New education law more comprehensive

The Education and Training Law passed by the Legislative Assembly in the final Meeting of the 2004/05 Session is more comprehensive and modern than earlier drafts of the document, said Minister of Education Roy Bodden recently.

‘This is an all together different law,’ said Mr. Bodden. ‘It spells out the responsibilities of the various entities involved in education in unambiguous terms.’

The extensive new law provides for the establishment of an Education Appeals Tribunal, incorporates the Schools’ Inspectorate into the Law, modernizes the function of Education Council and allows for the appointment of a National Training Board, Mr. Bodden said.

The Education Appeals Tribunal will rule on appeals of decisions made by various entities in the Education Department on matters such as suspensions, expulsion and the general decorum of students or teachers.

Other functions of the Tribunal include identifying students that have special education needs; determining if a student needs an individual education plan and directing the implementation of such a plan; directing the Chief Education Officer to enrol a student in a particular school; and defining the contents of a student record that is under appeal.

The Schools’ Inspectorate, which already exists but has only operated under regulations before, is now part of the Law, Mr. Bodden said.

All government schools, assisted private educational institutions and pre-primary educational institution, and the programmes therein, are subject to inspection.

Mr. Bodden explained that all private schools in the Cayman Islands currently receive technical and/or financial assistance from the Government, meaning they are all ‘assisted private schools’ under the definition of the laws.

‘Private schools under the Law do not exist in the Cayman Islands right now,’ said Mr. Bodden.

The Inspectorate will inspect schools and other educational institutions with respect to educational standards.

‘A Schools’ Improvement Unit will be formed so that weaknesses identified by the Inspectorate are addressed and alleviated,’ Mr. Bodden said.

One important section of the new law makes parents of a student not of the age of majority that causes an injury to another student, teacher or other staff member of the Department of Education or Schools’ Inspector liable for the medical expenses relating to that injury

Mr. Bodden said he would like to see this provision go even further.

‘Eventually, I would like to see parents sign a contract agreeing to all of their responsibilities,’ he said, noting that is done in many other jurisdictions.

In addition to that and other responsibilities laid out for parents, the Law identifies the responsibilities of students, teachers and others in the educational system, Mr. Bodden said.

Corporeal punishment

The Law also abolishes corporeal punishment in schools, something Mr. Bodden said is not supposed to be happening now anyway.

Mr. Bodden said that since the first draft of the law was introduced last June, it had generally received good support.

‘We had a lot of constructive feedback, but no real resistance,’ he said. ‘I was disappointed, though, that the Chamber of Commerce, one of the most vocal entities about the law, offered no feedback whatsoever.’

There was an aspect of education in Cayman that was not addressed in the Law that Mr. Bodden would like to see adopted.

The Minister of Education explained that under the current system, students are usually passed to a higher grade as long as they meet minimum attendance requirements.

‘We want to change that culture to one where the graduation is based on a minimum academic achievement.’

Mr. Bodden said one of the primary ways of ensuring students attain specific academic goals before graduation is through standardised testing done in stages, something he wants to see adopted if he remains as Minister of Education.

‘I want to give children the best education that is available,’ he said.

Mr. Bodden said he has a long-term results-oriented goal in mind.

‘By 2025, there must be at least one university graduate in every Caymanian household,’ he said.

‘This is an all together different law. ‘It spells out the responsibilities of the various entities involved in education in unambiguous terms.’

– Roy Bodden, Minister for Education