The National Education System & the Classification of Educational Institutions

The Inspectorate of Schools

Some of the most thoughtful comments of the Rahman Talib Committee are found on the chapter on the Inspectorate. Having examined the working of the Inspectorate since its inspection in 1956, they strongly recommended ‘the principle that there should be a body of experts who are independent in their freedom to visit schools, to observe and comment upon conditions therein, to advise teachers and others concerned with the school on these conditions, and generally to do all that they can to ensure that educational standards are maintained and improved.’

The Committee emphasised the importance of an independent Inspectorate and felt that the Inspectorate through the Chief Inspector must be given that measure of independence to ensure that their expert findings were reported to the Minister without fear or favour and ‘uncoloured by anything but considerations of the highest professional integrity.’

The Committee was nevertheless sensitive to possible repercussions that may arise from other sections of the education sector to the independence they were recommending for the inspectorate and recommended measures to contain and mitigate such repercussions. Most of the concerns of the Committee have probably been eliminated by the bureaucratic changes that have since taken place within the Ministry but the comments about the need for an independent Inspectorate and for that inspectorate to coordinate with other units of the Ministry of Education, such as the planning unit and the teacher education divisions are still hugely relevant.

The present provisions on the Schools Inspectorate are found in Part X Chapter 1 of the EA1996. Section 117 of the Act places on the Chief Inspector the responsibility for ensuring that an adequate standard of teaching is developed and maintained in educational institutions. The independence of the Inspectorate is supported by provisions that give him independence in determining the schedule of inspection and wide powers of entry and inspection of documents in the possession of governors, managers and teachers (s. 121) The Chief Inspector is also conferred with the power to report directly to the Minister his reports on inspection (s. 120(1)). Importantly, the Act makes the Chief Inspector’s report to the Minister a confidential document, but this is subject to his discretion to make it available to those responsible for the administration of the educational institution and any teacher in that institution and the report so made available shall be made available in its entirety. Although the powers of inspection are broad, the Chief Inspector has no authority to issue any order or direction to the governors or any other person responsible for the management of an educational institution (s. 119).

The Special Position of Teacher Education

Teachers are a key input in the educational process, and an adequate supply of skilled teachers is an important policy consideration for most governments. Not unexpectedly therefore, teacher supply, which includes the training of teachers is a matter that is almost entirely within the control of the Ministry of Education.

Although the provision of higher education generally is not covered by the Act, the provision of teacher education is regulated exclusively by the Act. Under s. 43 of the Act, no teacher training institute may be established or maintained without the approval of the Minister. An institute of teacher education is defined by the Act to mean an educational institution providing teacher education leading to the award of a certificate, a diploma, a teaching degree or the equivalent thereof, or any other qualification as prescribed.

The statutory powers of the Minister over teacher education and institutes of teacher education are as extensive as the powers the Minster has over private higher education institutions under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996.