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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 Modern Education Acts

In the 1970s, the islands of Antigua, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Grenada and Saint Lucia enacted new legislation to govern their educational systems. The Acts addressed common issues, but there is some divergence in the subject matter covered by the respective legislatures. Given the divergences, it may be wise to comment briefly on each Act, highlighting, where necessary, the principal features.

Antigua and Barbuda

The Antiguan legislation was enacted in 197334 and since then has not been amended. Section 3 charges the Minister with responsibility for:
(a) the establishment of a system of education designed to provide adequately for the planning and development of an educational service relating to the changing needs of the community; and
(b) the effective execution of the education policy of the Government.
The Minister is also directed to develop a system that caters to the “educational and vocational abilities” of children, to conduct “education for youths and adults,” and to conduct, establish, arrange, maintain and assist schools “in accordance with regulations to be made by him from time to time.”35 For the purpose of performing his responsibilities under the Act, the Minister is empowered to:
(a) require the attendance of children of compulsory school age at schools established and conducted under this Act;
(b) regulate the operation of private schools;
(c) make provision for the professional training of teachers for the entire system of public education and lay down standards which are necessary for the recruitment of teachers, their training and conditions of service;
(d) constitute committees or other bodies to advise him from time to time on educational and related matters;
(e) prescribe curricula, textbooks and practices in all public schools so as to ensure conformity with national standards of education;
(f) do all such other things as may be found expedient from time to time for the carrying out of his responsibilities for education and training.36
The Act establishes a system of education that comprises three stages, primary, secondary and further education. The third stage includes “full time education beyond secondary education or in addition to  it,”  part-time  education, and  interestingly,  “leisure  time  occupation in  organized  cultural  training  and  recreative activities.”37  The Minister is also given the discretionary power to establish an “Advisory Council.”38

Two categories of schools are recognized, public and private.39 The public school system comprises infant or nursery schools, primary schools, secondary and comprehensive schools, vocational or technical schools, teachers’ colleges, special schools for handicapped children, and “any other schools ... for the education of youths and adults along suitable courses.”40 Private schools are schools “provided and maintained by some person or authority other than the government.”41 Detailed provisions exist to register and monitor private schools.42 If a private school ceases to operate “in accordance with the requirements of [the] Act” and it fails to remedy deficiencies brought to its attention, then its registration may be canceled.43 Parliament, at the request of the school, may provide “aid from public funds.”44

Other provisions define the responsibilities of the Chief Education Officer and headteachers,45 the admission, transfer and suspension of pupils,46 school attendance,47 the discipline of pupils,48 religious instruction,49 compulsory education and attendance,50 schools for further education,51 Teachers’ Colleges,52 inspection of schools by medical and other officers authorized by the Minister,53 the maintenance of registers and records,54 and the specifications for school buildings.55

Section 63 of the Act empowers the Minister to make specified regulations. One important area is “the suitability of the curriculum, course and methods of instruction.”56 Curiously, he is also empowered to make regulations in respect of inter alia, the control, organization, management and conduct of teachers’ colleges and the selection, admission and removal of students from the college.57 This latter power would be unconstitutional if the teacher is a public officer appointed by the Public Service Commission. The Antigua Constitution assigns the power of removal of public officers exclusively to the Public Service Commission and no exception has been made in the case of public officers attending the Teacher’s College of Antigua.

Saint Christopher and Nevis

The Education Act of Saint Christopher and Nevis became law on July 31, 1975,58 and since then has been amended once.59 Not surprisingly, it borrowed heavily from the Antiguan Act. In this commentary, only the differences between the two Acts will be highlighted.

