May 2, 2023
Last week, the Ministry of Education released its annual data report, covering the results achieved by Cayman’s public schools in the 2021-22 academic year. There are a number of issues raised by the report that I will be addressing in coming weeks but there is one immediate concern that I need to raise as a matter of urgency.
As the Opposition Spokesperson on Education, I have been raising for some time now a concern that the pace of improvement in Cayman’s public schools has begun to slow. I have therefore urged the Minister to redouble her efforts to put in place the reforms needed to support improvement and to focus in the first instance on those areas where we can make the biggest difference.
In particular, I have campaigned to improve standards in mathematics.
The Ministry’s data report reveals that the number of year 11 students achieving level 2 in mathematics has slipped back from 43% in 2021 to 40% in 2022. As I have repeatedly warned, the low attainment rate in mathematics is holding back the level of achievement of the national standard of five level two subjects, including English and mathematics.
The Ministry report concludes that, ‘success in raising the number of students achieving the national standard is tied to the ability of school to raise achievement standards in mathematics.’
Last July, I wrote an article for Cayman Loop News in which I responded to last year’s Ministry data report. In that article, I wrote:
“The single most important thing we could do would be to drive up levels of attainment in mathematics. It is clear from the data presented by the Ministry that the key issue holding back overall performance is the low pass rate for mathematics. Improving mathematics attainment levels would improve both the level of national performance and the life-chances of the students concerned.”
It was obvious to me from last year’s data what the problem was. It is only now that the Ministry draws the same conclusion.
As a country, we must take action to raise levels of attainment in mathematics. I have consistently urged the Minister to devise and implement a new national strategy for mathematics. She has told me that the action being taken by Ministry is sufficient. The Ministry’s own data now tells us otherwise. I fear that we have wasted a year because this Government has failed to listen to the warnings I was giving.
Future action has been promised by the Minister of Education. In response to my Parliamentary Question last week, the Minister referred to the introduction of specialist math teachers at primary level. This is welcome but it is not enough. What about our students now in Cayman’s high schools who will take their exams over the next few years. Are they to be left without the support they need to succeed?
There can be no more excuses. With every delay we risk failing another cohort of Caymanian students. Now is the time for the Minister to act.
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