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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)

Provisions for Pre-school Education

In general, the Acts, Ordinances and Regulations presently in force largely ignore Pre-School Education. The major exceptions are the regulations of Grenada and Antigua.

Grenada and Carriacou

Under section 2 of the Education Act of Grenada165 reference is made to a “pre-primary school.” This is “a school recognized by the Minister as providing education suitable to the requirements of children of the age of 2-5 years.”166 Section 4(1)(d) of the same Act empowers the Minister to make regulations for pre-primary schools in respect of their establishment, maintenance, discontinuance and inspection. The Act also draws a distinction between  “Day nurseries and nursery schools for children of pre-school age”  on the one hand and pre-primary schools on the other.167   Though  obviously catering for the same age group, the Act suggests that these schools exist for different purposes and activities.

It is clear that any of the above categories may be established as a private school. No private school may, however, admit a child “under the age of two years.”168 Where a pre-school is established as a private school, it becomes entitled to state assistance and thus becomes “an assisted school.”169 In that event, it would have to adhere to the laws applicable to such schools. The laws regarding private schools would also apply.

Part XXVI of the Education Regulations would be applicable to pre-schools which are private schools. Thus, certain particulars must be provided when seeking ministerial approval to open a private school.170 The Minister must be informed of any changes of ownership,171 as well as a closure of the school “for a period longer than thirty consecutive days.”172 New particulars may be requested on reopening.173

Antigua and Barbuda

The Antigua Education Act envisages the establishment of pre-schools within the system of public education. Section 11(1)(a) provides that the public school system may include “infant or nursery schools or departments of schools providing education suitable for children under the age of five years.”174 No child may be admitted to a nursery school which is a public school “unless he has attained the age of three years or be retained in such a school after he has attained the age of five years.”175 No further laws define the nature, character, curriculum and accountability of these schools.

Like Grenada, a pre-school may be established as a private school,176 so that the laws applicable to private schools would apply mutatis mutandis to pre-schools that are private.177

Saint Lucia

The Saint Lucia Act virtually ignores pre-school education. Its statutory system of education, discussed above, makes no reference to pre-schools whether directly or indirectly. Admittedly, under section 10(1) of the Education Act,178 pre-schools may be established by virtue of the Minister’s general power of establishing “any other schools or institutions for the education of such categories of persons as the Minister may determine.”179

Of course, a pre-school may be established as a private school. However, private schools in Saint Lucia are not as closely regulated as those in Antigua and Grenada. The virtual disregard of the private sector is consistent with the Act’s emphasis on the public system of education.

Saint Christopher and Nevis

The Saint Christopher and Nevis Act180 is primarily concerned with regulating public schools. The existence of pre-school education either in the public sector or the private sector is not acknowledged either directly or indirectly. However, a pre-school may be established as a private school. In that event approval for the opening of such a school would have to be obtained from the Minister in the usual manner.181 The usual laws enforcing the accountability of private schools would also apply.182

Dominica

The Dominica Education Act183 recognizes the existence of pre-school education but neither defines nor regulates it in any detail. For example, section 2 recognizes the existence of a “play center,” that is, “a center established for the care and training of children below the age of five years.” Nothing further is said of these play centers.

However, as in the other islands surveyed, a pre-school may be established as a private school.184 This follows ineluctably from the definition of the latter. Private school means
a school or educational class or institution attended by seven or more children, not being a Government school or assisted school. ... Provided that where the children attending a school are all under the age of six years the school shall not be deemed a private school for the purpose of this Ordinance unless there are more than twelve children in attendance.185
Again, a pre-school which is a private school would be regulated by the laws governing such schools.186 These laws are broadly similar to those met above.

Montserrat

Subject to the possibility that a pre-school may be a private school,187 the Montserrat legislation does not address pre-school education. Indeed, pre-school education is not acknowledged as the responsibility of the public system of education.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The Education Act of Saint Vincent makes only token reference to pre-primary education. Section 11(2)(a) states that the Minister “may include as part of the system of public education pre-primary education, which is education suited to the needs of children under five years of age.”188 The Act does not prevent the establishment of pre-schools by private entrepreneurs. However, the establishment of private pre-school must satisfy the provisions governing the establishment and maintenance of private schools.

Importance of Pre-school Education

Notwithstanding some recognition of pre-school education, none of the laws reviewed treat pre-school education as a fundamental aspect of the education system. The legislation seems to suggest that it is a stage best left to private sector initiative. The limited resources available to the state probably restricts investment in this sector. This limitation should not, however, inhibit the state from ensuring that appropriate regulations are in place to govern the accountability and curriculum and the accountability of such schools.