Leave Education Code alone!
Opposition spokesperson rejects Thwaites' claim that document is poorly worded
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
A call by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites for a review of the Education Regulations (1980) has been rejected by Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert, his opposition counterpart.
Dalrymple-Philibert, an attorney-at-law, is joined by Ruel Reid, the former chairman of the National Council on Education (NCE). They argue that there is no need for a review of the regulations as it was clear, and has served the country well.
"I don't have any issue with the language of the Code of Regulations. What we have to understand is that as a people and country we are governed by regulations. There is a code in place. There are regulations. The language of the regulations is very clear," the opposition spokeswoman told The Sunday Gleaner in an interview.
She said issues surrounding education regulations have been very topical since the matter of a convicted sex offender at Tarrant High School, who was ordered dismissed by the education ministry although the board took no action until he was convicted by the courts.
Thwaites, in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, said he wants a review of the regulations to make the language more user-friendly. However, the minister did not say if he wanted a review of the entire regulations, or the sections relating to the disciplining of teachers.
"The rules and regulations governing the disciplining of teachers as presented in the education regulations are needlessly complex. Even highly intelligent persons who have gone through the process are prone to make mistakes in applying the regulations. I insist that the rules and regulations need to be reviewed," Thwaites remarked.
The opposition spokeswoman was adamant.
"The procedures as to what action should be taken in the disciplining of teachers are very clearly stated. You must follow a certain path to suspend, to dismiss. The Jamaica Teaching Council Bill, which speaks to the immediate dismissal of teachers, is yet to come before Parliament, and it would have addressed issues such as at Tarrant. You must understand that the law is a shackle. It has to shackle us, if there is to be law and order in this country," Dalrymple-Philibert said.
Reid, who is the current principal of Jamaica College and was adviser to former Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said the Code of Regulations is not difficult to understand.
As far as he was concerned, the regulations - popularly referred to as the Code of Regulations - was very clear in its current form and the minister should be more specific.
"I have read the (minister's) comments and some of my colleagues are saying the same thing. Specify what aspect of the code you want reviewed. If he has any specific areas that need refining, say so, but don't just make a blanket statement to say the code is impossible to understand," Reid argued.
The code outlines a series of procedures in sections 54-60 which must be followed for disciplinary procedures, addressing issues such as natural justice, the right of representation and appeal, for the process to be completed.
"I would challenge the minister to tell me what part of that language is impossible to understand. I am on record giving my position, and at the Jamaica Association of Principals retreat that we held May 2-5, when the question was raised, I made the point that I do not have a problem with the regulations as they are," Reid stated.