Schools failing despite high spending

| 31/10/2019 | 84 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): The government is spending 66% more per student than the global average and the second highest investment per head in OECD countries, but many government schools in Cayman are still under-performing, the Office of the Auditor General found. In a report examining how effective the education ministry is at using its resources to maximise student achievement, the OAG found that government has no clear strategic direction for education and is using the $86 million budget poorly.

“Despite education being a priority area and one of the Government’s strategic broad outcomes, there is no overarching strategic plan that sets out the goals, objectives and outcomes that are expected to be achieved,” said Auditor General Sue Winspear.

“We found that there was limited understanding between the use of resources and performance. It is important that good success measures and outcomes are set for education to ensure that success can be measured and money is being spent on things that will make a difference,” she added.

This is the first time that the OAG has ever looked at how the education ministry spends its main budget, which accounts for more than 12% of the government’s core budget. The report drew some worrying conclusions about what appears to be badly managed investments.

The auditors found concerning levels of under-performance across all government schools against the expected levels, as well as a significant gender gap, with girls out-performing boys, except for primary school maths.

And while government has increased spending on special needs students, the auditor’s report said it was not clear if it was helping, as the attainment of primary school students with SEN declined significantly last year in all subjects except writing.

“We found that despite investment in special educational needs increasing significantly, it is not clear if it is improving outcomes for students with special educational needs,” Winspear said. “There has been a significant increase in the number of specialist staff but the performance of students with special educational needs continues to be mixed.”

The report also found there was no overall strategy for engaging parents. Each school develops its own approach, and while that means engagement can be tailored to meet the needs of each school, there are risks that messages are not communicated consistently and parents are not adequately engaged.

But even students are not engaged as they should be, as Winspear’s team identified high levels of truancy, which haves increased over the past five years. Using data they examined from 2013 to 2018, the OAG found that the average number of missed sessions per student increased in most schools. The auditors said some schools have a significant truancy problem, such as Savannah Primary and John Gray High School and the Cayman Islands further Education Centre.

The auditors also raised concerns about the ministry’s failure to align education goals with those of employment. The government has said it wants to improve education to ensure full employment for Caymanians but the report said there “is no clear link between the vision and priorities for education and economic priorities”.

The OAG said there was no indication as to how the education system will produce graduates with the skills the job market needs. In particular, the auditors noted the absence of any clear link between scholarship funding, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and whether what those students are being paid to learn will meet the requirements of the available jobs.

The report paints a worrying picture of government’s failure to examine how public funds are being used in one of its major priority areas. With everyone calling for more investment in education because of the continually disappointing results, this audit implies that the problem is not a shortage of cash.

Despite the damning findings of the OAG, the Ministry of Education issued a statement following publication of the report claiming it was providing world-class educational opportunities while tackling a myriad of societal ills, including illiteracy, unemployment, criminality and lower economic growth.

“We ensure that each dollar that is spent delivers value for money so that we can tackle these global challenges effectively,” officials said.

The ministry said it would continue to build on the initiatives it had already implemented to improve student progress and attainment and would seek to provide further research-based initiatives that target the specific needs of students. Officials acknowledged the importance of a strategic plan for education and said that the ministry would include this in its future plans.

See ministry statement and the OAG report in the CNS Library

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Category: Education, Government Finance, Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (84)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Jesus is God. God is Jesus. And don’t forget the Holy Spirit. Or did you miss the Sunday school lesson about the Holy Trinity doctrine?

    It makes no sense, of course, but you are supposed to believe it. Sorry.

    Never forget that God sacrificed himself to himself so that he could pardon us to himself for being his flawed creations who did precisely what he knew we would do.


  2. Messenjah says:

    What needs to be asked is “how much dollars are actually spent on a child for the school year?” If that is accurately shown, you would understand where the dollars are being spent.
    My guess, cause they don’t want you to know this, is on salaries.
    What proportion of a Edu dollar actually goes on the student?

  3. Whatever says:

    Why would Caymanian students care about a good education? They see their parents have jobs handed to them because they are “local”, and getting good paying jobs at that! Having a Caymanian passport is the best social security program on the planet.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is a Caymanian passport relevant? It does not mean you are Caymanian or even indicate a right to live or work here.

