (ESAU) and the development of inspection criteria and a reporting template
  • Plans for training opportunities this year
  • Plans for an Early Years Conference next year
"Issues shared at the UNESCO Early Childhood Care and Education conference were remarkably similar," Mrs. Rodrigues noted. "The underlying message was that if we don't attend to the care, nutrition and stimulation of our young children from the start, it comes at a very high cost. The early years lay the foundation for later learning and can create a level playing field by reducing the gaps between children of different means." A favourite quote I picked up speaks volumes, Mrs. Rodrigues said: "We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today". Tunisia Barnes, a young Caymanian Early Years teacher was part of the delegation. She stated that she found the conference very beneficial. "As an Early Years teacher, it was good to see the recognition being given to what research confirms is the most critical period of development in an individual's life. We learned a lot and made a lot of good contacts". "It was good to see that all countries emphasized the importance of effective teaching, the kind of teaching where our hearts and minds are engaged in connecting with children's hearts and minds", she said.