Education minister opposes dividing kids

| 01/05/2017 | 32 Comments

(CNS Election): The incumbent West Bay MLA and education minister, Tara Rivers, has made it clear that she opposes suggestions that young students should be labeled, divided or pigeon-holed before they are ready to make their own decisions about their futures. As candidates appear to be falling over each other on the campaign trail to call for earlier and earlier labeling of children as non-academic, steering them towards training as, for example, plumbers or mechanics even before they leave primary school, Rivers pointed to the dangers of making assumptions about children too early in their school lives.

“Children learn differently and at different paces and we want to expose them to as many different learning experiences as possible while in school and avoid dividing or pigeon-holing children at an early age,” she told CNS.

Exposing students as they get older to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) options is important, but showing them a wide range of opportunities and possibilities for their futures was not about labeling them, she said, in contrast to calls from some candidates that this is what should be happening in the local education system.

“The focus on enhancing the TVET courses and programmes offered in the schools is about expanding student options, not limiting them,” she said. “All students need to learn and develop the fundamental building blocks of success — literacy, numeracy, working cooperatively and the like — regardless of what career they ultimately pursue. The focus on strengthening TVET provisions in the schools is to ensure that children get the opportunity to develop practical skills in areas that are of interest to them and to provide early exposure to diverse career possibilities.”

But the education minister said it was not her or the current government’s policy to label students before they are ready just because they may not appear to be academic when they are 8 or 9 years old. She said they wanted to expose children to the different opportunities for learning and skills development but not steer them in specific career directions before they are ready,” she said.

As the vocational training issue continues to be a question candidates are being asked on the campaign trail, some would-be representatives are suggesting that because children are not identified as non-academic at the earliest opportunity, they are not learning a trade early enough.

While candidates are debating whether Cayman should have a dedicated trade school or whether the scholarship system or public-private partnerships are the best way to train young people to be plumbers and carpenters, many of the 61 candidates on the ballots in the 19 new constituencies seem to be making assumptions that vocational training is the answer to the local education challenges.

But Rivers emphasised the wide learning and balanced experiences and opportunities children must be afforded in schools. She said literacy, numeracy, the arts, history and culture, and civics are all important subjects students should be immersed in during their school years. She said TVET courses should be part of the curriculum and have equal weight as subjects but cutting children off too soon from the chance to study science because they don’t show early academic success is not a road the Cayman education system should take.

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Comments (32)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In addition to every Minister trying a ting, the basic problem is the lack of value placed on education by parents.

    We have a society that has ‘development’ now as an economic pillar and driver, and for example, we are not producing the quantity of professional architects, engineers and surveyors needed locally. Then at the crafts and technologist levels there is little understanding in the populace at large as to the differences between these levels and that of the professionals. How can we have meaningful results when the persons in charge are not disseminating this basic information to the populace. This is the foundation that is required for us to build upon. There can be serious consequences and public health and safety issues for crafts persons, technicians or technologists to hold themselves out at levels they are not capable of, when they are not trained to do so.
    Ladders and bridges are required to move between these levels as people who are thought of initially as vocational, with educational effort, application and suitable opportunity can in fact move up.

    A lot more needs to be done.

  2. Anonymous says:

    All fancy school buildings and inventive education systems will not fix the issue with is the major cause of the failing education and work ethics in our youth – it’s called bad parenting!

    I am tired of the usual sound bites thrown out during election – I wish someone would step forward and call the kettle by it’s name, but I guess telling people that they need to step up and actually raise their children, provide for them, discipline them and nurture them is not the truth voters want to hear.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am, glad my expat children were not allowed in your public schools This will ensure later in life that my children tell your children what to do just as I tell my workers what to do….Get it or is it beyond your grasp?

    • A. Caymanian says:

      You should be expelled from this country for being a disrespectful bigot! You are a disgusting carpet bagger.

    • Anonymous says:

      No shortage of glib and sanctimonious patter…and I say that as an expat. If you are breeding this intolerance at home, I doubt your kids will amount to much in life. Certainly won’t be thrust upwards into commanding roles.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Standardized testing please!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Give her another 4 years. The problem with education is that we change ministers every four years. How can any system be fixed if we can doing that.

