LAST PUBLIC CONSULTATION FOR EDUCATION BILL

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By admin September 9, 2011 09:35

LAST PUBLIC CONSULTATION FOR EDUCATION BILL

 

No draft piece of legislation has undergone so much public scrutiny and debate in recent times in Anguilla than the Education Bill. Its latest discussion was at the Teachers’ Resource Centre on Monday night, September 5.

 

 

 


L-R: Winston Duncan, Veda Harrigan, Hon. Edison Baird and Chanelle Petty-Barrett
L-R: Winston Duncan, Veda Harrigan, Hon. Edison Baird and Chanelle Petty-Barrett

Speaking to The Anguillian later, Minister of Social Development, Edison Baird, said he wished to make it clear that the consultation was the last time that the Bill would be taken to the public for discussion. He stated that the draft legislation was repeatedly discussed and had been extensively amended. Further information about the Bill is expected to be in connection with its presentation in the Anguilla House of Assembly for debate and passage.

Monday’s public consultation was presided over by Mr. Baird and was led by Permanent Secretary, Education, Mrs. Chanelle Petty-Barrett, assisted by Acting Chief Education Officer, Ms. Veda Harrigan, and Education Officer, Winston Duncan.

“I am pleased to officially welcome you to this consultation on the Education Bill 2011,” Mr. Baird told members of the public in attendance. “The Bill has been sometime in the making, and this evening you are being provided with another opportunity to give your input. We believe that public consultation on this Bill is important to ensure not only that you are aware of its contents, but that you are given an opportunity to raise your concerns and have them addressed where appropriate.

 

Ursil Webster seeking clarification along with other attendees
Ursil Webster seeking clarification along with other attendees

“The Education Bill 2011 proposes to replace the existing Education Act. The Bill will establish the framework for the functioning of the education system in Anguilla. In other words, it will govern what we do in education…This Bill indeed concerns all of society, thus I look forward to an evening of meaningful discussion, with all of you, as we seek to develop our educational system for the advancement of Anguilla as a whole.”

Mrs. Petty Barrrett, who is also an Attorney-at-Law, highlighted the important features of the Education Bill and explained the various amendments made to the draft legislation ever since it was first made public in April 2010. She focused on the provisions which substantially differed from the existing Education Act and which were new.

“The Bill allows for the provision of early childhood education services,” she began. “This is something that the previous Act did not address. It sets out a basic framework and allows the Minister to establish a Council on Early Childhood Education with the expectation that regulations can be put in place…There is special provision for special education programmes for students and it sets out a regime, as well, regarding the determination of special education needs…

“The Bill also addresses the issue of home education and gives parents the right to keep their children at home and, of course, that is subject to further conditions. The Chief Education Officer has a right to examine the programme… to determine whether or not it meets the goals of the education system as set out in the Bill. The CEO is obligated to assess home school students and provide assistance where necessary, and make recommendations to parents regarding how they can improve the delivery of their home education programme. The CEO also has the power to terminate a home education programme if it is found not to be up to standard and the relevant parties were given an opportunity to make remediation efforts.”

 

Attendees at the Public Consultation
Attendees at the Public Consultation

The Permanent Secretary said the establishment of private and Government-assisted educational institutions was also addressed in the Bill although it was not an entirely new provision, but had now set out a more comprehensive regime [of regulations] in relation to the institutions, including a permit to operate. She said private schools could be one of the following: a school which has agreed to accept public funds; a school whose property is jointly owned by the Government and a private owner whose management is jointly shared between the Minister and the private owner and in receipt of public funds; or an assisted private school can be one which is owned by the Government and designated as an assisted private school for management purposes. The Boards for assisted private schools will have to be appointed by the Minister.

The Bill also provides for denominational schools but can only be assisted private schools by choice, even though in receipt of public funds.

“Technical and Vocational Education and Training is a very important part of the Bill,” Mrs. Petty-Barrett explained. “It enables the Minister to establish a Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council which is really responsible for developing a National Strategy and Plan on TVET. The TVET Council is responsible for coordinating this level of education throughout all levels of the system – from secondary to tertiary. It has a wide membership representing various institutions and associations.” These include the President of the Community College; the TVET Council; the Chief Education Officer; persons from industry and the Civil Service Association. The Council is also responsible for establishing an effective system for monitoring the implementation of the TVET Strategy and Plan and preparing a National Policy and Training Programme to meet the needs of the Anguillian society.

Mrs. Petty-Barrett also mentioned various other provisions of the Education Bill, as well as many other important and minor amendments and improvements undertaken during the course of the drafting, public consultations and review of the Bill.

A long question and answer period followed the Permanent Secretary’s comprehensive presentation. One of the matters which was raised and led to much discussion was corporal punishment in schools. This was an issue which the Ministry was first requested, by concerned persons, to take out of the Bill, but was subsequently asked to put back in.

Attorney-at-Law, Josephine Gumbs-Connor, one of the main commentators on the matter, requested on Monday that corporal punishment, considered “inhumane and degrading” by global Human Rights organisations, should now be removed from the Bill. She argued that, in essence, it should not be considered to be part of the provisions of the Education Bill as the United Kingdom had abolished corporal punishment and had signed international Human Rights Treaties on behalf of Anguilla to that effect. She suggestedthat in removing the provision, the people of the island should be told about the matter.

No decision was arrived at to remove corporal punishment from the Bill. This is a matter likely to resurface in the House of Assembly when the otherwise heavily-amendeddraft legislation is eventually taken there.


admin
By admin September 9, 2011 09:35

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