A suite of education related Acts has been amended by Parliament to pave the way for the establishment of a new ministry or agency as part of a thrust to provide greater focus on higher education.
The Education (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act (2022) was tabled on July 25, by education minister Curtis King who outlined that the amendments had to be made in order to give special attention to the management of tertiary education in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
The minister stressed the importance of having “strategic alignment of the structures and resources in education”, which he said is a critical component of building a post-colonial economy.
“The current structure and design of our education locally provides the platform for a seamless transition from the elementary to the secondary level…except of course for the higher levels, mainly that of tertiary education and that is because higher education today exists as an appendage to the management and coordinating responsibility of the ministry of education,” King said.
He noted that the responsibility is one currently being shared unequally among different entities with no clear distinct coordinating agency, which he said demonstrates the importance, scope and value of higher education.
He added however, that it also highlights “the fragmented operational functioning of higher education and the need for a single agency, ministry to coordinate this function”.
“The Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation does not have the resources to adequately manage this level without compromising the quality of the outcomes. In fact, if the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation attempts to manage an exhaustive and diverse portfolio, quality quickly becomes a casualty of quantity,” King told parliamentarians.
He said divergent focus is the reason for some of the publicly highlighted shortcomings of the education system, particularly as it relates to student performance.
And the education minister declared that “the establishment of a ministry, or agency outside the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation, with responsibility for higher education will allow for focused intervention and more efficient use of scarce resources”.
Amendments were made to the Education Act, Caribbean Examination Council Act, Further and Higher Education Accreditation Act, St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College Act and Sector Skills Development Agency Act.
Included in the amendments across this suite of Acts was the deletion of the definition of ‘minister’, which was replaced by the new definition: “minister means minister for the time being, responsible for the subject matter in question and ministry is to be construed accordingly”.
The definition of ‘ministry’ was also deleted altogether in the Education Act and St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College Act.
Amendments to the Further and Higher Education Accreditation Act also made changes to the composition of the Board.
Previously, the member was listed as “permanent secretary of the ministry of education”.
The changes allow for the deletion of the words “of education”, which leaves “the permanent secretary of the ministry”.
Terrence Ollivierre, the parliamentary representative of the Southern Grenadines and shadow minister of education contributed briefly to the debate in Parliament.
He agreed that the implementation of a new ministry or agency will take a strain off of the existing education minister and help to provide more focus on the various levels of the education sector.
“I see nothing wrong with the implementation because the success of one level is dependent on the success of the other. It’s an ecosystem where if you are not successful as you move from one level to the other, then you are creating problems throughout the education system,” Ollivierre said.
“Therefore, it is imperative that we find and come up with the necessary strategies in order to improve the education sector and to give our students the ability to function and achieve more, to reach their full potential as they should.”