Privatisation idea for schools shelved

| 01/09/2016 | 58 Comments

(CNS): Considerations that Education Minister Tara Rivers had given to private-public partnerships in the government education system have been shelved. The minister has confirmed that in the short term the ministry will not be introducing charter, grant-maintained or academy-type schools that involve privatisation or partnerships with private sector entities. Reporting on the progress made in government schools last year and plans for the future, Rivers said Monday that the ministry did not want to “introduce something else into the pot” before the most recent action plans have had an opportunity “to bear fruit”.

During the previous election campaign, some candidates, including those on the C4C ticket on which the education minister had run, favoured privatising education in the Cayman Islands. Most members of the Legislative Assembly, with one or two exceptions, have sent or are sending their children to fee-paying schools.

Since the 2013 election, a report by Ernst & Young on reducing the size of the public sector and an education report by KPMG both also pushed the idea of introducing some element of privatisation into the school system, based on US and UK models of schools outside their government education systems.

The charter, grant-maintained and academy-type schools, however, have run into controversies in both Britain and America and there is little evidence to suggest that piecemeal privatisation of public education works.

Purely fee-paying schools not only exclude those who cannot afford to pay, they are also free to select their student body. Private schools can eliminate kids with learning difficulties, behavioural and emotional problems or any other challenges that might prove a distraction in the classroom and select children on the basis of academic, religious or other criteria.

The public school system, on the other hand, must be inclusive and take all local children, regardless of their religious affiliation, socio-economic status, academic or learning ability or any other potential issue on which private schools can discriminate.

Rivers has now rejected the idea of introducing any type of private sector management of schools before the next election and described the issue as something of a “red-herring”. She said that the important thing was getting back to the basics “to improve the system” using international best practice as a basis for the education model. She said the ministry was “focusing on fundamentals and not getting caught up in what the model should look like”.

Over the last year Rivers said much work had been done to respond to the baseline inspections, which gave most of the government schools a failing grade. A report by the ministry pointed to the action plan that has been developed identifying the priorities that must be addressed, such as raising standards in literacy and numeracy in the primary schools, improvements in identifying and addressing special education needs of students, conflict resolution and better use of IT in schools.

According to statistics from the 2015 results for Year 12 students, 48% received five or more passes including maths and English, performance in maths improved overall by 4% on 2014 but English results overall fell by 2%.

Although the results are a significant improvement on historically very low grades, more than half of all government school graduates are getting less than five standard passes when they leave school, just under half are not getting a maths qualification and almost a third are failing in English as well.

See report in CNS Library

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Comments (58)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    She has only made two good decisions: hire more support and nix this charter idea. Every time a new minister gets in they start changing things around. Before anything can be implemented and given sufficient time to see if it works, the new Minister changed things again.

    • Anonymous says:

      So true, and the world over for certain. There was one education minister in the U.K. who reputedly had “at least eight good ideas a week”. Total nonsense from an educational (or any other, surely!) perspective.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Started off logical. Identify the problems in the existing system (commission the school inspections) and get expert advice on how to fix the broken system (KPMG report). Don’t forget the school reports all highlighted just how broken the system is.

    The expert advice, after looking at different models in other countries and adapting them to suit the Cayman system (where is the ‘red herring’ here?) made a key recommendation: the schools should be moved out of direct control of government. How? The partnership school model.

    What happened? Anyone can find research to support anything they want. The logical thing was to follow the expert advice to try and fix the broken system – not throw even more money into a broken system.

    • Joe B says:

      This would take a level of intelligence that obviously does not exist in the current Cayman islands Government. Unfortunately this means Caymanian people and their kids will will be held back to the same level. Not to worry because there is no shortage of workers from all over the rest of the world that have been brought up with the right type of culture and schooling to be able to do the work needed to run a business and or country right.

    • Anonymous says:

      You do not bring a lawyer to fix your pluming. Why would you bring in an accountant to fix your broken schools. It is quite simple, fire the majority of heads, stop hiring low level teachers from jurisdictions that do not respect our children or have themselves got a broken system, and stop promoting failing heads into higher positions in the Ministry and Department of Education. Then you just might have a chance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We should stop trying to make this crap up. Take something that works (probably Finland, Canada or Sinapore) and adopt it as our own. Bring people in from those places to operate it and move on. Importing third world education systems and educators is having its appropriate effect. It is developing a thirld world workforce, for a first world economy. There is no greater recipe for disaster.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Keep playing games with the future.