The powers of the Minister in Saint Christopher and Nevis are identical to his Antiguan counterpart.60 The system of education is structured in identical fashion.61 However, the Act provides for the mandatory establishment of an Education Committee to advise the Minister.62 Further provision is made for the functions, constitution, and procedure63 of this committee, matters which, one would have thought, are better placed in regulations or in a schedule to the Act. The classification of public schools is materially similar to Antigua,64 except that the Saint Christopher and Nevis Act is more careful in its definition of a public school65 and recognizes the category of a private school which is assisted by the state. These are private schools in receipt of grants from public funds under the provisions of the Act.66 Materially identical provisions to that of Antigua govern the responsibilities of the Chief Education Officer and school principals.67

One notable departure is in respect of private schools. Indeed, this Act goes much further than that of Antigua. No person may “open or conduct a private school” unless an application is made “on the prescribed form” and approved by the Minister.68 Returns, containing specified particulars, must be made to the Chief Education Officer. Persons may not be employed as teachers if the Chief Education Officer is satisfied that they are “unsuitable to be in charge of children or to teach them.”69 A negative decision may be appealed to the Minister whose decision is final. Whether these provisions impact on the fundamental rights is beyond the scope of this paper. Like Antigua, provisions are made for offenses relating to returns,70 for sanctions for breaching the Act,71 and for visits and enquiries by the Chief Education Officer.72 These provisions have their genesis in the pre-independence legislation governing education and are discussed in greater detail below.

Another significant departure is the enactment of detailed provisions to govern assisted schools. Basically, the Act seeks to link the accountability of these schools to the receipt of public funds. These schools are required to be managed, controlled and maintained73 by a Board of Management.74 Full and true accounts respecting receipt of public funds must be made “in a manner approved by the Minister.”75

The Minister is also empowered to establish special schools including educational facilities “for instruction by correspondence.”76 An interesting but questionable provision is the power of the Minister to enter into agreements with the University of the West Indies in specified matters.77 One would have thought that no legislation was required for this. Perhaps the objective is to ensure that the power is exercised exclusively by the Minister of Education.

Unlike Antigua, provision is made for school attendance officers to assist with problems of delinquency and absenteeism from school.78 Provision for suspension and expulsion of students are materially similar to that of Antigua. Identical powers are given to the Minister to make regulations.79

The Act also establishes a number of offenses and penalties for obstructing the execution of the Act and breaching its provisions.80

Grenada and Carriacou

Enacted in 1976, the Grenada Education Act,81 is, in many respects, a radical departure from those of Antigua and Saint Christopher and Nevis. First, the Grenada Act is essentially enabling in character. Significant areas are left to the Minister to define in subsidiary regulations. It is unclear whether these regulations are to be made by an affirmative or negative resolution, so the method of parliamentary scrutiny is uncertain.

The Grenada Act makes the Minister the undisputed legislative and managerial authority. It eschews consensus as the operative principle of decisionmaking. The powers of the Minister are largely subjective; but this does not, however, render such powers immune from judicial review. Consider the Minister’s range of powers. The Minister is empowered to make regulations respecting the following:
(a) all matters affecting education relating to
i) Pre-Primary, Primary and All Age Schools
ii) Secondary Schools
iii) Vocational Training and Future Education
iv) Teachers82
(b) the establishment and maintenance of primary and all age schools;83
(c) the establishment and maintenance of secondary schools;84
(d) the establishment, maintenance, discontinuance, management, administration, inspection of pre-primary schools, day nurseries and nursery schools for children of pre-school age, schools for handicapped and delinquent children;85
(e) the award of scholarships to institutions of higher learning on such terms and conditions as laid down;86 and (f) for the efficient operation of Private Schools and in particular for their establishment, maintenance, management administration, inspection and discontinuance.87
Quite apart from these provisions, the Act centralizes authority in the Minister in other respects. An Education Advisory Council shall be established “for the purpose of advising [the Minister] as to the performance of his responsibilities under the Act” and its membership “shall comprise such number of members as the Minister may determine.”88 In similar vein, section 13(1) says that no private school shall, after the commencement of the Act, be opened until the Minister approves it in writing.89

In the case of the Advisory Council, interest groups have no power to influence membership on the council. The effect of section 13(1) is to place the operation of private schools at the mercy of the Minister.

In the primary and secondary sector, three classes of schools are recognized, Government, Assisted, and Private Schools.90 Assisted Schools are placed under the management of a Board of Management,91 or in the case of several schools, a Central Board of Management.92 The usual responsibilities for the establishment, maintenance93 and the appointment of managers to these schools is conceded to the Boards.94 If the Minister “considers it expedient” he may, by order, appoint Committees of Management for any Government School.95 In the absence of any such committee, the Chief Education Officer or Assistant Education Officer may be appointed Manager.96 The potential for conflict of interest appears to be rather undisguised in this situation.

