Teaching civics in schools

| 19/02/2019
Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

I just read that a CNN poll found that 12% of American adults had never even heard of Mike Pence, which suggests that about 30 million voters have no clue who the vice president is, let alone what he stands for, which is astounding. That made me think, is civics taught in Cayman schools, such as our political system, the identities of our political leaders, the judicial system, their rights and duties? If not, why not?

Auntie’s answer: Yikes! That statistic is truly astounding and really, just sad. I doubt that those 12% of Americans vote if they are that disengaged and, of course, that is the point of your question. If people have no clue what’s going on in politics and the running of the country, they are less likely to care who’s in charge, and if they do bother with elections, they have no idea what they are voting for, other than a sappy slogan.

It would be great if, at the very least, young people had a basic grasp of how their government works as well as their responsibility to vote, and that’s what civic lessons are for, as thrilling as that might sound to our children.

I contacted the Ministry of Education and an official has provided information on the teaching of civics in government schools. I have also reached out to many of the private schools in Cayman but as I anticipate it will take a while to receive and compile those answers, I wanted at least to provide the government’s response.

First of all, the teaching of civics is actually mandated in the Education Law 2016. Part 5 (Curriculum and Educational Stage Assessment) Section 17(4) says, “The mandatory subjects shall include literacy, numeracy, science, information and communications technology, the arts, physical education, and studies related to civics, religion, and the history and culture of the Islands.”

In addition, the teaching of civics is set out in the National Curriculum 2008 for Social Studies. It starts in Key Stage 2 (Years 4-6), the ministry official explained, when apparently students learn to identify leaders in different groups and situations, describe ways people can become leaders, for example through election, and describe processes that groups use to make rules and laws. Additional related topics are covered in Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9), which include the key characteristics of parliamentary and other forms of government, and the electoral system and the importance of voting.

“The schools use Cayman Islands social studies textbooks and web-based materials as resources to teach civics,” the official added.

However, as the teaching of civics is “not broken out as a specific knowledge objective at this level”, the official said this will be “specifically stated in the (updated) curriculum for the avoidance of doubt” and include supporting resources.

There is apparently no confirmed timetable yet on when the updated curriculum will be released.

Now, the curriculum looks fairly comprehensive up through Key Stage 3, which goes up through Year 9, but from what the official said it’s not clear that Cayman Islands students in government schools are currently taught civics past that level. I think it’s a shame it does not continue all the way through school.

Although I understand the emphasis must be on making sure that students can read and write and that their maths is up to scratch, they should also be expected to take their place in society, including voting in elections, or the whole point of democracy is lost. Perhaps some of our educators can enlighten us on this topic through this column.

I have to say, I am generally very impressed with how engaged with politics people are here and the percentage of registered voters who turn out for general elections is extremely high compared to, for example, the US or the UK. I’m wondering though if that will pass onto the next generation, with the many distractions of gaming, social media and television, etc, that their parents and grandparents did not have.

Read the National Curriculum 2008 for social studies in the CNS Library

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Pence is that bumbling idiot in the background that says nothing but agrees to all of the nonsense that Trump spews.