The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) has commended the National Council on Education (NCE) for staging its inaugural virtual meeting on Friday, December 18, with Members of Parliament (MP), which focused on the appointment of school boards and the related governance process.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams says this meeting of MPs, the NCE and MoEYI executives will become a regularly-scheduled quarterly event as there are governance matters and sometimes ‘thorny’ issues that would need this type of forum in which to be resolved. Additionally, she says that “With so many new Members of Parliament, it is important that the NCE and the MoEYI are proactive in getting the information to MPs to allow them to be as effective as possible.”
The Minister explains that across the education sector, whether government, church or trust operated, the 1,007 public educational institutions are required to have well-functioning boards. This begins with a proper selection process. In the current system, Members of Parliament have an important part to play in recommending a prescribed number of chairmen and other school board members.
She notes that for this fiscal year, school boards are responsible for ensuring the accountability of an annual expenditure of approximately J$81 billion. As such, all stakeholders involved in the appointment process should be familiar with the various laws and regulations governing the appointment of Boards of Management of public educational institutions. Minister Williams says these quarterly meetings will help to elevate the stature and significance of school boards across the education sector.
The NCE is a statutory body, established in 1993, with the passage of the National Council on Education Act through a bi-partisan arrangement. The organisation is governed by a Council, chaired by Mr. Alphansus Davis, with broad stakeholder representation from various sectors such as sport, culture, education, the ecumenical community, political parties, students, parents, the media fraternity, trade unions, as well as the business and agricultural sectors. A secretariat, led by Ms. Merris Murray, constitutes the administrative arm of the organisation.
The NCE is also guided by the Education Act, 1965, and its attendant Regulations, 1980. Under the Act and Regulations, school boards are assigned significant powers. As Jamaica’s education system continues to transform and adapt to global challenges, the appointment of effective Boards of Management to lead schools becomes even more vital. The boards are expected to contribute to the transformation of schools as part of the nation’s quest to provide a good quality education for all our children.
Minister Williams says that good governance requires a cadre of dedicated and committed board members who care and are willing to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge, information, the appropriate skills and competencies. She adds that “Persons recommended for school boards must be able to rise to this challenge. They must be able to understand the dynamics of schools and stand ready to support the principal and staff and to hold them accountable.”
The Minister is urging her colleague Members of Parliament to treat the governance of schools as a high priority by ensuring that the best nominees are identified and selected to serve. She also encouraged them to ensure that the school boards in their constituencies are appointed on time, before the termination of the tenure of the outgoing boards, as the nation coalesces around a common goal of ensuring quality education for all.