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The Overseas Examination Commission Act 2005, to pave the way for the Overseas Examination Committee to be converted into a statutory body, was passed without any amendments on Friday (July 15), when the Senate met at Gordon House.
Senator Noel Monteith, who piloted the Bill, said that the legislation would place into statute, the roles, responsibilities and structure of the Overseas Examination Committee and convert it into a Commission, which would be charged with the administration and monitoring of all overseas and regional examinations, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture.
The Overseas Examination Committee was established in 1969 with overall responsibility for administering the overseas examinations taken by candidates in the island’s secondary education system. The membership consists of 21 persons, who are nominated by the Minister of Education to serve for a period of three years. The members represent tertiary and secondary institutions as well as agencies in the public and private sectors, which have a vested interest in the secondary school system.
“When you look at the functions of the Overseas Examination Committee, it seeks to ensure that the rules of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture with respect to the conduct of overseas examination are adhered to by schools and private candidates, ensure that the rules and regulations of the various examining bodies are observed and that examinations for which the Overseas Examination Office is responsible, are administered in a very professional manner,” Senator Monteith stated.
The Senator, who is also State Minister for Education, raised concern about the building at Piccadilly Road, which houses the Examination Council, noting that it was a fire hazard. “The vulnerability is heightened by the fact that nearly everything stored at the office is a source of fuel. In the event of a fire, the whole place would be destroyed in less than an hour,” he said.
He noted also, that the space was woefully inadequate to provide support for the more than 80,000 candidates sitting external examinations. “The Committee is very concerned that the process of modernization is greatly delayed due to the limitations of the physical infrastructure and as we move into this rapidly advancing technological age, it is important that we utilize available technology to make our services relevant, efficient and effective,” the Education State Minister said.
He said a corporate plan was currently being worked on to streamline and expand the service. He noted however, that these initiatives could only be achieved in a more modern facility. “All these developments hinge to a very great extent on the legal status of the Overseas Examination Committee hence we have this Bill to establish the Commission.”
Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Anthony Johnson, while supporting the Bill, said he hoped that every effort would be made to ensure that the establishment of the Commission did not jeopardize the affordability of examinations.