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The House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 18) approved the Overseas Examination Commission Act 2005, paving the way for the Commission to be converted into a statutory body.
Education, Youth and Culture Minister Maxine Henry Wilson, who piloted the Bill, said the legislation would facilitate the placing into statute, the roles, responsibilities and structure of the Overseas Examination Committee and convert it to a Commission.
Explaining further, she said the Bill proposed to place into law, the functioning of the Commission and to establish it as a corporate body with responsibility for ensuring the proper administration and monitoring of all overseas and regional examinations on behalf of the Ministry.
The Education Minister said the Commission would have some 16 members drawn from the private and public sectors as well as academic institutions, to ensure that all interests were represented.
“The functions of the Commission are wide ranging but speak to good order in terms of the administration of examinations,” she told the House, informing that the body would administer all specified examinations, ensure adherence by schools and candidates to rules and regulations, determine and collect examination fees and take responsibility for the sale of syllabi.
The body will also be charged with the preparation and issuing of transcripts of examination results, the verification and certification of results and the maintenance of records in relation to specified examinations.
Minister Henry-Wilson said the Commission, which is empowered to charge fees, is largely self-financing and a new state of the art facility is being built to house the body.
Currently, the Overseas Examination Committee is responsible for 14 examinations including the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) O’ Level tests and CXC itself.
The Overseas Examination Committee was established by the Education Ministry in 1969 and has overall responsibility for administering the overseas examinations taken by candidates in the Jamaican secondary education system.
Leader of the Opposition, Bruce Golding supported the decision to assign responsibility for the conduct of examinations to a statutory body, but questioned the necessity for the establishment of a new entity to carry out the process, noting that the National Council on Education could perform this task.
“Why do we have to set up yet another Commission that is going to involve another set of costs when this is a perfect example for which the National Council on Examinations is suited?” he asked.
Furthermore, he called for an amendment to clause 18 of the Bill, which gives the Minister powers to amend sections of the legislation by order, suggesting instead that the prescriptive powers of the Minister be subject to affirmative resolution. “It does involve wide powers that. should be the subject of scrutiny and approval by the Parliament,” Mr. Golding argued.
The Education Minister in replying, explained that the Committee was already in existence, and the Bill only served to endow it with statutory powers for the administration of examinations. She noted further, that the National Council on Education was never conceived as a body to administer examinations.
As to the power given to the Minister to amend the Act, Mrs. Henry Wilson said that this was because such changes could not be done administratively. The proposal was however accepted and the Bill passed with one amendment.