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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)

Secondary Education

All the laws make token references to secondary education. Consistent with their recency, the laws of Antigua, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Grenada and Saint Lucia deal with the subject more extensively. For ease of discussion the legislation will be considered under two headings, the pre-1970 legislation and the legislation of the 1970s.

Pre-1970 Legislation

The legislation of Dominica and Montserrat recognizes secondary education principally by the definition of a “secondary school.” In Dominica, a secondary school means

a school duly recognized by the education officer as providing post primary instruction in academic, technical, industrial or commercial subjects.229

To this definition the Montserrat Ordinance adds the clause “for pupils up to the age of twenty years.” Unless otherwise stated, the provisions which apply to schools generally, also apply to secondary schools.

The Dominica Ordinance established three classes of secondary schools, namely, government schools, assisted schools, and private schools.230 These schools “may be established and maintained in accordance with regulations made under ... the Ordinance.”231 Further provision is made for the award of scholarships to secondary schools.232

In Montserrat, government secondary schools “shall be managed by their principals in a manner and in accordance with such policy as may be approved by the Administrator in Council.”233 The same applies where the secondary school is an assisted school.234 Like Dominica, provision is made for the award of scholarships to a government or assisted secondary school.235 Under section 39(b), the Administrator in Council may make regulations dealing with:
i) the establishment, maintenance and discontinuance of Government secondary schools, their policy and administration;
ii) the payment or remission of pupils’ fees;
iii) the award, amount and tenure of scholarships and the conditions under which the candidates shall be examined.
To date no such regulations have been enacted. The implication from s.39(5) is that private secondary schools are virtually on their own once they have satisfied the procedural requirements stipulated in the Ordinance.

A similar power to make regulations vests in the relevant functionary in Dominica. The matters identified in section 38(2)(a) and 38(2)(b) of the Dominica Ordinance are identical to s.39(b)(i) and 39(b)(iii) of Montserrat, cited above. However, the Dominica Ordinance added the power to make regulations to govern:
(a) ...
(b) the inspection and examination of such schools and the courses and schedules of studies to be followed therein;
(c) payments of grants-in-aid to secondary schools and the conditions over which such payments shall be made; the payment and remission of pupils’ fees;
(d) ....236
Interestingly, apart from regulations to grant scholarships to the Dominica Grammar School,237 no other regulations were enacted. However, the regulations of general applicability in the Dominica Education Rules, already discussed above, would apply.

The Post-1970 Education Acts

With the possible exception of Grenada and Saint Vincent, it is generally true today that the statutory laws relating to secondary education are few. All the islands—Antigua, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Grenada and Saint Lucia—treat secondary education as one of the stages in the system of public education.

Antigua and Barbuda

In Antigua, secondary education “consist[s] of full time education suitable to the requirements of senior pupils who are under the age of twenty years.”238 However, section 11(1)(c) of the Education Act includes comprehensive schools as part of the public school system. Provision is made for the establishment of “secondary or comprehensive schools [to provide] education suitable for pupils between the ages of twelve and twenty years.”239 Section 2 says that a comprehensive school “means a school intended for providing all the secondary education facilities needed by the children of a given area.”

Saint Christopher and Nevis

In Saint Christopher and Nevis, secondary education “shall consist of full time education suitable to the requirements of senior pupils.”240 However, unlike Antigua, no upper age limit is specified. Thus, public schools may comprise “secondary schools or secondary departments of schools providing education suitable for children of over twelve years of age.”241

Grenada and Carriacou

Grenada’s approach is slightly different and in some respects, untidy. The Education Act recognizes secondary schools, does not define it, per se, but makes a distinction between a “junior secondary school” and a “senior secondary school.” The latter is “a school recognized by the Minister as providing full time education suitable to the requirements of senior pupils under the age of twenty years.”242 A “junior secondary” school is one which is “recognized by the Minister as providing full time education suitable to the requirements of children from the age of twelve years to the age of sixteen years.”243

Part IV of the Act deals specifically with secondary schools. Section 12(1) provides that secondary schools “may be established and maintained in accordance with regulations made under [the] Act.” The Act permits the use of a diversified curriculum. Thus, section 12(3) states that “centers for manual training and for practical instruction in domestic science may be established, maintained or assisted either independently or as departments of all age or secondary schools, and arrangements may be made for commercial and other technical subjects.”

