Education Authority will not be fully independent, says Rabain
An Education Authority in Bermuda will not be fully independent but will be run with minimal political interference, the Minister of Education has said.
During a press conference yesterday, Diallo Rabain expanded on the Throne Speech announcement that a Bill will be considered in this session to enable the creation of an authority.
He also revealed that Innovation Unit Australia New Zealand, the overseas consultancy group brought in by the Government to assist with the reform of Bermuda’s public education system, is to have its contract extended by a year.
Speaking of the Education Authority, Mr Rabain said: “It cannot be fully independent because it will always be funded by the Government. Because there are rules in place that require that those funds are accounted for, there will always be a connection to government. It will be an authority that will be put in place to control the direction and development of education in Bermuda.
“I look at it in the same way we have the Bermuda College operating as a quango with its own board, where they have self-determination, meet with the minister once a quarter to discuss their aspirations and their forward planning, but there is very little input or interference from the Government.”
Asked whether it was necessary to have an education minister with the establishment of an authority, Mr Rabian added: “Yes. The Minister of Education has the remit of looking at education throughout Bermuda and that includes public and private, developing the direction that education goes in and coming up with the rules and regulations around it.”
Mr Rabain said that an Education Authority Working Group set up last year is yet to determine how the board of an authority would be selected but that governance should be “supportive and enabling, not directing and controlling”.
He added: “We are in the process of developing how the board will be established. We will be having subsequent updates on that. I am expecting that the board will be selected by consummate professionals who can carry education forward in the best way it needs to be to ensure our children get the best out of our education system.”
He said that the Government was “increasing commitment and investment” to ensure the right people are in place to lead education reform, adding that a new reform governance committee had been formed.
“As we prepare to introduce an Education Authority, we are increasing the independence and decision making authority of the committee governing education reform,“ he said.
Bermuda First is charged with developing a national socio-economic plan for Bermuda and is chaired by Phil Butterfield, who is said to have no political affiliations.
Mr Rabain added: “The refreshed governance committee will be co-chaired by myself and Phil Butterfield, chair of Bermuda First. Other members of the reform governance committee will be the Permanent Secretary of Education, Jasmine Smith; the Commissioner of Education [Kalmar Richards] — the lead of the Education Reform Unit; a representative of the Education Authority Working Group; and a representative of the Innovation Unit.”
The Innovation Unit’s contract, which was initially funded to the tune of $2.1 million over a two-and-a-half-year period, will be extended by a year. Mr Rabain did not say why the contract had been extended or how much funding it requires.
He said that the Learning First team, which included local representatives working with Innovation Unit on reform design, would be replaced by the newly formed Education Reform Unit. It will be headed by Lisa DeSilva, a veteran Bermuda educator.
He said: “The unit will reside in the Ministry of Education’s office, reporting to the Office of the Minister of Education. A group of experienced Bermudian education professionals will be released from all other duties to focus solely on our ambitious but critical agenda.”
In September, the island’s first signature schools under the reform plans opened at the Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy and a third will be opened next September.
The first two parish primary schools under the plan, which will phase out middle schools, will also to be opened next September at Francis Patton Primary School and Purvis Primary School.
Mr Rabain added: “Over the last six months we have selected, inducted and on-boarded school transformation teams for the new parish primary schools and the new signature school.
“We have also expanded the transformative work being undertaken at our existing signature schools to develop the S2 curriculum and learning experiences for both signatures, spreading the new advisory curriculum to S1 to S4, and we have begun work on some of the core curriculums, specifically math and science.”