    • Anonymous says:

      TBH, she made little progress with education, gender affairs, or labour during her 4 years. She might be better suited to some less senior role in the education portfolio. She was disinterested in helming the other ministries she was charged with, barely mentioning them, hoping we’ll forget. She resoundingly lost our vote this term.

    • Anonymous says:

      And she’s working with staff who are totally incompetent. Check the problems she has with pensions!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hoping this got included…

    Countries vary on when vocational specialisation starts. VET can engage young people who are less academically minded in practical tasks, sustain their motivation for learning, and support their transition to work. But it is difficult for adolescents to make considered career choices and they risk closing off their options if they change their mind later.
    The risk that practical training crowds out broader academic skills and limits pathways can be managed if programmes involving early specialisation also require sufficient attention to numeracy, literacy and other general academic skills, as well as other wider soft competences.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Incorrect. If the Finnish approach is anything to go by, technical and vocational education and training could provide a means of tackling youth unemployment. While a negative social bias has often prevented young people, in both developing and developed countries, from enrolling on vocational track programmes, Finland’s reforms over the past decade have made TVET popular, contributing to lower youth unemployment rates.
    Per OECD study: “Vocational programmes can pay off in the labour market, with studies showing good rates of return for upper secondary VET.”
    “Countries vary on when vocational specialisation starts. VET can engage young people who are less academically minded in practical tasks, sustain their motivation for learning, and support their transition to work. But it is difficult for adolescents to make considered career choices and they risk closing off their options if they change their mind later.”
    “The risk that practical training crowds out broader academic skills and limits pathways can be managed if programmes involving early specialisation also require sufficient attention to numeracy, literacy and other general academic skills, as well as other wider soft competences.”

  8. Hmmm says:

    Tara did nothing for 4 years, At this point anything would be an improvement.

  9. Our turn Next says:

    It is sad indeed that our Beloved Land and the future of our children is being contested , some say raffled off by electing so many inexperienced untried in the business world, failures non accomplished persons. There its been said and its the truth people.

    Isn’t it time that we think seriously of raising the standard for election, and as much as possible encourage persons with a background in business who have gone trough some form of tertiary education, at least can speak properly not Cayman patois ( as it is in some cases utterly intelligible get a mixture of GT, west bay and east end dialogue and you will see or rather hear what I mean). Isn’t it time that we upped the auntie too and made nomination a $5-6 thousand dollar experience. If we want good people we should get together and raise funds for candidates rather than have this new wave all out trying to control Government by one man propping up a host of candidates, certainly perceived as being for selfish purposes

    I have strayed away from the main topic which was education yes, but in doing so I have tried to show that we cannot expect the system to change if we don’t have the capacity to understand what is really needed. Change for change sake it appears has been the modus operandi since the mid seventies and has resulted in what many are now labeling as an incredulous calamity, and who suffers therefrom our children our jobs, our future our control of our destiny.

    So people don’t continue to blame politicians for the failures in education , it is not them who have failed, but, we the people who have elected them knowing full well that those elected don’t have the expertise, or have not been given the opportunity to have the expertise, or have not availed themselves of opportunities or have just been in the right place at the right time , coming from the right family or being charismatic with no brain and mouthing the same ole garbage of yester year ; with no cohesive plan no structure and no vision; and naturally able to be bought for a pittance.
    Dear Friends and neighbors and all who can and will cast a vote , look with a keen eye of scrutiny on these who wish to represent, for the next 4 years you may find it even harder than today if you put in people just for change sake or because you don’t like them but they do indeed are qualified for the job. Think carefully, because once you cast the vote its too late to take it back.

    Peace be with you all.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d prefer we “up the ante”, and leave Auntie out of this.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can and won’t cast a vote for the rubbish running in my district. Last election I had 5 and only cast one for Tara. Choosing not to vote for anyone should be a valid “no confidence” option.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Rubbish running in my district”. So true. Who do you think I would vote for in my district of Osbourne racist driftwood Bodden, Arnold what the hell have you ever done Berry, Robert who the hell are you Bodden, and Dwayne sacred wessel Seymour? Many of us are not voting this time because the choice is so utterly hopeless. Something has to change in Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        …and you saw what that got you, no representation, unless you are one of the elite.