Assisted Schools may receive grants “out of moneys appropriated by Parliament.”97 In consequence, they are required to keep registers,98 submit detailed statements of expenditure of the grant annually,99 and allow the schools to be open to inspection during school hours by authorized persons.100

Saint Lucia

When Saint Lucia enacted and promulgated its Education Act in 1977,101 it had the benefits of the existing legislation of Antigua, Saint Christopher and Nevis, and Grenada. Not surprisingly, the Saint Lucia Act reflects some influence from these jurisdictions.

The Act is divided into eight parts. Part I contains preliminary matters. Part II establishes the Minister’s responsibilities and powers. Part III deals with Advisory Committees and ad hoc local Advisory Committees, their constitution, functions and powers. Part IV outlines the “Statutory System of Education,” and its sub-headings deal with the establishment of schools, a Committee of Management for Government Schools, supervision of public schools, technical and vocational education, and schools for further and other education. Part V enacts provisions for compulsory education. Part VI focuses on the Teaching Service and in particular, the appointment and employment of teachers. Part VII deals with the “Saint Lucia Scholarships,” their award, the conditions of the award, and forfeiture. Part VIII empowers the Minister to enact regulations in specified areas.

The Saint Lucia Act reflects both similarities and departures from the other islands. The system of public education is organized into three stages, primary, secondary and further education.102 Provision may be made for special schools for students who are deaf, mute, blind, retarded, or otherwise handicapped.103 Public Schools may be either assisted or Government owned.104 Provision is made for the appointment of Boards of Management for Assisted Schools105 and Committees of Management for Government Schools.106

This approach is identical to that of Grenada and partly similar to that of Saint Christopher and Nevis. Again, as in Saint Christopher and Nevis, the supervision of public schools is entrusted to the Chief Education Officer and Principals of Schools.107 The Act also stipulates their respective duties and responsibilities.108 Principals are permitted to suspend pupils for a period not exceeding two weeks,109 but where a suspension is effected, a prescribed procedure must be followed to inform the parents, the Board of Management and the Minister.110 Education is made compulsory for children up to and including a specified age.111 Like Saint Christopher and Nevis, provision is made for the appointment of School Attendance Officers to enforce compulsory attendance.112

Unlike the other jurisdictions Saint Lucia has opted to include detailed provisions to govern the award of the “Saint Lucia Scholarships.”113 This approach is commendable.

Surprisingly, and in sharp contrast to the other islands surveyed, the Saint Lucia Act virtually ignores Private Schools. Private Schools are recognized by definition114 and for purposes of disestablishment only. Under Section 31, the Minister may,

order the closure of any private school if he is dissatisfied with the manner in which the school is conducted; he shall, however give the person or body concerned, three months notice of his intention to disestablish the same.

In effect, private schools may be established at will. No mechanisms are available to supervise their programs, management, administration and inspection.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The most modern Education legislation presently in force in the states of the OECS is the Education Act of Saint Vincent which was enacted in 1992.115 The majority of the provisions have their sources in the Barbados Education Act.116 However, unlike the Barbados Act which is structured into parts and divisions, the Saint Vincent Act is merely subdivided into parts.

Part I deals with preliminary matters, mainly the definitions of the principal terms of the Act.117 Part II enacts provisions pertaining to the control and administration of the education system.118 This Part specifies the general powers of the Minister, his responsibilities and functions. Provision is made for the functions of the Chief Education Officer and an Advisory Board to the Minister. Part III defines the statutory system of public education.119 Provision is made for public schools, primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary institutions and the supervision of public schools. Part IV deals exclusively with private schools,120 including, inter alia, their organization, the requirements for registration, visits to private schools, cancellation of registration and appeals therefrom, re-registration, closure consequent on cancellation of registration, returns, health and sanitation, and the criteria for employment of teachers.

Part V governs compulsory education.121 As elsewhere, provision is made for the declaration of compulsory education areas, and the employment of School Attendance Officers to ensure compliance with compulsory education. These mirror provisions in other states.