Consistent with its approach to exert greater administrative and regulatory control, the Act empowers the Minister to make regulations dealing with secondary schools in respect of the following matters:
i) the establishment, maintenance and discontinuance of Government Secondary Schools and Assisted Secondary Schools and the administration and management of Government Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools;
ii) the evaluation of the work of such schools, the curriculum to be followed therein, and the examinations to be taken;
iii) the payments of grants-in-aids to Secondary Schools and the conditions under which such payments shall be made;
iv) the payment or remission of the fees of Government Exhibitioners and needy pupils;
v) the award, number and tenure of exhibitions and the conditions under which candidates shall be examined;
vi) the operation of Private Secondary Schools.244
Saint Lucia

The Saint Lucia Education Act marries the approaches of Grenada and Antigua. Secondary schools may be established to provide education for children of ages between twelve and twenty years.245 The Act reproduces the definition of secondary education used in Antigua246 and defined above, but like Grenada, and in nearly identical words, defines a junior secondary school as a school “providing education for children between the ages of twelve and fifteen years.”247 Curiously, no mention is made of senior secondary schools even though one would have thought that once the “Junior Secondary” category was established, then a “Senior Secondary” category would be identified. However, it may be noted that within the public school system, the Minister may establish either “Junior Secondary Schools or departments of Junior Secondary Schools.”248 No specific mention is made of “Comprehensive Secondary Schools” though they exist in Saint Lucia. Admittedly, however, the Act would permit the establishment of such schools.249

Special regulations exist in respect of two Secondary Assisted Schools. The Saint Mary’s College Regulations constitute a Board of Management to govern the affairs of the school and the award of scholarships to the school by specified bodies and persons.250 Another makes provision for grants-in-aid to the Saint Joseph’s Convent.251 The latter is a rather dated piece of legislation that requires repeal, reform and possibly reenactment.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The Education Act of Saint Vincent makes no distinctions in the types of secondary education offered to the community at large. Secondary education is “full time education suitable to the requirements of students of ages eleven to nineteen years.”252 However, a student over the age of fifteen may pursue education that is tertiary in character. Tertiary education assumes that the primary phase of education has ended. Section 11(1) (c) states that tertiary education may be full-time or part-time education “suited to the requirements of persons over the age of fifteen years who are not enrolled for secondary education in any school, or if so enrolled, have completed that course.”253

It is somewhat surprising that the upper age limit for secondary education is nineteen years. Many students who pursue Advanced Level studies to satisfy matriculation requirements for entry into university sit their examinations in their early twenties. Perhaps the intention of the education authorities is to treat Advanced Level studies as tertiary education.

Enhancing Regulatory Control of Secondary Schools

As noted above, in all the jurisdictions surveyed, secondary schools may either be public, assisted, or private. Thus, subject to the respective Acts, secondary education in private schools may be organized and delivered in any manner dictated by those schools.

While reference is made to admission of pupils to secondary schools which are public schools, the majority of the Acts, Ordinances, or Regulations do not make detailed provisions for the admission of pupils by examination. The sole exceptions appear to be Antigua and Saint Lucia. Section 25 of the Antigua Education Act,254 states,
  • Until a comprehensive school is set up in an area, the Minister shall cause examinations to be conducted for the purpose of determining the eligibility of pupils for admission to public secondary schools.
  • When a comprehensive school is erected in an area, the Minister shall discontinue examinations for the purpose of ascertaining the eligibility of pupils for admission to a public secondary school. On reaching the age of twelve years at 31st March or in the same year the pupil shall be transferred from the primary school to the comprehensive school in the area.
The linkage between comprehensive schools and examinations for admission to public secondary schools is puzzling.

In Saint Lucia, the Primary Education (Amendment) Regulations,255 makes provision for the award of Government Scholarships to secondary schools, the conditions attached to these scholarships, and crucially, the conduct of the common entrance examination to determine the award of the scholarships. The regulations provide as follows:

The Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Secondary Schools concerned shall set up a Common Entrance Examination Committee consisting of competent teachers to exercise the following functions:
(a) to ascertain that marking schemes are prepared and that scripts are marked in accordance with pre-designed schemes;
(b) to ensure the relevancy of the examination to the syllabus and maintain vigilance over standards;
(c) to set and mark the examination;
(d) to tabulate the results in conjunction with the Principals of the Secondary Schools involved and to submit them immediately to the Scholarship Board.
If these regulations are intended to govern the general conduct of the common entrance examination, then they are, in practice, ignored. Moreover, they do not detail the procedures and criteria to be employed in the allocation of places.

In view of the public importance attached to the process surrounding the common entrance examinations, the need to ensure administrative probity in the allocation of places, and the need to minimize abuse by functionaries within the system, it would be extremely useful if the parent legislation compels the Minister to enact appropriate regulations to govern the allocation of places to secondary schools. The Barbados case of Attorney General v. Barker and Pilgrim mentioned above,256 should be salutary reminder of the need for proper controls.

The legislation just surveyed does not adequately address issues of curricula and examinations in secondary schools. Given the rapidly changing character of education, it would be disadvantageous if statute sought to define curricula too compactly and rigidly. It would suffice if a general power is conferred on the Minister to enact appropriate regulations.

While all the islands have recognized the examinations offered by the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Education Acts and Ordinances do not recognize the CXC examinations. This is an omission which should be rectified at the earliest. For all practical purposes it is the CXC examinations which dictate the curriculum of the senior forms of secondary schools.

Arguably too, there is a demonstrated need to strengthen the accountability of the secondary sector. The legislative emphasis on regulations for the primary sector seems to suggest that primary schools require greater regulatory control and guidance. This approach is not only imbalanced but profoundly mistaken.