  4. L.D. says:

    Bottom line, schools consist of teachers and students.
    Teachers have to want to teach what they know. If they don’t know or don’t care they cannot teach it. Students consist of ignorant people (usually young) who should want to gain knowledge. If students have not been instilled with a desire to learn they simply cannot be taught.
    The unqualified teachers cannot be fixed by maintaining status quo, higher wages, being a Camainian, or tenure none of these equates to being qualified or wanting to teach.
    On the other side,If a individual has it all, wages, Cayman birth, and a load of tenure and education they have to have students that desire to learn. The government can spend and endless amount of money on unqualified teachers because they want to hire local or hire ex pats. It is not going to change anything. It takes children raised by parents who demonstrate that education is of supreme value. Good teachers have to have parents who side with the teacher when their precious child is disciplined. It takes GOOD teachers and GOOD parents to raise GOOD adults that can get out of bed, don’t need a spiff for lunch, and expect no more from life than what they earn.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand why our government schools aren’t working. They make the students pray to Jesus every day. Our government leaders pray to Jesus before they conduct the people’s business. We’re a Christian nation. So what are we doing wrong? Maybe we should give Islam or Hinduism a try.


    • Anonymous says:

      Praying to Jesus is not the problem. Ignorant people such as yourself are.

      • Anonymous says:

        “whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool’, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.”. -Matthew 5:22



    • Daskalos says:

      That is precisely the error: you don’t or shouldn’t pray to Jesus, you pray to God. Jesus is the route to salvation God has provided, but it is God who should receive the prayers.

      Not that this will solve the problems with the education system. It is the elephant in the room: the PARENTS who are the problem.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Paragraph 12 of the report says that whether a student is Caymanian or not is determined by reference to a birth certificate or passport (as well – where applicable – as a status certificate). Since it is impossible to tell whether someone born in recent decades is Caymanian based on a passport or birth certificate, a worrying question arises.

    How many millions are we spending educating non Caymanians for free, by accident, on the basis that the systems in place do not correctly distinguish between Caymanians and non Caymanians?

    • Anonymous says:

      I would assume that throwing away millions and overburdening strained government facilities by providing free education to many persons “by accident” would be of substantial concern to an Auditor General.

      The fact that any such accidents may be be “accidentally on purpose” should be of even greater concern.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who in their right minds would CHOOSE to send their kids to government schools currently? Seriously they can’t love their kids much if they choose a saving on school fees over a proper education to give their child the best possible chance in life.

      • Anonymous says:

        Large numbers of persons for whom the alternative is much worse, in a thirld world hell-hole overseas.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow you’ve really got to the heart of the problem there. Never mind that we’re churning out generations obese absentee dads and mums with 5 kids from 5 different baby daddies. The real issue is what if we’re educating some non-Caymanian for free. You xenophobic fool.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your ‘some’ is likely hundreds, and no one suggested they should not be educated. The concern is misuse of taxpayer money and the negative impact on the education of Caymanians.

      • Anonymous says:

        And what do you believe the immigration status of many of these obese absentee baby daddies to be? You believe that there is no significant immigration angle on this?

      • Anonymous says:

        Benefitting from free education for your children at the expense of the Caymanian people, where the law says you should not? Just askin?

    • Anonymous says:

      Given the above is factually and legally accurate, could those disagreeing with its content please explain why they disagree?

  7. Anonymous says:

    As a mother…. I can only hope abortion is free here soon. Not for me, as I parent my children, but for those who don’t have the common decency to pull out.

    • Anonymous says:

      As utilitarian as you make that sound, abortion still isn’t the answer for those who are alive and the parents choose to not invest in rearing their children.

      The attitude that “it’s the government’s job to educate my children” is a major contribution to the failure we see now.

  8. 30% Tax rate buys poor Caymanians sub-standard education! says:

    If your child is in public education, vote NO in the upcoming referendum. Tell your political leaders to fix public education FIRST. Forget port construction jobs, which will end once the port is completed. Forget port retail jobs, which will not pay you a living wage, and most jobs will go to cheaper foreign labor anyway. Fix public education so that you’re children will have a fighting chance to get a good job or go to university. With a great education, your children can stop the cycle of poverty and underemployment in your family and your community. Imagine the positive changes that would result from every public school student receiving a BETTER EDUCATION? Unemployment would be reduced, crime would be reduced, fewer broken families and broken homes. Caymanians, invest in your child’s education and insist that your government invest YOUR TAX DOLLARS in educational programs that benefit YOU.

    • Anonymous says:

      To hell with education, it’s too late for this generation. Fix the damn dump!

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s the sad part of your referendum point. Money is NOT the problem with our education system.

      Since money is not the problem, diverting another $200M or in essence throwing that into a black hole with no tangible return is going to make our current problem worse.