Part VI makes provision for the appointment of teachers in government and assisted schools.122 As in other OECS states, the Minister is required to maintain a register known as “the Teachers Register,” a copy of which must be published annually in the Gazette. No person can be appointed as a teacher unless the application for registration is approved and his name is registered in the Teachers Register. Section 57 empowers the Public Service Commission, after appropriate consultation, to appoint “pensionable teachers” to the teaching service.123 This provision has no parallel in other Acts and may have been aimed at giving legal blessing to an existing practice. However, it is questionable whether section 57(4) which authorizes the Public Service Commission to delegate to the Chief Education Officer the power of transferring such teachers and of appointing teachers to nonpensionable posts is intra  vires  sections  77(13)  and  78(2) of  the  Saint Vincent Constitution. One would have thought that it is for the Public Service Commission to choose the public officer to whom it wishes to delegate its powers.

Provision is made for scholarships and grants in Part VII.124 However, the terms and conditions are to be specified in regulations.125 Part VIII deals with the inspection of educational institutions.126 These provisions are materially similar to the provisions in the Barbados Education Act.127

Part IX deals with a range of miscellaneous matters.128 Again, this part has been heavily influenced by the Barbados provisions. Within the OECS, the Act is innovative in several respects. Philosophically, it seeks to give expression to the notion that education is, essentially, a partnership. It concedes a role for the Saint Vincent Union of Teachers, the organization representing teachers. In the exercise of the powers to establish compulsory education areas, make provision for the professional training of teachers, and to prescribe textbooks, the Minister “shall consult the Saint Vincent Union of Teachers and such other organizations representing teachers as he may consider appropriate.”129 No other OECS state has an equivalent provision. Further, the Saint Vincent Union of Teachers as well as Parent-Teacher Associations are allowed to nominate representatives to the Education Advisory Board. These representatives “shall be appointed by the Minister by instrument in writing with the approval of Cabinet.”130 Additionally, section 67(2)(x) empowers the Minister to make regulations for, inter alia, “embodying any collective agreement arrived at between the Minister of Education and the Saint Vincent Union of Teachers concerning the conditions of service represented by the Union, or between the Minister of Education and any other body representing members of the teaching profession in respect of such members.” These legislative measures will, no doubt, help to strengthen the professional role of the union as a partner in the educational enterprise.

The Act has also deepened the involvement of the community in the management and delivery of education services. It makes provision for the Minister to establish, by Order, a Governing Board for each government secondary school established under the Act. As noted earlier, in the majority of the states of the OECS, School Boards are confined to assisted schools. Its extension to government secondary schools is a departure and signals a recognition of the need to involve the community in the management of education. It is perhaps unfortunate that the composition of these boards is solely to be determined by the Minister.131 The Act has also followed other states by permitting the establishment of Boards of Management in assisted primary and assisted secondary schools.132 These Boards “shall consist of not less than three members appointed by the establishing authority.”133 The functions are largely confined to the control, management, and maintenance of the physical plant.134

Other Education Statutes

This survey would be incomplete without the identification of other legislation on education.

In Grenada, the Education (Compulsory) at Primary Schools Ordinance,135 enacted on August 11, 1920, remains on the statute book. This Act allows for the appointment of School Attendance Officers, and the imposition of penalties by magistrates on parents for failing in their duty to ensure the attendance of their offspring.136 An 1852 Act, the Religious and Educational Societies Property Act,137 allows for the vesting of property “acquired by any congregation or society or body of persons associated for religious purposes, or for the promotion of education in the manner stipulated by these bodies.”138 In 1971, Parliament enacted legislation to allow for the incorporation of the “Westmoreland School,” and the appointment of trustees to manage the affairs of the school.139 The Saint George’s University (School of Medicine) Limited Act, 1976, gave statutory effect to the agreement to establish the said university.140 The use of statute to incorporate off-shore medical schools is not unique to Grenada. Montserrat too has enacted legislation to permit the licensing and control of foreign universities and colleges.141

In Saint Lucia, the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College was established by statute.142 This route was adopted primarily to ensure the independence of the institution and to provide it with flexibility of operation. A community college also exists in Antigua but it appears that it is not the subject of separate legislative treatment.