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New Minister Outlines Priorities

Minister for Education, the Hon. Rolston Anglin

For education professionals from private and government schools on Grand Cayman, the start of the school year began with an introduction to the new Minister and Chief Officer for education at a commencement programme, organised by the Department of Education Services (DES).

There was a consistent emphasis during the Thursday, 27 August, event on the key principles of valuing educators, involving them actively in changes in education, and defining success as the ability to help every child to succeed. These themes were also echoed by other speakers.

"As Education Minister, I believe that principals and teachers must be seen as the subjects and designers of education proposals, not merely as their executors," Education Minister the Hon. Rolston Anglin said.

Also in attendance, and emphasising the importance of educators in the lives of school children and in the management, planning and progress of education, were his Excellency the Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO, and the Leader of Government Business, the Hon. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP.

His Excellency stressed that teachers have the role of fostering the potential of every child. The teacher's influence extends well beyond the classroom or vocational training unit since they also prepare students to be members of society, he observed.

Mr. Jack also called on new teachers coming from overseas to learn the culture of the local community.

Mr. Bush noted that teachers have the awe-inspiring task of stimulating, inspiring and motivating young minds.

Government aims to take education forward in Cayman in full partnership with education professionals, he assured the audience. "We want to stand with you to get the job done," he said. "Your Minister has the full support of his colleagues, as he works in partnership with you and other stakeholders to develop innovative, effective and responsible strategies, to deliver the highest educational standards. Our children deserve no less; our country needs no less."

Minister Anglin outlined a range of strategies to be spearheaded by his ministry to ensure educators have their full say in all educational matters. These included An Education System Health Check 2009 questionnaire and a proposal for a new Cayman Islands Educators Association, which met with an enthusiastic response from attendees.

Minister Anglin also announced initiatives that would enable the system to reflect on what has been achieved thus far, as a foundation for future improvements.

He advised that an efficiency review of the Department of Education Services is scheduled to start soon, to establish the extent to which the new structure and operations have achieved the goals of the new governance model for education.

A further large scale review will subsequently be undertaken, with two key focuses: one, a review of leadership and management within the education service and two, a review of the actions taken in response to the strategies identified in the National Consensus on the Future of Education document, prepared under the previous administration.

"We will be looking to establish what progress has been made, the impact of this work, what work remains, and whether the strategies themselves are in need of updating or expansion," Minister Anglin said. He explained that this feedback will culminate in a National Education Forum, from which a national strategic plan for the Cayman Islands' education system will be developed.

Minister Anglin shared three core principles that have to be met in order to ensure every child succeeds in the system. These come from recent research findings on how the world's best performing systems come out on top. One, get the right people to become teachers; two, develop them into effective instructors; and three, ensure that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for each child.

Emphasising the need to simplify the focus to what really matters in education, the Minister advised that these would become some of the new organising principles that would be used to direct and evaluate reform in the Cayman Islands education system. He outlined a range of initiatives that would be pursued in each area.

The Ministry's Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues shared the story of her first teaching assignment which, she said, established an "undying belief" in the impact that good teachers and quality teaching can have on students' motivation and achievement.

She announced a range of initiatives that would be undertaken to improve the effectiveness of the management of the education service. "The improvement of provision and practice in our education service must be the joint responsibility of the Ministry, the DES and the Educational Standards and Assessment Unit (ESAU). We need to clarify roles and responsibilities, improve communication and work collaboratively as a team," she said.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler welcomed educators to a "historic" academic year, with a new Minister and a new Chief Officer as well as "new goals and plans for the future of education in these Islands, but with a common commitment to excellence in all that we undertake."

She announced that preliminary examination results from John Gray indicated that around 36% of students, a record for John Gray, had achieved five or more high-level passes, the basic level of achievement for entrance into tertiary education. She celebrated the fact that "change is starting to happen," while acknowledging that there is still considerable room for improvement.

Ministry officials said that a detailed report on external examination performance for Cayman Brac and John Gray, the first for the past three years, will be published shortly.

The Education Department this year augmented its complement of 560 teachers by 17 new recruits, consisting of eight overseas recruits and nine local appointees, including four Caymanians, according to the department's HR Manager Tara Robinson.

Immediately following the formal opening, Education Officer and CICSA President James Watler spoke on the implications of the current state of the Cayman economy for teachers, and Director of Public Health Dr. Kiran Kumar provided an update on the H1N1 pandemic.

Minister Anglin, Mrs. Rodrigues and Mrs. Wahler travelled to the Brac the following day to welcome back educators on the Sister Islands and to meet with principals. The Leader of Government Business and the Minister for District Administration, the Hon. Juliana O' Connor-Conolly, JP, were also on hand to address the educators.

For further information contact: Bina Mani