  5. Ministry Lesson says:

    Lets clarify one thing!

    The Chief Education Officer is who creates the programs and curriculum based on the Policies set by the Ministry.

    The Chief Officer is the Administrator (Like the CEO of a Company) , he or she does not specialise and get into what we teach or how we teach it, he or she runs the “business”

    The Minister sets the Policy/direction.

    That said responsibility lies squarely with the Minister (Tara).The other 2 simply ensure that the business is run according to the Ministers Directions and Policies.

    If a new Minister comes along with new Policies and Directions, the CEO and CO must comply and get it done. They do not set the direction

    Basically this mess is the result of Taras Poor Decisions!

    • Anonymous says:

      Typical CS finger pointing. Here is the fundamental problem with this structure: whose fault is it if it doesn’t work? Was it the wrong strategy or was the strategy poorly implemented?

      This is why the same person has to be responsible for both strategy and execution. Otherwise the strategist will blame the implementation and the implementers will blame the strategy. (Both will remain because neither one can prove their case).

      • Wait says:

        You are missing one key point here! Nothing has been done and the Minister readily admits that was her decision so there is only one person we can point the finger at ! Ands admits its is her!!!

  6. Rp says:

    All members of the ministry of education including politicians should be required to enroll their kids in the public school system. Make them have some skin in the game.

    But then maybe that’s a bad idea, I mean, which school teacher or principal would dare to flunk their bosses’ kids?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think that the government, all future governments should start charging school fees going forward. If parents have to pay these fees then I but they will get more involved in their children’s education and social life. Sometimes free is not good!!

    • Joe B says:

      Parents can’t give what they don’t have. Money, love, work ethic, integrity, or self respect. Caymans history and resulting culture is self defeating in the modern world. Therefore their only hope to survive is to change and embrace what the modern world has to give. Education, religion,employment, Laws, with the resulting rewards. Or just stay third world and watch from the sidelines.

      • Anonymous says:

        The ones who truly can’t can be identified on a case by case basis. It is one thing if someone fell on tough times, it’s another when one drives a Mercedes SUV and claims to have no funds for their children’s education. It may also help some people to stop having kids after kids after kids which they can’t care for!

  8. Yes Suh! says:

    Some time earlier this century…

    Minister of Education: Ladies and Gentlemen, I have summoned you here to discuss the privatizing of education in the Cayman Islands.

    Ladies: Huh? is this a good idea? Wat u talk’n bout Willis?

    M. of E.: Darn right it’s a good idea. The Compass said it is!!!!!!

    Gentlemen: Huh? Wat u talk’n bout Willis?

    M. of E.: Darn right! Compass says it’s good, I says it’s good, prejudiced studies says it’s good, it’s all good! 1 + 2 is 5, so it all adds up! Got it? That’s why me iz the Minister of Education and you iz the… Whatever.

    Ladies & Gentlemen: Shouldn’t we give this a bit more thought???????

    M. of E.: Look it hea!!! This ting been debated up and down in da Compass, in da Cayman Net News, and in da telephone calls of all those who said they don’t want it. How much more time do you need???? Huh?????????

    L & G: Well at least until…

    M. of E.: Until whaaaaaaaaaaaa? Until I get my butt booted and a new Minister of Education comes in and turns everything upside down again?

    L & G: Well yeah, that kinda sounds like a good idea!!!!

    M. of E.: A good idea??? I haven’t had an opportunity to fully screw everyting up yet like everyone else – now YOUS Whatever are trying to deny me that opportunity that everyone else has had and taken full advantage of???? Homey don’t think so!!!!

    L & G: Well, it kinda seems like you screwed up a whole bunch of things already. Are you not fully satisfied yet???

    M. of E.: I’m satisfied when I say that I’m satisfied. Get that homey? And by the way, despite what that ridiculous baseline report says we are making great progress!!! Great progress just in time for the new elections!

    L & G: Great progress, really??????