      I am no port fan, of the two propositions, port or school, you will be able to see far greater returns, accountability and transparency with a port. More massive money thrown at this mess we call education would be an absolute disaster.

      • 30% Tax rate buys poor Caymanians sub-standard education! says:

        You’re right. Money is not the problem. How money is spent is the problem. We don’t need hundreds of millions wasted on more brick and mortar school buildings. The present government is showing so much dogged determination in building this cruise port. Where is that dogged determination when it comes to fixing public education? Where is the political will? There is none, because parents with kids in public school are apathetic and don’t demand change, therefore their politicians don’t care either. Caymanians need to start DEMANDING that their tax dollars be put to better use. It’s our money Caymanians. Hold your political leaders accountable by demanding better!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Truman and his leader Jim Bodden are the exclusive causes of our education dilemma. Others who followed simply didn’t try hard enough or couldn’t correct their damage. Too many arbitrary changes to curricula! Also, spending on award-winning school buildings is not the answer – try raising teachers’ salaries and attracting perhaps better teachers or those who choose teaching as a life’s calling, not simply as a job!

    Of course, having capable leadership in the Education Ministry and Department helps!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Where is the Education Council? What is their responsibility?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Everyone likes to blame Juliana, when they should look at the sheer size of her portfolio – the “Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture, and Lands”. Her portfolio is the largest ministry and I believe that one thing they can do to get better is to break up the ministry – have a ministry that focuses solely on Education, Youth and Culture, and leave the “agriculture and lands” part for another ministry or have that as a separate portfolio altogether.

    • Anonymous says:

      You try selling that to Julie. She wanted the ‘Lands’ subject for reasons all of us understand but you seemingly don’t. Hint: Check the Auditor General reports.
      Once she gets that, you can throw whatever else you want on her plate.

    • Anonymous says:

      But she still seems to have lots of time to travel the world on CIG business. Maybe she should stick to work closer to home first?

      • Anonymous says:

        let’s not forget how much time she has to sit in court over the women trying to get married here! How is that part of her JOB? Also, how is it part of her JOB to tell us Caymanians to show up, uninvited to their wedding ceremony to protest? How on Earth is that acceptable for a Minister of Education to spew HATE publicly? Does she not think there are any gay children in her schools? She’s terribly inadequate to fill this very important position.


    • Anonymous says:

      Juliana should simply stop traveling the world and stick to her needlework at home.

    • Anonymous says:

      She can have as many portfolios as they want to give her she still won’t do any work.

    • Anonymous says:

      In most countries she would be the worst politician by a mile.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The ignorant leading the ignorant equals ignorant kids They are not spending money, they are giving it away insuring Caymanians of the future the bottom of the work barrel. After all one of your Kings McKeeva Bush was a lawn care man before he became smart enough to rule.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Education Ministry responds to their failures by saying “We ensure that each dollar that is spent delivers value for money so that we can tackle these global challenges effectively,” officials said.

    Seriously? “global challenges” ?? There’s nothing “global” about the disconnect in our gov’t schools– the Ministry is the problem and they need to get kicked to the curb already! They are worthless and incompetent and continue to make excuses at every turn!

    Yes, the parents need to take an active role in their child’s education; but if the report states, ” there is no overarching strategic plan that sets out the goals, objectives and outcomes that are expected to be achieved,” then even if the parents are engaged, they would have to basically become their child’s teacher as well!

    No accountability. We would rather protest gay marriage than protest this slack, sorry excuse for an Education Ministry, and that is really sad!!

    • So tired of nonsense says:

      “Despite the damning findings of the OAG, the Ministry of Education issued a statement following publication of the report claiming it was providing world-class educational opportunities while tackling a myriad of societal ills, including illiteracy, unemployment, criminality and lower economic growth.”

      WORLD-CLASS is the new buzz-word for the Ministry! What is world-class about this failing education system?

      Essentially, the Ministry is saying that the OAG has no idea what its talking about. However, the results tell a completely different story.

      There is none so blind as the one who refuses to see. What a sad state of affairs.

      • Anonymous says:

        The problem with too many Caymanians is that they are delusional. World class education? What world are these people living in?

        Certainly a real sad state of affairs. So depressing.

