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Collection: INTERAMER
Number: 35
Year: 1994
Author: Kenny D. Anthony
Title: The Legal Framework of Education in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

Conclusion: The Desirability and Feasibility of Common Education Laws

A remarkable feature of the laws surveyed is the near identical selection of subjects for legislative prescription. Indeed, there is abundant evidence that in drafting the respective laws, the islands borrowed from each other against a background of a common experience. Differences do exist, but these are not over “fundamentals.” Even where a particular island approached an individual subject differently, the others adopted a common approach.

It is clear, too, that the structures of the educational systems surveyed are identical. In all islands, three classes of schools are recognized: public, assisted, and private.

Then, too, the legal systems against which the statutory laws are premised are basically similar. Already, the system is administered by a shared court.

Irrespective of whether the sub-region integrates, there is likely to be increased mobility among the inhabitants of the various islands. Dislocations within the educational systems could be minimized by common legislation.

The push for the establishment of tertiary institutions will require rationalization through specialization. Common legislation would facilitate the process.

A crucial question remains. What should be the content of any common legislation?

The existing legislation reflects a tendency to centralize decision making. Ministerial power is immense. Consensus and partnership are not firmly established as the underlying principles of the statutes. A redefinition of philosophy appears to be essential.

A new Act should be simple and accessible to teachers and parents. This Act could be facilitated by structuring the Act into Parts and Divisions. The approach and drafting style of the Barbados Act and its amendments should be considered.416

A new Act must also include new subject matter. The need for an assessment of the educational enterprise by independent persons to Parliament every five years has already been stressed. It has been shown that the majority of states do not extend recognition to Parent Teacher Associations or bodies. Special powers may be necessary to provide for the zoning of attendance at public schools. Since the curriculum of secondary schools is influenced by syllabi created by the Caribbean Examinations Council, it is necessary to formalize existing practice. A new Act should specify the duties of leading functionaries, particularly, principals and teachers.

The need remains to deepen the involvement of the community generally and parents specifically in the management of education through re-designed School Boards. The philosophy of partnership must be extended to include a consultative role of the organizations representing the interests of teachers.

At the school level, the legislative imbalance between primary and secondary schools needs correction. Secondary schools must be made equally accountable to central authorities.

Though not considered in any great depth, the issue of discipline cannot be ignored. The present laws are woefully inadequate. The sovereignty of teachers and principals should be conceded and ministerial interference eliminated.

A correct balance must be drawn and maintained between the subjects contained in an Act, and the permissible regulations, rules, and orders to be made by the Minister. The power to make regulations must be conceded, particularly as education is changing so rapidly in the region. However, parliamentary control and scrutiny of regulations is historically weak and if other controls are not created and exercised, then the way may be paved for ministerial despotism.