    M. of E.: Yes really. I says we making great progress, so that’s a fact now! Cause I iz a Minister and you iz a WORM. And that’s just the way that things work.

    L & G: Okay, sorry for asking… 🙁

    M. of E. (while spinning thumbs): Well now, since we are making such great progress, we are going to have to put a stop to this privatization issue, until we can bear the fruit of whatever hits us on the way up or something like that… I don’t know what I’m talking about, but discussion is closed!!!!!! Got it?

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is completely bonkers. We hear from the minister (a lawyer) and the “Chief Officer” (an accountant?) and someone described as “an advisor” (from abroad) but never from the chief education officer, her education officers, the school’s principals or the teachers. What utter foolishness.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A business directing a school’s curriculum? Utter madness. Please tell me someone reading has heard of the educational term “utilitarianism” in connection with the content of a curriculum.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, much better to have it directed by a politician and her job-for-life cronies!

      • Anonymous says:

        Clearly you will believe anything those fellow fools down at the Compass editorial lock-up like to scribble. Look up the term and try and educate yourself. You have no idea what you are talking about, but at least you manged the grammar, spelling and punctuation, so there is some hope.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Come back Anglin. At least you knew something, took an interest and had some respect with teachers.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Really Tara…”…the ministry was ‘focusing on fundamentals and not getting caught up in what the model should look like'”

    to recall an old (but still valid) Peter Drucker quote ..”There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

    If the Government running all education is ‘fundamentally’ the wrong model then however much you (claim to) look to make sure the government is doing it as well as it can then you are wasting opportunity … full stop. Why then do you not want to get ‘caught up’ in that ‘fundamental’ idea?

  13. Anonymous says:

    C4C/PPM waiting for 2017

  14. Anonymous says:

    What is happening with the National Training Council? The Brac must have representaion as the CIFEC programme is seriously lacking here. Principal all about bogus stats and not really helping technical students towards their goals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank Godness. This was a terrible idea from the beginning. Look at what’s happening with these schools in other jurisdictions.

  15. Anonymous says:

    where are government putting all these shelved reports?

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably next to the stacks of cheques they give to government employees that are on “paid administrative leave”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Negative posters. Please show me where this system has worked.

        Our schools are finally showing major improvements and now you want change AGAIN. These constant changes is what has gotten us in the mess we were in.

        4 year election terms is not long enough …please stick with what’s working.

    • Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. says:


  16. Anonymous says:

    Whoever wrote this article needs to educate themselves and get hold of the facts before making sweeping statements that are blatantly untrue. “Fee paying schools not only exlude those who cannot afford to pay”. A number of private schools set aside a sizeable portion of their fees for scholarships for local children and quite a significant number benefit from this generosity.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      I believe those “scholarships for local children” are funded by Government. You are aware that almost ALL “Fee Paying Schools” receive an annual stipend from Government to “offset” their fees?

      • Anonymous says:

        Some of them are, some of them are not but that is not the point being made. The point being made is that even if the parents cant pay they are not automatically excluded because a (govt or however funded) scholarship is often available.

      • Diogenes says:

        The CIG payments to the private sector schools is meant to compensate for the fact that government is meant to provide education to all on an equal basis, but excludes non Caymanian children from the public schools. The amount they pay is a fraction of what the private schools cost or charge their students parents, so trying to claim that money is transformed into scholarships is just plain rubbish. Notwithstanding that, the cost per student in the private sector is still less than the cost per student in government schools, which says a lot about the efficiency of the Ministry.

      • Veritas says:

        They receive a stipend, a tiny fraction of their costs as they are providing education that Government would otherwise have to provide which would cost Goverment many times the value of the stipend.They are under no obligation to provide scholarships.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The “red herring” is the false equivalency you have presented in this biased article of academy schools, charter schools and private (or “fee-paying”) schools. These are not the same and cannot simply be lumped together.

    The whole point of academy schools is that they are independently managed but state funded. Hence, they are neither “fee-paying” nor “private” schools. Whether deliberate or not, your obfuscation of the school types is extremely unhelpful.

    Academy schools are, by definition, non-selective. Therefore your description of exclusionary practices by fee-paying private schools is irrelevant. Nobody has suggested turning Cayman schools into fee-paying, selective, private schools.