      • Messenjah says:

        What I got from the Min statement is them blaming all of “ our societal ills”. They aren’t taking responsibility ! They still think you can throw money at Edu and fix it.
        With Edu leaders having that vision, its easy to understand why most teachers don’t care or are inept. We still need to fix the Edu system and stop lying to the Youths.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Institutionalised ‘exclusion’ is always more costly in terms of financial outlay and associated poor outcomes. Despite the Bill of Human Rights requirement that Education be a universal right for all children living in the Cayman Islands, Government has refused to make any meaningful effort over the past 10 years to move towards progressive realisation. The two-tiered educational system, public school availability for Caymanian status holders and private school options for expatriates and more affluent Caymanian families, creates this disparity of educational outcomes. Swapping national curriculums every few years and throwing money at the overseas educational intervention program du jour will only produce ‘more of the same’. It is time to begin the difficult discussions necessary towards realising sustainable and meaningful educational reform.

    • Anonymous says:

      There has never been much wrong with the curriculum. No need for, like you said, soup of the day. It comes down to motivation. That, I don’t have the answer to.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Yes Ju Ju where is all that money going? Now maybe the time for the enactment of the Standards for Public Life law maybe?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Our elected officials do not have the educational requirements to enable them to intellectually deal with an issue as large as the removal of the dump.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Big surprise there, Ju Ju in charge.

  18. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  19. Anonymous says:

    With a Minister that is clueless, and a new CO that couldn’t perform at the principle level, what do we expect?!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Simple message here – it takes more than money to fix a problem like this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely correct. A child’s education begins at home. I’m fortunate in that my late mother was a teacher. By the time my younger brother and sister joined me at school they were, like I had been, able to read, write and do basic maths. This was back in the days of the old UK 11-plus, and all three of us had no problems passing that to secure places in grammar schools. When my turn came, I was one of only two people out of a class of over 30 to pass – the other successful candidate was my best friend at the time.

      A good education involves a heck of a lot more than just getting out of bed and going to school. Without proper family support at home the students are going to struggle.

      Comments have been made about this before and part of the blame is often placed on the old concept of an entitlement society. I don’t know if that’s true or not but one thing I do know is that when children are raised by parents who never had a proper education, and don’t see the need for one because they’re doing OK without it (this is very common in some areas of the UK) you’ve got a serious problem developing.

    • Anonymous says:

      exactly! The money is there, those within the Dept of Education are the real problem! The report indicates they don’t know how to do their job, plain and simple. They’re failing our children and NEED TO GO! VOTE THEM OUT!!! All of them! Give our kids a new Education Ministry and turn things around- enough is enough! The writing is on the walls, and all over this report! When the hell are we going to hold them accountable and get more suitable candidates in these positions so that the kids attending gov’t schools can thrive??? #votethemout

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup. Like BIRTH CONTROL.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes we have finally found a problem that money cannot fix!

  21. Anonymous says:

    This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Failed parenting is at the root of the problem and no amount of money can fix that problem. It has also been known for some time that the education system has been designed by women to mostly benefit girls and that boys are just seen as defective girls by the system.

    We need to immediately introduce school fees with the option to have those fees reduced or removed based on the performance and participation of both the students and their parents. We also need leadership that will make the decisions that are necessary to remove the clear gender based bias that exists within the system.

    Taxpayers should no longer be required to carry the burden for uncaring and unconcerned parents.

    • Anonymous says:

      Everything you said is so odd. Why are you so against women? And how do girls benefit from an education over boys? I’m seriously so lost on what you think these children are learning. Unless the curriculum focuses solely on how your body carries a pregnancy (which I doubt based on the teen pregnancies) I can’t understand how you think men are left out?

      • Anonymous says:

        The comment was odd to you because you did not take the time to think about what was being said.

        • Anonymous says:

          You cannot compare the UK situation with Caymans crappy segregated educational system. Like chalk and cheese.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s the same problem as it relates to the way boys are treated.

            • Anonymous says:

              I am a UK Citizen. And whilst we do have the reportedproblem it is not comparable to Cayman in any way. The only similarity us boys and that’s where it ends.

              • Anonymous says:

                I am also a UK Citizen. The problem with institutionalized discrimination against boys within the educational system is 100% real.

            • Anonymous says:

              Not just Cayman. It is a Caribbean and world wide issue. Women/girls are far out pacing men and boys In education. That’s a fact. Look at UCCI’s graduation 3-1 or even 4-1 women to men ratio.

              The fight for women’s equality which is important has often meant men and boys have been held back. Toxic masculinity is real but the education system has too often over compensated.

              Plus the way things are taught is not fit for purpose for today’s modern economy. It’s an uncomfortable thought but it has to be thrown into the mix when considering how to fix the mess we are in.

