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(L  R) Christen Suckoo, Acting Chief Officer, Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs; Winston Connolly, Councillor, Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs; Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs; Mary Bowerman, Lead Inspector for Baseline School Inspections; Roland Meredith, KPMG Consultant for the Education Review

The goal for our students is that they will be in an educational environment where they will thrive

Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs

Published 19th November 2014, 4:16pm

The Ministry of Education is constantly evaluating ways to improve the Cayman Islands’ Education system, and the experiences of the students within it. The overarching goal of the Ministry is to ensure that the students of the Cayman Islands are provided with the learning environments that best enable them to succeed.

Minister Rivers offered that “The goal for our students is that they will be in an educational environment where they are made to thrive, and the Ministry believes that while we are well on our way to achieving this, there is much more to do in terms of reaching this goal” .

In order to determine how best to move forward, however, the Ministry first needs to understand exactly where it stands. To this end, two extremely important investigations of the education system are being carried out. 

Firstly, consultation was done over the last year with a number of stakeholders, including Ministry/DES officers, principals, teachers, students, parents, the business community and the general society with the intention of identifying progress made, as well as gaps in the system. 

Establishing a dataset on a number of variables is necessary in order to understand where the gaps are and how to appropriately fill them.   In order to do this, a baseline inspection of all government schools will take place. Baseline inspections are not full inspections of schools, but an assessment of the operational running of the schools, with the purpose of establishing the following data: student progress and achievement; effectiveness of teaching and its impact on learning; leadership and management; and the quality of provision and student outcomes in English and mathematics. As no full inspections have been done for quite some time, the purpose of this inspection is to establish a baseline of information as a starting point for further review and action. This information will also be particularly relevant to the Department of Education Services (DES) in terms of offering better support for schools. This inspection is therefore being done independently, so that the outcome is thorough and objective. Leading this inspection will be Mrs. Mary Bowerman, a previous member of the former Education Standards and Assessment Unit. The inspection is already underway and is due to be completed by June 2015. 

In order to have a thorough picture of where we stand, a review of the government education system in its entirety must also be done. This therefore means that an education review will be taking place concurrent to the baseline inspections. This review will examine the entire education system and will focus on educational governance, provision and student outcomes in primary and secondary education in the Cayman Islands Government Education System, with the goal to provide evidence-based recommendations for improvement. This is a broader review, looking at policies, strategies and initiatives from the Ministry, and the governance model on a whole. The review will focus on two key areas:

a)    Educational provision and student outcomes – key areas include:

  • Evaluation of the standard of the existing government education system, in terms of student performance, including comparisons with agreed international benchmarks where possible, and stakeholder satisfaction;
  • Evaluation of the current Ministry policies, plans and initiatives, and the extent to which they address or have the potential to address key system needs;
  • Undertaking a gap-analysis to identify areas for improvement to meet stakeholder needs.

b)    Governance – key areas include:

  • Identification of various models for an enhanced private sector partnership in the governance of the government education system, which could be adapted to suit the needs of the public educational system in the Cayman Islands, and which have the best potential to improve student outcomes;
  • Identification of the pros and cons of each model and implications for implementation including changes to the current governance model, structures, systems and processes to facilitate a transition to each of the recommended models.
  • Reporting of key findings and making recommendations as to priority areas and strategic actions to be undertaken by the Ministry to improve the performance of the government education system.

This review will also be conducted by an external and objective body, so as to maximise the accuracy of this exercise. The Ministry has identified KPMG to be the most suitable firm to deliver this kind of review. KPMG was chosen because the KPMG review team would be supported by the KPMG Global Centre of Excellence in Education in the UK. Acting Chief Officer Christen Suckoo said, “Having a team that would be able to deliver on accuracy as well as knowledge and understanding of education was something that we were committed to. KPMG’s processes and expertise position it to provide a credible review and sound recommendations”.  Having KPMG’s Global Centre of Excellence supporting this review will allow for a broader depth of knowledge, as they are well-versed in global best practice, therefore bringing a wealth of relevant knowledge to the process.    

KPMG began their review in this month, which has included stakeholder interviews, a review of key documents, and focus groups/workshops.  These stakeholder interviews and focus groups have included Ministry and DES senior staff, Principals and teachers, PTA representatives and students.

It is important that the Ministry of Education do the groundwork in determining what is in the best interest for the many students in our system. These reviews are key steps in this direction, and the Ministry welcomes the support of the public while it undertakes this important but monumental task.

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