    You are also mistaken that “there is little evidence” of the effectiveness of academy schools. Those interested in the evidence will find it here:, in a 2015 discussion paper by the Centre for Economic Performance, a public policy research centre within the London School of Economics.

    Here are some highlights:

    “…pupil achievement is significantly higher on average, and so is value added for pupils attending schools that converted to an academy” (Page 21)

    “The results uncovered evidenced of significant performance improvements for pupils treated by academy conversion. They also showed these improvements to be more pronounced for those attending schools that gained the greatest autonomy.” (Page 25)

    “When asked what the most important change was, two answers dominate – ‘changed school leadership’ (at 56 percent) and ‘changed the curriculum you offer’ (at 26 percent). Furthermore, both of these were reported to be linked to improved outcomes (in 73 and 77 percent of cases respectively). Other changes that were notably linked to improved outcomes were ‘Increased the length of the school day’ (63 percent) and ‘Collaborated with other schools in more formalised partnerships’ (45 percent).” (Page 26)

    The fact that changes in leadership were cited as the most significant factor in achieving improved performance points to both the value of independence and autonomy in government schools and the likely underlying cause of underperformance of Cayman schools – an unwillingness to hold school leadership accountable and make the necessary changes.

    Of course, you cannot possibly hold school leadership accountable if it has been continuously micro-managed by the Ministry or the Department of Education. And therein lies the problem.

    If Cayman were not spending a vast proportion of its education budget funding an army of policy analysts and consultants that can always blame their inevitable failure on school leadership (or on one another), and instead charged head teachers with fixing their schools and the Ministry with holding them accountable, we could save millions of dollars and greatly improve standards at the same time.

    The more people you make “responsible” for something the fewer you are able to hold accountable.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Red herring”, “false equivalency”, “mistaken,” “obfuscation”, “unhelpful”. Not talking about CNS, are you? No!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh dear you are not keeping up to date are you. Academy schools in the UK do have a very subtle selection process and all the evidence is that their performance, when good, is down to factors other than the improvement of quality teaching. Leadership in schools has been shown time and again to be less than good, therefore it is inevitable that DOE and Ministry do make it their business to be involved. You cannot sack the failing heads apparently so the only recourse is to work with what you got and it seems to me that standards have risen experientially over the past four years. There is much work to be done. If only the Minister of Education would keep her nose out of something she knows nothing about, and we had a CEO that had leadership qualities.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not keeping up to date? That study is only from 2015. Do you have a link to something equally compelling but more recent?

        And nobody said that the improvements were down to improvements in “teaching quality”. Why does it matter what the improvements were attributable to?

        You CAN sack the failing heads, they just CHOOSE not to. Precisely why independence is preferable.

        Only in the civil service is micro-management the answer to inadequate leadership. But who micro-manages the micro-managers?

        Oh right, the Minister micro-manages the DOE and the DOE micro-manages the schools.

        Sorry, who is accountable again if all this doesn’t work out? (which it never has)

        No one.

        Time to change the system.

  18. MnM says:

    Yes, shelve the one thing that makes sense; thanks…….

    • Ironside says:

      I don’t know if everything is roses with Charter/public-private run schools.

      Here we should be able to manage/oversee it better than larger countries have to do and make sure monies are spent on education needs and not just a money tree for those who would run these Charter Schools.

      Here’s an eye opening bit on the cons & criminal acts that have plagued these type schools in the U.S.


      “Charter Schools: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” –

    • Anonymous says:

      Tara, her Chief Officer and the special advisers in the Ministry Education is who needs to be shelved. Schools suffering for the want of writing paper and toilet paper and this is the best we can get. This Ministry is an utter disgrace and a total failure.

      • Anonymous says:

        11:16 pm. The problem with the schools reflect not only on the Ministry of Education, but on the parents. I call out the Parents. How many of you have attended an HSA meeting to discuss problems at your child’s school? It is an known fact that only the parents who are interested in their child/children’s progress show their faces at those meetings.
        In order to deal with an situation, every parent should come on board, discuss and come up with a solution. We in this part of the world are lucky to be afforded all the freeness that our government provides. Stop complaining, come up with a solution and stop expecting government to provide everything for your children. They were not asked to be here, so those who have them should’ve known they could provide for them. All hands on deck makes life and the workload lighter.
        Support your child’s school by helping out, instead of complaining.

