September 21, 2020

The Editor Speaks: Education – who needs educating?

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Colin WilsonwebEducation has become a very hot potato and the secrecy that government ministers and education senior officers try to place around it only puts more fire under the vegetable.

It’s like a frying pan full of hot fat and you throw in the frozen chips. Stand clear whilst the fat spits out burning everyone it touches.

So why the need for secrecy?

Education affects everyone. It therefore should and must be transparent. But it isn’t.

When CNS filed a Freedom of Information Request over a 2011 education report the Education Ministry “appears to have lost [it] “but has refused to make public an updated 2014 document, despite the fact that at least some of the information is now in the public domain anyway”.

The document CNS requested was “regarding proposals for cost savings for the provision of education on Cayman Brac; the PowerPoint presentation regarding this proposal produced in 2011; any updated report on the same subject (proposals for cost savings for the provision of education on Cayman Brac) that has been produced since 2011; and the current enrollment figures and teacher/student ratios of all government primary schools and the Lighthouse School.

“The ministry released the teacher/student ratios requested but refused the other documents regarding the potential cost savings of amalgamating the Brac primary schools.”

CNS then says, “The savings of this proposal is now known to be estimated at $600,000 per year. The EY [Ernst & Young] report also lists the potential educational benefits of the amalgamation, which includes more time per student for PE, music and art, more scope for ensemble music and team sports, and more classes of optimum size (15-25 students).”

Even though this information is in the public domain, as it is contained in the EY report that is available online, the ministry still refuses to release it citing that it was prepared for Cabinet three years ago, it has also lost the original document and in the FOI response “completely ignored its one-time existence”.

Before this we had the debacle over three different reports based on an independent review of public schools.

Before it was revealed some of our MLA’s had a copy of a first report the Chief Education Officer, at that time Mary Rodrigues implied there wasn’t this first report and then back tracked saying it wasn’t up to standard, without actually revealing why it wasn’t up to standard.

It was probably because the report wasn’t exactly flattering to the education department.

What civil servants and ministers seem to forget is it is us who pay the bill for all these studies that when they make unpalatable reading to the ministers and ministries must remain secret “for our own good” or in the latest CNS case:

“… civil servants must be able to share all possible options and provide advice and recommendations freely and frankly to be considered by senior management and by policy makers to ensure decision making processes are robust. Releasing records – particularly before a decision has been made on the proposals – would likely restrict the open dialogue that currently exists within the Ministry to share ideas and opinions which often include ‘thinking outside the box’.”

Another superb piece of gobbledegook.

That came from the aforementioned Mary Rodrigues who has now left the Education Ministry to weave her talents on either suppressing or the implementation of the also aforementioned EY Report on the rationalisation of the public service.

I cannot think of a more qualified person for this role.

The problem, however, is still with education.

It is not, however, with educating our students. It is with educating the powers that are responsible for implementing this education – the ones we pay – that badly need educating.

Openness, practicing transparency they like to preach, stop bending the truth (like the new Apple smartphone) and implementing reforms that are for the country’s good and not for their own empire building designs and whims.

They are the ones who really need educating.FIRST!

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