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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 35
Año: 1994
Autor: Kenny D. Anthony
Título: The Legal Framework of Education in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

The Financing of Education

Subject to the provisions allowing for financial assistance to private schools from public funds, the Education Acts of the OECS sub-region make no provisions for the financing of education. In general, education is financed from diverse sources, including (i) public funds; (ii) foreign aid; (iii) loans raised from agencies, local and international banks, institutions; and (iv) gifts from companies, agencies, and individuals.

To supplement its traditional sources of funding, the Dominica Parliament enacted an Education Trust Fund Act.284 This Act established an Education Trust Fund to “raise money by means of contributions or donations by persons or groups of persons, clubs, local, regional or international associations or by fund raising activities.”285 The Minister is empowered to appoint a Board of Trustees “consisting of not less than five and not more than seven persons.”286 Subject to the Act and any regulations made thereunder, the Board is empowered to “grant financial assistance to any student, if in the opinion of the Board such student would be unable to complete his education in the absence of such financial assistance.”287 To avoid any intermingling with the consolidated fund and control by the Minister of Finance, any moneys received for and on behalf of the fund “shall be deposited with a bank ... and shall not be paid into the general revenue of the state.”288 The success of this initiative is, at the moment, unknown.

Apart from the Dominica legislation just discussed, it would be difficult to find other legislation that deals with the financing of education. The reason is rather simple. Few, if any, Caribbean Ministers of Finance would wish the allocation of public funds to be dictated by legislation particularly in a situation of competitive financial priorities.

Several countries make provision for free education in specified public schools. In Grenada, section 7(2) of the Education Act,289 states that “Pupils shall be admitted free to all Government and Secondary Assisted Primary and all age Schools.” A provision to the same effect exists in the Education Act of Saint Vincent.290 Likewise, in Montserrat, “pupils shall be admitted free of the payment of any fees to Government primary and post primary schools.”291 In the case of Government secondary schools, pupils “may be charged such fees as may be prescribed.”292 Caught too in the spirit of the times, the Dominican Education Ordinance also provides that pupils “shall be admitted free to all public elementary schools.”293 Other statutory enactments are content to say that public schools are maintained at public expense.

In none of the islands mentioned above is the payment of fees to secondary schools excluded. In practice, secondary education is virtually free throughout the region. In addition, the governments provide a range of subsidies. Some operate free textbook schemes, some subsidize the cost of transport, others even assist in meeting the cost of school uniforms. These subsidies are matters handled primarily through budgetary policies.

As noted above, every Act or Ordinance makes provision for financial assistance to schools described as “assisted schools.” These schools, some of which may be private as in Saint Christopher and Nevis, or under the control of religious bodies as in Saint Lucia, acquire their description by virtue of the receipt of public funds. The Saint Lucia Act makes no stipulation as to the provision or accountability of public funds made available to religious bodies. However, the Acts of Saint Christopher and Nevis and Grenada require formal accounting of funds.294 The Antigua Act is somewhat more liberal. Any private school may receive aid from public funds.295 Schools in receipt of such funds are required to submit a “detailed statement of the finances ... including fees received, individual salary of teachers and/or board members, in respect of [the operations] of the previous year.”296 The provisions in Dominica297 and Montserrat298 are materially similar to that of Antigua.

Where a school is assisted, it would seem wise if clear legislative guidelines are prescribed for the disbursement and accountability of public funds.