        • Anonymous says:

          I can’t attend HSA meetings but I do attend all of the PTA meeting at my children’s school.

        • Anonymous says:

          Comrade, I am the person who wrote the article at 11:16pm. For your edification, I have 2 sons, one 24 and the other 22. The eldest is midway through medical school and the youngest is about to compete his MBA. I say this not to boast, but to advise you that when they were in primary and high school, my wife and I WERE involved with their school, I even was President of the HSA on 2 occasions totaling 6 years. Whilst they attended private schools, the situation that is found today in the public schools is NOT unique to those schools. Private schools have issues as well and more often than not its the PARENTS who identify and resolve the issues yes, BUT at the same time the government has a direct interest in the public school system and my comments were merely trying to say that. In closing, again not be self gratifying I graduated from the former CI High School and in those days issues were around too… this is nothing new BUT it must be dealt with now or we will continue to create a massive snowball effect. I reiterate again that this Minister, her Chief Officer and whoever else has done nothing to properly address the situation.

      • Anonymous says:

        You clearly know nothing of the advisers in the Ministry of Education or indeed of education itself to make such a statement.

        • Cancer says:

          The Ministry of Education is the problem; they have screwed up what was once a decent curriculum and this in turn effected the timetable of every single student.

          What we get in return for this fiasco are fancy million dollar schools with an open floor classroom plan to ensure that the kids definitely don’t pay attention in class!

          Until parents get involved again with their children, until parents show-up and demand a change for ALL, until parents give a real damn about their kids again this is what our future looks like; grim!

          We got all kinds of people marching for a piece of road, marching for lower gas prices, marching for changes to the voting system; no-one marches for Education!

          I leave you with a quote: “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I heard this statement on the panel last night. . If cabinet didn’t give sufficient funds where would they get it from? Would you have donated it? If you all think that charter schools are the answer perhaps you should do your research. It is mainly a legal form of segregation . Those who can pay and the brightest among them will be enrolled and the rest will be left for government to contend with. I am not blaming those parents who can and will do this, heck I would do the same for my kids. The percentage who do very well in government schools have parents who care, parents who has the skills to be great parents and are trying to raise their children well. The others are damaged before they get into the school system from what they go through and what they see in the homes they are coming from. Parents needs help with the social issues in their homes and it goes much deeper than handing them a few hundred dollars each month. There are far to many people becoming parents when they themselves are children. They do not know how to guide their children, how to assist then with homework, how to teach them social skills etc.. Until all of these issues are addressed in the homes ( which is a daunting task) and parents take responsibility no Minister of Education , no Chief Officer, no teacher and no Special Advisers can go into the homes to fix this.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Learning is an amazing experience. I learn something new every day.
    School should be interesting and exciting and the only reason why it is not is because those with power lack vision, passion and love.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Rivers said Monday that the ministry did not want to “introduce something else into the pot” before the most recent action plans have had an opportunity “to bear fruit”. What’s with the weird metaphors? We could discuss this until the cows turn blue, but it’s time to grab the bull by the tail and look him in the eye.

  21. Anonymous says:

    ppm will not take any tough/risky decisions. end of story.
    they have been sitting on their hands since elected and will continue to do so…they will then claim to have brought stability and confidence back to cayman. they are not fooling anybody.

    • Anonymous says:

      3.08 If you want someone to ‘take a risk’ that is to gamble, then Mac would be the man.Just make sure he is gambling (making a risky decision) with your money, and your child’s education, and not mine.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you will find the poster means politically risky… not outcome risky. When you are an elected official doing the right thing that will prove unpopular with your electorate is political risk. It doesn’t mean it is a bad outcome.

        Lets take an (entirely fictional of course) example. Say you were a(fictional) MLA called McDiver Bash in a fictional electorate we will call Wet Bee. Lets say you had a track record of handing out gifts to your electorate just before election day. Just before the next election you take the decision not to do the same. I think that would be called a risky decision!!!! It would still be a good one for the people.

        Of course that would never happen in the real world (the gifts or the decision to stop giving them???) LOL

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