Minister of Education, Hon. Lanelle Tanangada has introduced the much-anticipated Education Bill 2023 for second reading in Parliament on August 28th, 2023.
The Bill once enacted will become “an Act to provide for the Administration and Regulation of Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary, including providing for registration of Teachers, Education Providers, Schools and Early Childhood Education (ECE) sectors and repealing the existing Education Act caps (69) and related purposes.”
The Minister for Education expressed her joy, describing it as a proud day for her ministry, Education Authorities, teachers and students and all key education stakeholders throughout the country.
“The Bill once enacted will become an Act to provide for the administration and regulation of Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary, including providing for registration of Teachers, Education Providers, Schools and Early Childhood Education sectors and repeal the existing education Act caps (69) and for related purposes,” Minister Tanangada said.
She emphasised that education for our children is vital to our long-term economic and social development, hence there is a need to review the existing Act.
The current education Act was passed in 1978, the same year the country attained political independence and has been reviewed for more than a decade ago.
She said the process of reviewing the current Act and drafting the new Legislative framework to support the education sector of today and into the future has been one of the biggest tasks her ministry has undertaken.
She said her ministry in the process had ensured as many people as possible have been given the opportunity to have their opinion heard about what part of the current education Act system is working well and what parts are needed to be improved, with a goal the new legislative framework to be decided by Solomon Islanders for Solomon Islanders.
She said the Education Bill 2023 is the result of long and extensive consultations and analysis designed to form the basis for continued improvement of access to quality and relevant education, the provision of education and the management of the education sector.
“It is designed to support the education system that prepares our children for an increasing globalized world while also promoting and protecting the part of our traditions and cultures that we cherish,” the Minister adds.
In June 2013, a Taskforce of well-respected Solomon Islanders was established to conduct a review on the existing Act and found a lot of gaps in the existing Act. For example, there is no provision for ECE nor is there a provision for Tertiary Education.
The focus was to create a new Legislative framework for the education sector, the sub-sectors within a unit and also define the relationship within those sub-sectors.
She said the framework will provide clarity about the legal requirements of the government, the provinces and private bodies operating in the education sector.
She said the review culminated in the education White paper taking stock of the current Act as well as the achievements, trends and patterns in education provision and the policy and practices in the education system.
Additionally, the White paper is not only the policy for drafting the bill, but most importantly, it set the directions for the necessary reforms of the current legislation and a panel of experts was convened to review the draft White paper which was then further reviewed by the Education Act Review Taskforce and finally by the National Education Board.
The White paper was endorsed by Cabinet in 2015 and subsequently the National Parliament approved it on August 25th of the same year.
She said during the development of the Bill, extensive and detailed consultation took place with the National Education Board, the Teaching Service Commission, the Ministry of Public Service, Provincial Government Ministers and Secretaries, Chief Education Officers and Provincial Education Officers in all the provinces, the Directors and Secretaries of church, Private Education Authorities and School Principals, Deputy Principals and Head teachers and other key education stakeholders.
The draft involves a consequence of these consultations and further analysis in the ministry.
She said there was overwhelming support for the reform and the draft bill provided to the Attorney General’s Chambers in 2020.
Since then, the ministry is working on the Regulations, Education Funding Code, Administrative Instructions, Learning framework and other documents that will be required under the Act before it can be commenced.
The ministry has continued since 2020 to consult broadly on the comprehensive new Legislative Frame and prepare for its implementation.
The key features of the Bill are:
The new legislative framework is underpinned by a more contemporary philosophy of education with emphasis on access and equity, accountability, equality of opportunity, partnerships, quality and relevance.
The Bill empowers the education providers and ECE centres to improve the management of their schools and centres by providing a clear framework in the Bill and the sub-ordinate instruments under the Bill.
The Bill provides a much-improved scheme for teacher management, it provides specific powers to the education providers and to the Permanent Secretary in relation to the registration of teachers to manage teachers.
It enhances the role of the Teaching Services Commission in overseeing employment and registration decisions.
The Bill emphasises a province by province approach to education with coordination and planning and support being provided through the Provincial Education Board supported by ministry officers located in the province,
The reform is designed to improve cooperation between all Education Providers in the provinces and to improve input to the ministry for prioritizing the infrastructure and support needs of each province.
The Bill improve and expands the registration scheme in the education sector and provides for registration of the Education Providers, schools, ECE centres and teachers.
The Administrative Instruction under the Bill will be used to introduce standards across the sectors as a way of setting our common goals and expectations that everyone will work to achieve. These will include the principles for Child Protection, Gender, Equality, Social inclusion as well as assessment and reporting and other education requirements.
It also provides compulsory basic education and facilitates improvement in transparency and accountability in relation to government funding of the education sector and to improvement in the reporting, reviewing and planning cycles across the sector. These framework for this improvement will be detailed in the sub-ordinated document under the Bill.
The Bills and Legislation Committee inquiry into the Education Bill 2023 is set for August 31st -September 12th, 2023.
Already BLC has called for written submissions from Education Providers, Solomon Islands School Boards, School Board, HCC Education Authority, Principals, Head Teachers, Teachers and Students of Both Secondary schools, Primary and Early Childhood Education, Communities and families to express their views, knowledge or experiences on the Education Bill 2023.
Meanwhile, Minister Tanangada said her ministry is fully committed to implementing the Legislative reform in a way that will make a long term and sustainable difference to education in Solomon Islands.
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