(CNS): A consultant engaged by the education ministry to review its education plan of action has described it as “much too ambitious” and warned that the content of the plan is unmanageable within the short time frame set out for implementation. The respected Canadian educational leader, Dr Avis Glaze, commended the plan as “cogent, coherent and comprehensive” but she warned that the ministry had to strike a better balance between ambition and realism to avoid demoralizing educators.
She pointed to the need for the “deep implementation of a few goals rather than tinkering superficially with many goals” in response to the political demands for immediate results.
Glaze recommended spreading the content of the plan over a longer timeframe by identifying what must be achieved in each year. She said the government should prioritize specific areas such as literacy, numeracy and improving discipline and behaviour.
The expert singled out the issue of teacher quality as the most important element of success in education.
“We know from many years of solid research in education that the strongest factor in determining student achievement is not school size, accountability measures, standards, social-economic status or even the aptitude of students,” she wrote, as she pointed to teachers as the critical factor.
In her review of the plan Glaze also urged the ministry to expand the communication strategy to include the media and families who do not have children in school. She said the ministry should meet regularly with the education reporters and newspaper editors to ensure that they understand the work being done across the system.
“If ever there is a new initiative or direction, face to face communication with the media is an important component” she said, explaining that the media can help improve public confidence in the education system.
“I also encourage you to develop a self-assessment tool for your system which schools can use to identify their successes and where they need to go next,” she said, in order to promote deeper learning and more long-term improvement.
Glaze issued a warning about adopting strategies, league tables or comparing schools publicly, that are still being used in some countries but do not work. “They will simply demoralize your staff and fail to get the results you desire,” she said.
She did not discuss the creation of academies and grant-maintained or charter schools with their own boards, or the direct involvement of the private sector, possibilities that the education minister has left open in the new education law that have had extremely mixed results in the UK.
Responding to the feedback from the consultant, Education Minister Tara Rivers said it was crucial to ensure the education department was on the right track and whether the plan embodied the principles, goals and strategies that reflect international best practice.
Rivers said that Glaze commended the plan and the process, pointing to its collaborative nature and transparency. The minister said the plan had “set the tone and outlined the requirements to ensure that public education in the Cayman Islands will improve”.
See the report and summary in the CNS Library