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Monday, April 10, 2006 

Literacy test results alarming

By Alan Markoff, alan@cfp.ky

Sunday 9th April, 2006 Posted: 13:08 CIT (18:08 GMT)

A recent standardised test given to government school children between grades two and 10 inclusive brought very poor results, especially when it came to language skills, Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said Friday.

The Terra Nova tests are internationally used standardised achievement assessments that ask students to use various skills through different means, including multiple choice, writing, and interpreting information.

The scores from Cayman’s students were compared against international benchmarks, Mr. McLaughlin said.

“The results are in and they’ve have been analysed,” he said. “The results are alarming, there’s no other way to say it.”

The scores for the language arts were particularly bad.

“From year two, our children are falling behind the international benchmark,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It starts as early as that and only gets worse as time goes on.”

Mr. McLaughlin said there was a major issue with literacy in the Cayman Islands government schools.

“There’s a clear need for us to take radical steps to improve literacy and to improve language skills in our schools.”

Mr. McLaughlin said it has been known in the Cayman Islands for some time that the literacy levels were not what they should have been. He noted that employers have seen firsthand the lack of language skills of high school graduates entering the workforce.

The Terra Nova test just confirmed what the private sector has been saying.

“Now we have the hard evidence of it,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Although he was not in a position to give exact details of the test scores, Mr. McLaughlin said he would at a later date.

“I want to talk… about how bad it is,” he said, noting that the test results would not be kept secret.

“Unless we acknowledge the level of the problem with our education system, we are not going to be able to do what needs to be done to change it.”

Mr. McLaughlin said he would like to see the media launch a campaign in Cayman about the importance of reading and how exciting reading is.

“We have to get our people reading more,” he said. “We have to get our people to enjoy learning. Somewhere along the way, the enjoyment of reading has been lost.”

Language skills are were vital to the learning process, Mr. McLaughlin noted.

“If you can’t read or write well, you can’t really do anything else very well.”

Language skills were not the only poor showing on the Terra Nova tests for Cayman government school students. Mathematical skills’ testing was also done.

“I can tell you the results weren’t much better,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

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