There has been some criticism about the postponement of the new Education Modernisation Law (2009), which I acknowledge has, in part, been generated by the fact that I have not sufficiently explained why this necessary step was taken.
Let me say unequivocally to the people of the Cayman Islands: The new Education Modernisation Law has always had my support, even as a member of the Opposition. The new law was passed by the Legislative Assembly on 19 March, 2009, just six days before the dissolution of the House on 24 March, 2009. Despite this, the-then Opposition voted in support of the Law, while also proposing some amendments. Legislative Assembly Hansards of the debate prove this.
To be clear, the law continues to have my support as Minister. It will be implemented. The only question is when.
After consulting with the ministry’s Chief Officer; the Deputy Chief Officer, who has been in charge of the project since it was launched by the former minister; a representative from Legislative drafting; and the overseas consultant hired by the former minister for education, it was unanimously agreed that the 1 September start date was not feasible.
There are many things that need to be in place before the law can successfully – and I emphasise successfully – be implemented. Again, my commitment to this law was firm from Day 1, so this is not about politics.
Firstly, in order to be fully implementable, the new law requires the development of a wide range of regulations. When I took office at the end of the May 2009, no regulations had been drafted. The Education Modernisation Law 2009 is skeletal in nature, which is quite different from many other laws, in that it leaves more specifics than usual to be defined in the regulations. And those who follow the making of laws know that it is the regulations that give any law its teeth. In this instance, the regulations give the new law its meat and teeth!
Secondly, I was concerned that the original timelines would give stakeholders very limited involvement in developing the regulations.
Thirdly, for effective implementation, the new law requires the establishment of two bodies: an Education Advisory Council and a Professional Standards Council. The law gives the Minister the authority to establish these bodies, but requires that their specific roles and responsibilities, and how they will operate, be developed through regulations. According to the new law, both these matters require public consultation. This was impossible during the summer holiday break as many people, including teachers, travel off island. This consultation will take place starting in September in order to bring the Law into effect as quickly as possible.
Fourthly, principals and educators in both the private and government schools have told me that there is little familiarity with the new law in its final form and the requirements it will place on all schools. Therefore, an awareness-raising campaign is needed, as well as a readiness check, to ensure that the education system is ready to implement this New law effectively.
The postponement of the new Education Modernisation Law is about what’s best for our children, teachers and parents. Governments are at times accused of both moving too fast, and of moving too slow. Both of those accusations, at the time that they’re levelled, can be right. Choosing the wrong speed at which to move sometimes leads to outcomes that are not in the country’s best interests. We are working to avoid that with this law. While I am committed to implementing it as quickly as possible, I will not compromise its effectiveness by enacting it without the necessary structures that will make it work.
I will continue to speak about the postponement of the new law at the Commencement Ceremony for teachers, and in the LA, in the coming weeks. However, at this time, I want the public to understand that I believe this law is an adequate starting point. The Government will bring it into effect as quickly as possible.
Rolston Anglin – Education Minister