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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 Status of Private Schools

The position regarding private schools has been discussed in several places in this paper. It now remains to summarize the main elements.

With the sole exception of Saint Lucia, elaborate provisions exist in the legislation under review to govern private schools. With regard to the establishment of private schools, two approaches are discernible. The legislation of Grenada,371 Montserrat372 and Saint Christopher and Nevis373 prohibit the opening of a private school after the commencement of the respective Acts or Ordinances came into force, unless prior approval is obtained. However, private schools in operation prior to the commencement of the respective Acts may apply to continue within three months of the Act’s promulgation in Saint Christopher and Nevis and six months in Saint Vincent.374 The Antiguan legislation is to similar effect. “No person shall keep or continue to keep a private school unless the school and the proprietor are registered in the Register.”375 Dominica’s Education Ordinance does not prohibit the establishment of private schools, but gives a discretionary power to the Cabinet to determine whether a private school should be the beneficiary of public funds.376

In Grenada, the Minister is empowered to make regulations “for the efficient running of private schools and in particular for their establishment, maintenance, management and administration, inspection and discontinuance.”377 Part XXVI of the Regulations deals with these matters.378

Provisions exist for returns containing specified particulars to be made to the Minister. The particulars in respect of Dominica,379 Montserrat,380 and Saint Christopher and Nevis381 are nearly identical. Typical of that group are the requirements of Saint Christopher and Nevis. They are as follows:
(a) the proprietor’s full name and address;
(b) the situation of the school and whether the proprietor is the owner, or lessee, or tenant of the premises;
(c) the number and size of classrooms;
(d) details of the furniture, equipment and appliances to be used in each classroom;
(e) the area (if any) allotted as a playground;
(f) the number and type of latrines to be used in connection with the school;
(g) provisions for the supply of drinking water;
(h) the hours during which the school is open;
(i) the full name, address and qualifications of every teacher;
(j) the program of education to be provided; and
(k) such other information as the Chief Education Officer may require for the purpose of making more complete or explicit the foregoing particulars.382
Information on changes of ownership and closure beyond thirty days must be submitted to the Minister in Grenada383 and Antigua,384 an education officer in Dominica,385 the head of the Department of Education in Montserrat,386 and the Chief Education Officer in Saint Christopher and Nevis.387

Some control is exercised over the employment of teachers in private schools. In Saint Vincent, teachers must “possess at least the minimum qualifications required of a teacher employed in a government primary school.”388 In Montserrat,389 Saint Christopher and Nevis,390 and Saint Vincent, the Chief Education Officer must be “satisfied that the proposed teacher is fit for employment in a private school or is suitable to be in charge of children or to teach them.” A negative decision may be appealed to the Minister. In Dominica, no teacher may be employed without a certificate of competency from the education officer.391 A person may not be employed “if he has been convicted of any offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude of a kind indicating unsuitability for the profession.”392

Provisions have been made in all the islands for visits by the Head of Department or his representative in Montserrat,393 the education officer or any other duly authorized officer in Dominica,394 the Minister or his representative in Antigua,395 and the Chief Education Officer in Saint Christopher and Nevis,396 and the Minister or the Chief Education Officer or their delegates in Saint Vincent.397 It is an offense if a proprietor falsifies or fails to furnish a prescribed return in Dominica,398 Montserrat,399 Saint Christopher and Nevis,400 and Antigua.401 Likewise, it is an offense to obstruct or make a false representation to an authorized officer who is visiting a private school to make enquiries in Dominica,402 Montserrat,403 and Saint Christopher and Nevis.404 In Antigua it is an offense only where there is a false representation or a willful refusal to supply information requested.405

A magistrate, upon application by an authorized officer, may order the closure of a private school if the magistrate is satisfied that the school “is not being conducted in accordance with [the law],” in Dominica406 and Montserrat407 or “upon being satisfied [in Saint Christopher and Nevis]408 that the proprietor contravened any of the provisions of [the Education Act] or of any regulations made thereunder.”

As noted elsewhere, the Ordinances and Acts confer powers on the relevant Minister or other authorized body to enact regulations to govern private schools. In Saint Christopher and Nevis409 and Antigua410 regulations may be made “for the control and management of private schools” in respect of, inter alia, classroom sizes, safety and preservation of health, suitability of the premises, suitability of the curriculum, and courses and methods of instruction. In Montserrat411 regulations may be made respecting the following:
(a) the size of classrooms in private schools and their equipment, the number of children that may occupy each such classroom and the necessary latrine conveniences to be provided;
(b) for the preservation of health and the prevention of the spread of disease among the pupils in private schools;
(c) for prescribing the registers and other records to be kept by proprietors of private schools and the particulars to be supplied to the Head of the Department of Education by them; and
(d) generally, for more effectually carrying out the provisions of this Part.
Save for the additional power to define the powers and duties of the Education Officer, identical powers to make regulations exist in Dominica.412 The scope of the power of the Minister to make regulations in Grenada has already been noted.413

There can be little doubt that some measure of control must be exerted on private schools. The real question is this: given that private schools constitute private property, what controls are reasonable in the public interest? The answers are not easy. Certainly, a “hands off” approach as in Saint Lucia appears highly undesirable. A law that seeks to prevent the establishment of a private school could well be an unconstitutional infringement of a right to enjoy property. A careful balance must, therefore, be struck between private ownership and the public interest.