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Collection: INTERAMER
Number: 35
Year: 1994
Author: Kenny D. Anthony
Title: The Legal Framework of Education in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

Nonformal Education

Nonformal Education is not a legal term of art. In education circles, the term is generally used to refer to any educational activity that is external to the school system and which is not planned or guided by the formal school system.

Existing legislation in the OECS sub-region does not recognize nonformal education as a distinct subject deserving of resources and attention. Indeed, as the above discussion has demonstrated, the emphasis is almost exclusively on formal education and in particular, primary education. None of the Acts or Ordinances expressly confer the responsibility of organizing activities for nonformal education on the Minister of Education. Some Acts do, however, contain provisions, albeit inadequate provisions, that have potential for activity in that sector. For example, the Education Act of Saint Vincent empowers the Minister to include as part of the system of public education “adult and continuing education, which is full-time education, or part-time education suited to the requirements of persons over the prescribed school leaving age.”281 However, since the relevant legislation contemplates that such activity takes place within the public system of education, then it qualifies to be part of the formal system and would be excluded by the definition just offered.

The difficulties in introducing legislation for this sector should not be ignored. Fundamentally, there is the question whether the coordination of nonformal education properly falls within the domain of the Minister of Education. Moreover, the activities in nonformal education are, in many ways, diffuse. A range of agencies are involved. It may be best for an innovative Education Act to recognize nonformal education but allow it to be managed by bodies external to the formal school system. This does not, however, mean that no such activity falls within the business of the Minister of Education.

One alternative is to enact separate legislation to govern nonformal education which focuses on occupational training. Consider the approach of Barbados, where Parliament has enacted an Occupational Training Act282 to provide for “the training of persons for, or in, gainful employment in occupations in all branches of economic activity in Barbados.” To effect the objectives of the Act, a National Training Board was established to perform the following functions:
(a) to take such measures as it considers necessary for ensuring an adequate supply of trained manpower in occupations in all branches of economic activity in Barbados;
(b) to take such steps as it considers necessary for improving the quality and efficiency of occupational training for apprentices and trainees;
(c) to institute, review, and maintain a system of tests in respect of occupations, and for granting certificates of efficiency to, and making reports on, persons who submit themselves to such tests;
(d) to protect and promote the welfare of apprentices and trainees;
(e) to take such measures as it considers necessary for ensuring that employers or classes of employers share in the costs of the apprenticeship of other occupational training;
(f) to investigate, and where possible, settle any dispute or other matter arising out of a contract between an apprentice or a trainee and an employer that may be referred to the Board; and
(g) to perform such other functions relating to apprenticeship and other training as may be prescribed.283
However, nonformal education is much more than occupational training. It may include literary activities, on-the-job training, leisure time occupation, and training. In the final analysis, a mixed approach is preferable. Nonformal Education deserves to be given statutory recognition in any Education Act but its development should be facilitated by enabling rather than by prescriptive powers.