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Published 5th October 2015, 10:49am

Message From The Minister Of Education, Employment And Gender Affairs On World Teachers' Day

The theme for the 2015 World Teachers’ Day is "Empowering Teachers, Building Sustainable Societies". This is an important theme to consider as we work towards delivering high quality education in all schools across the three islands. Education is a fundamental building block in developing a sustainable society. Given the nature of our economy and society as a whole, we have to prepare our students to effectively compete on a global level, whether internationally or right here on our very diverse shores. In doing so, we must also recognise that education goes beyond the classroom walls as we work towards integrating necessary employability skills to help students prepare for the world of work.

Today, I address my message directly to the educators of our beloved Cayman Islands, and particularly to the educators of the Cayman Islands Government School System.

The start of the 2015-2016 academic year was not an easy one. The Baseline Inspection Reports of all Government Schools and the KPMG Independent Review of the Cayman Islands’ Public Education System were released, and many people were disappointed with the results. These reports, however, don’t just reflect the schools themselves, but they reflect the state of the public education system as a whole, which includes the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education Services, parents and all other education stakeholders. These reports provide a snapshot of where we are today and provide guidance as to where we need to go. They present a challenge to improve, a challenge to address the issues head on in order to create the world class education system we know is possible in our Islands. I encourage all educators to look at these reports in that same light.

You, our teachers, are an integral part of this process. As evidenced by the reports themselves there are many excellent practices in our schools and our students speak highly of those teachers who positively impact their lives and influence their educational journeys. As an education system, we now have to work towards ensuring that those excellent practices are consistently applied in all schools and in all classrooms as our students deserve nothing less. Through targeted professional development opportunities and other forms of support, we are committed to helping to empower you to be the most effective educators possible.

Following on from the Baseline Inspection Reports and the Independent Review, an Education Plan of Action has been developed to address the issues raised. In addition, schools are working on individual action plans to address concerns specific to each school. The motto “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions!” is a motto that all education stakeholders should embrace as we work together to create a child-centred education system of excellence.

During September, I, along with the Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education and the Acting Chief Education Officer, have met with all Government school principals and have visited with the staff at many of the schools, to discuss the plan of action for each school. We have encouraged school leaders and educators, as a starting point, to identify the many positive aspects in their schools and work towards making those consistent in all classrooms and evident in all practices. I am heartened by the renewed commitment to excellence which has been demonstrated by several of the educators at many of the meetings attended thus far. In the upcoming months we will visit the remaining schools to have discussions with staff as an important part of strengthening stakeholder collaboration.

I encourage all schools to collaborate and share good practices within and between schools, and with fellow colleagues so that everyone can move forward, together, to improve our education system.

As I stated in my address at this year’s Annual Education Professionals Welcome, “The overarching goal of the work to be done this academic year will be on raising standards of education through increased accountability. There must be a relentless and unequivocal approach taken to raising standards and increasing accountability at all levels of the education system.” By all levels, I mean the Ministry of Education, Department of Education Services, principals, teachers, support staff, administrative staff, parents, guardians and the community as a whole. We are all responsible for the future of our islands and the future is our students. They deserve the best possible education and we must ensure they have the best. I encourage us all to do what we need to do to help our students achieve their fullest potential and to help our education system improve so that the next time schools undergo a quality assurance programme, all will receive top marks across the board. That is the goal.

Thank you, educators, for the sacrifices you make every day for our children and our country. Thank you for your hard work and dedication, and thank you for rising to this challenge.

Honourable Tara Rivers, JP