A new law that sought to modernise the education system in Cayman will not be implemented in time for the new school year as originally planned.
The Education Modernisation Bill, passed by the Legislative Assembly in March, was to be implemented on 1 September, but Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush announced that would now be delayed.
‘Given the magnitude of the exercise and the necessary consultation on various crucial matters that are required, 1 September seemed to be ambitious and the minister [Rolston Anglin] will be advising the governor to delay the implementation to be able to get this all-important first step right,’ Mr. Bush said in a press briefing on Thursday/
‘To do otherwise would compromise a successful roll out of the new law.’
The delay was met with disappointment by the former education minister Alden McLaughlin, who said was he was ‘devastated’ that the law would be not implemented as planned.
He insisted that the government’s explanation that the bill needed supporting regulations before being implemented was ‘not true’ and there was no good reason to delay the implementation.
‘If they are delaying it, it’s not on that basis,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘We had very careful discussions with the consultant before I left office on that and he said there was no obstacle to the implementation of the legislation on 1 September.’
He said he feared the new government was in the process of pulling apart the changes and modernisation of the education system that he had introduced during his term in office.
‘They are actively dismantling the entire education reform process. They are working assiduously towards a return to the old model,’ he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said he believed the government was doing this to ensure that he would not be credited with education reform in Cayman.
‘They are going to roll back as many of the changes as they can… There is a lot of concern among the people in the education system who contributed immensely to what we were trying to do,’ he said.
He added that the work on education reform over the past four years, including the establishment of a national curriculum, was the work of educators and others within the education system, ‘not just Alden McLaughlin’.
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. It outlawed corporal punishment and introduced a compulsory additional school year for pupils, making the official age of leaving school 17.
But the new education minister, Mr. Anglin, insisted that more consultation was needed before the law could come into effect.
‘This is a framework legislation, a bare bones legislation that needs regulations to ensure that the precepts in the law are executed.
‘What we have at this stage are a wide range o issues that require us to consult with not only educational professionals, but also the department of education staff,’ Mr. Anglin said.
He added that there were many provisions of the law that required the underpinning of regulations.
‘Having met with the consultant, we recognise it would be practically impossible for us to, from a legal drafting perspective, to meet this by the 1 September deadline.’
Mr. Anglin added that the government would make an announcement in next week or two about a policy on truancy.
Meanwhile, the government continued to criticise the spending on the construction of two high schools – John Gray and Clifton Hunter – that were approved during the last administration.
‘Did we need schools that will cost us well over $117 million in construction costs?’ Mr. Bush asked. ‘And over $10.5 million has been spent on auxiliary costs so far… and then there are the costs we do not know, because they have not been quantified: the millions that will be needed for furniture and fittings, maintenance, staffing, etc.’
He also cited the spending of $1.5 million in the two schools for state-of-the-art demonstration kitchens, which did not provide stoves and other basic equipment needed to teach basic home economics and food and catering courses.
Mr. Bush said the ministry had presented a cost-savings proposal to the contractors and was awaiting a formal response. He added that a steering committee was being formed and that a project manager would be recruited.