  10. LB says:

    Evaluate their learning abilities! Evaluate their learning abilities! Evaluate their learning abilities!
    How hard it is to understand that the earlier their disabilities are discovered, the sooner custom made learning programs could be implemented.
    Make it mandatory for each child starting a school to be professionally evaluated. ArrowSmith school in Toronto does just that. Either contract them each year to do the evaluation or “grow” your own professionals by sending them to Toronto to learn.
    Almost all children have one or another disability such as : having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.
    They might not hear or see well and the regular doctors do not do these kind of testing. There are no optometrists specializing in learning-related vision problems in the Cayman Islands. Many school-aged children who struggle at school may actually have one or more of these learning-related vision problems. Most of these children actually have “perfect” 20/20 vision. Even if they have had a complete eye exam, children with vision-related learning disabilities would not be diagnosed because most optometrists and ophthalmologists do not specialize in this area, so they do not test for these problems.
    Somebody, please, pay attention!
    Parents, please demand it from your Education minister!

    • Jotnar says:

      “Almost all children have one or another disability such as : having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia”…

      it only affects public school kids? How does it explan the difference in outcome between public and private schools despite CIG spending twice as much?

      You may want to face up to some inconvenient truths here – not everything is someone or something else’s fault. Some of it is down to bad parenting and ill disciplined schools who let kids skate without trying and do not rein in trouble makers, some of it down to kids just not being academically bright.

    • Soiled Son says:

      Lol. You are too funny. Every child has a disability do they? I can tell you what disability most suffer from…that being the inability to sit on their behinds for more than 2 minutes and to pay attention to the teacher.

      • Anonymous says:

        Soiled Son I gather that you do not see that as a disability, but for parents who have children with ADD and ADHD it is a painful and trying reality. I would suggest that you google these two subjects and perhaps next time you won’t be Lolling, or trolling: Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How do our politicians and voters propose that our schools/teachers remedy the home-lives that our “broken learners” emanate from? Many of our kids are marginalized and need psychological and emotional support that is missing – well before they can be expected to be receptive to learning anything. It doesn’t matter what’s scrawled on the blackboard if those minds aren’t open, ready to learn, and excited about being there. The cycle of blame deflection continues…throwing money at marbled hallways and smartboards won’t fix this, and Tara, of all people, should know this!

  12. Anonymous says:

    What exactly did she do in the last 4 years?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Minister Rivers, it is not about labelling. It is about providing options for the trades & vocation professions.
    Noone ever said these kids will not be studying science and math almost at the similar level of white collar professions, in fact they will need it just as much! Plumbers will need a lot of math & science, hair dressers will need science, carpenters also math.
    Let us provide the option for those that prefer a trade after they have been exposed to professions in the four year degree pool. The option MUST exist.
    The TVET program must also cater to adults that have been in trades but without formal certifications. If elected do not make the mistake of putting this on the back burner as you did the last four years. All there was was “talk talk talk” and NO action.
    Nonetheless, you have done a fairly decent job in the last four years- but don’t ignore TVET!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Worst Education Minister ever!
    She makes the narcisst Mclauglin seem competent in comparison. Does not deserve to be reelected

  15. Anonymous says:

    OMG in office for 4 years, elections in 1 week and we finally hear from her!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    It is a fact of life, 50% of all students in the Cayman Islands will be in the bottom half of their class. Most like their parents will not attain to be professionals. They may not have the cultural drive, the economic incentive, parental encouragement, or sadly the mental ability to do it. HOWEVER, NO CHILD SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE SCHOOL WITHOUT THE BASIC TOOL OF LITERACY, IF A SCHOOL GRADUATE CAN READ AND COMPREHEND. THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO REACH FOR THE STARS. We can teach the how to but not the want to.

    • Anonymous says:

      ahhaam, Is that not the case in EVERY country that 50% of the students will be in the bottom half of their class?

      Here is another eye opener for you genius, the other 50% will be in the top half of their class. It is called grading.

    • Anonymous says:

      If less than 20% of Caymanian kids (includes both public and private systems) are going on to earn a college degree (majority of those from B/C-grade colleges), we need to reconcile reality with graduate career expectations. Not every kid is going to be handed a CEO pay-grade on their return.

  17. Anonymous says:

    For the very first time, I’m agreeing with this one hit wonder.

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