              • Anonymous says:

                What is your definition of toxic masculinity and can you give examples of this within our local community?

  22. Anonymous says:

    We have Truman and Roy to thank for this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t leave Mac out of this. His cabinet status grants are a substantial contributor.

      • L.D. says:

        How does status grants have anything to do with the uneducated children on the island?

        • Anonymous says:

          A large proportion of status recipients were in lower socioeconomic-economic strata, with large numbers of kids overseas. As soon as the parents became Caymanian the children came in significant numbers. Some could not even speak English. They overwhelmed the already struggling education system, and brought about its collapse.

          This is not a criticism of the parents. Many work two jobs just to make ends meet. It just means that with poverty (which has been imported in droves) the prospects of a parent being home to help with the homework lessens. There is no capacity for tutoring, children fall behind and being their classmates down to their level as educators cater to the lowest common denominator.

          • Anonymous says:

            This claim is senseless. Children who are not native English speakers can’t be blamed for this “collapse.” The issue is the quality of education being offered. The system needs to implement a whole curriculum that works instead of taking small pieces from different jurisdictions.

            • Anonymous says:

              No one said it was exclusively non English speakers that caused the collapse. It was suggested it was a contributing factor. Put 35 kids in a classroom with a teacher who may not be amongst the world’s best, add 30 sets of parents who may not value education or by circumstance not be able to participate in it, add 6 kids who speak no English to the class, and another 8 from cockpit country in Jamaica. In that scenario, how do you think the cohort is likely to perform?

            • Anonymous says:

              Consider this. At one point following the cabinet status grants, the majority of students at one public school were reportedly not Caymanian. What is more the non Caymanians all shared a common foreign nationality, and were in the lowest socio-economic strata of our society. They were economically and culturally disadvantaged. No special measures were implemented to help them.

            • Anonymous says:

              Listen, if you want raw I will give you raw.

              This is garbage about status grant holders overriding the system. In fact the highest achievers in our public school system often times (not all the time) are often first generation Caymanians born somewhere else.

              Now what I can happily say without fear or favor is that all these wutless low self esteem CAymanian women and men who lay down with any and anyone have cluttered up our schools with uncared for and unsupported children.

              Many of whom are multi generational cAymanian on one side. In fact these children are often little more than anchor babies for the other contributor to their DNA.

              Those are quite often the troubled ones who have no structure or behavior.

              Another unspoken fact is that in certain schools Caymanian children have often felt that extra help and support are provided by teachers to the children who they identify with.

              Yes I said it- when choosing prefects and students to support the teachers are viewed as pushing forward children from their ‘homeland’ especially the new batch of hires who have no connection to Cayman

              • Anonymous says:

                6:15 p.m. I agree with you about the children without support having the most issues. That’s usually the case, children without active support from both parents are the hardest to teach. They have no interest in school, make little no progress and exhibit the most behavioral issues.

                The person that posted about status holders and children from Jamaica haven’t been in a classroom in years. Let me enlighten you, I’ve only had one child that is not a Caymanian in each class that I’ve taught in the last few years and 2 students who don’t speak English in my entire career as a teacher. Therefore, status holders and non-Caymanians are not the problem.

                Not sure of your claim about Caymanians getting support by those who identify with them as that would mean only a few students are receiving support since there are only a few Caymanian teachers. The children that receive the most support are those as well as their parents that show the most interest.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Respectfully, you could not know that children are Caymanian. No proper vetting seems to be in place, and simply being born in Cayman is not relevant to the question of whether someone is Caymanian or not.

                  • Anonymous says:

                    The main issue is not whether students are Caymanian or not while it may be an issue in the long run, it’s not the main issue. The real problem is figuring out what is being done to ensure that Caymanians receive high quality education.

              • Anonymous says:

                This comment is very factual!

    • Anonymous says:

      We send our kids to school too early. They are not ready to take on the rigours of learning and are burnt out and stressed out just in time to begin their exam syllabus. And now, we are starting them even younger on the Brac. Smh

  23. Anonymous says:

    Give every parent a voucher and close the government schools!

  24. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for the caymanian civil service.
    world class incompetence

  25. Anonymous says:

    Alden et al, you would be better off spending your time getting education sorted rather than tearing down and killing the environment.
    Your education is a waste and unfortunately we, the people paid for it.

  26. Elvis says:

    I’m gonna hold my thoughts as it wouldn’t come out right I doubt

  27. Anonymous says:

    Zzz. Fix the damn dump.

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