Education act amended to reflect higher employment age for youths

Stabroek News
August 10, 1999

The Education Act was yesterday amended in keeping with a labour law affecting young people and which was passed by the National Assembly late last month.

The Education (Amendment) Bill 1999 raises the employment age for young persons to 15 years, up from 14 as previously obtained.

And the new education act to be tabled in parliament later this year will make provision for compulsory secondary education, Parliament was told.

However, while debating the amendment to the education act to facilitate the change which is in keeping with the regulations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth, said that even though the amendment deals specifically with the employment of children, he noted that later in the year legislation will be introduced in parliament that "would be motivated, not by labour laws, but by pedagogical and educational considerations."

He said when that is introduced, the issue of school drop-outs and matters relevant to the monitoring and implementation of the labour law will be dealt with.

Dr Bisnauth noted that the law which governs compulsory education has been in existence since 1947 and it stipulates that compulsory education will extend up to age 14. He said that "when the new bill comes to this parliament for an overhaul of the education act, the compulsory age will be 16 and probably even 17".

While agreeing with the amendment, People's National Congress shadow minister for education, Dr Faith Harding, said that she was disappointed that government has decided to limit the age to fit ILO requirements.

Dr Harding said that she was also disappointed that after so many years overlooking the education sector Dr Bisnauth "is still uncertain as to what the age should be for compulsory education".

With the amendment, she said that government is saying to children that their education ends at 15 and it sends the message to them that once they reach 15 years they do not need to go to school. The drop-out rate, she claimed, is horrendous.

Speaker, Derek Jagan, who heard Dr Harding's argument, ruled that the amendments were simple and that the debate should be limited to the matters being amended.

Jagan said that if the opposition feels that the age should be increased it should move a motion for an amendment to the act which governs the age limit.

In his rebuttal, Dr Bisnauth said that in the new education act provisions will be made for secondary education. The current Education Act makes no provision for compulsory secondary education or for sanctions for infringements of any regulations in relation to age. (Miranda La Rose)

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