The Cayman Islands Government outlawed the use of physical force of adults to discipline children in schools with the passing of the Education Modernisation Bill last Thursday, 19 March.
Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin noted that the former education bill was more than 20 years old and in need of revision.
‘If enacted into law, this legislation will make provision for education across the board; from early childhood education, through compulsory sector, to tertiary education, in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; and in government schools and non-government schools alike,’ he said during his debate.
Calling the bill the hallmark of his government’s efforts to bring Cayman’s education into the 21st century, Mr. McLaughlin said it had been a long and somewhat tedious course of action, but was fundamental for Cayman’s future.
‘We in Cayman have strived to adapt to the new ways of education and the ways the world approaches education,’ he said.
The 16-part bill set out the terms of education in primary and secondary schools, career and technical institutions, tertiary institutions, early childhood institutions and lifelong learning.
Other significant modifications tabled in the bill besides the outlawing of corporal punishment include a decree of early childhood learning and a compulsory additional school year for pupils
Under the previous Education Law, revised in 1999, corporal punishment was allowed by law in all public and private schools only where no other punishment was considered suitable or effective by the principal.
During his debate on the bill, Opposition Member Rolston Anglin raised concerns about technical and career education and other issues, but generally supported the bill.
However, Opposition Member Juliana O’Connor-Connolly of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman objected to what she saw as the removal of the obligation for schools to teach religious instruction by mandating a broad national curriculum in the law, but not specifically requiring that it include religious instruction during the committee stage of the bill.
‘The removal is not just a removal against me but it is also a slap in the face of almighty God himself,’ she said.
Pointing out that the bill had been circulated for comment some four months prior to being tabled in the house, Mr. McLaughlin said, ‘The concern and belief that there was mandatory requirement that religious instruction is displaced, is not the case.’
Explaining that she was unable to get a flight to pose her concerns when the with regard to the exclusion of religious education in the bill, Mrs. O’Conner- Connolly said, ‘If at all possible we need to think of our forefathers.’
After giving Mrs O’Connor- Connolly’s concerns some thought, Mr. McLaughlin then made an amendment to the bill to include the word ‘religion’. The amendment read: ‘The core and other foundation subjects shall include studies related to the history, culture and religion of the Islands.’
With the amendment out of the way, the bill was then quickly passed.
After the house adjourned, Mr. McLaughlin said, ‘It was a long process but I am happy it has been passed. It is for the people of Cayman.’