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An introduction to the british influence on the perspective of the caribbean people

The Caribbean is broadly defined as the islands located in the Caribbean Sea plus some of the continental countries touched by that Sea. Within that general and wide definition the region is sub-divided by language groups and culture into Dutch, English, French, and Spanish.

The English-Speaking, or Commonwealth Caribbean, is therefore a small part of an already small subregion when grouped with Latin America and its other Caribbean neighbors. There are seventeen different territories that comprise the Commonwealth Caribbean. Kitts and Nevis, St. Five of these are still British Dependencies: The other twelve are independent countries represented in the United Nations. Their political status, notwithstanding the seventeen territories, is based on a linguistic and cultural block with a common history and many shared institutions.

This Chapter seeks to locate the educational systems of these mini and micro-states within the global context.

The last decade has seen major changes worldwide. Normally changes are associated with progress. However, the changes of the last decade represent a bewildering array of interrelated paradoxes. At the same time that global peace appears a distinct prospect with the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the accord between Israel and the PLO, there has been an unprecedented increase in crime, both street and domestic.

While capitalism has appeared to have triumphed over communism, as the Eastern Block countries are bought into the market, poverty is increasing at an alarming rate. Substantial numbers of middle class people are becoming poor. While cyberspace has become the new frontier, promising a brave new world of virtual reality, young people in appreciable numbers are becoming part of a growing underclass. Clearly, these fundamental changes are by no means Utopian.

It is not surprising, therefore, that educational reform has become a major item of public policy across the globe. Pushed by the pain of these fundamental changes, but prompted by the prospects of the new millennium parents, policy-makers and pedagogists have searched for answers and new approaches.

British Empire

All the equations for reform have included education as a key strategic input. This wave of educational reform has not bypassed the Commonwealth Caribbean.

The eight countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States OECSdecided that they would reform their education systems through a collective effort and geared their future to a common destiny. Since then Belize has followed through reforms related to a project with the World Bank, which includes revamping teachers education, primary education, the curriculum, textbooks, and evaluation processes.

In the last two years Bahamas, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago have all established Task Forces or Commissions that have recommended major reforms of the existing systems. Guyana and Jamaica have both been implementing reforms in an attempt to cope with the fall-out from structural adjustment. Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands have also instituted programs of reform. No corner of the English-speaking Caribbean has, therefore, gone untouched by this wave an introduction to the british influence on the perspective of the caribbean people reform.

What is interesting is that the period before the mid 1980s could not be described as being static in terms of educational development. Neither could it be said that education in the subregion was in the doldrums. The imperatives of political sovereignty, in the case of the independent countries or full internal self government in the case of the still dependent territories, had fueled their own wave of educational reforms in the 1960s and the 1970s.

The reforms of the 1990s have, therefore, followed the previous waves in an almost seamless manner so as to appear to be part of a continuous process of reform. However, some of the current reforms give the appearance of reversing relatively recently adopted policies. To some extent this has raised questions as to whether these reforms are substantial and long lasting changes of direction, or expediences of the particular regimes that enacted them.

Its educational history is intricately interwoven with developments in education in that world. Because of its colonial history with Britain, educational policy and reform has always drawn inspiration, direction and even form from Britain. It must be noted, however, that British influence in Caribbean education has waned considerably over the last forty years.

An introduction to the british influence on the perspective of the caribbean people

Its geographical location to English-speaking North America and the increasing influence of the United States has been of greater contemporary importance. In that connection it must be noted that within the last decade, led by Thatcher and Reagan, conservative governments in all three countries have made educational reform a key element of public policy.

  1. For example Keenan, the inspector sent by the British Government to make recommendations concerning education in Trinidad, found that the fathers of the children in the three leading secondary schools were professional men, planters, merchants or civil servants.
  2. Even the importation of slaves into a British colony continued — into Mauritius, obtained from the French after the Napoleonic Wars, where importation was not stopped until about 1820.
  3. But it is the essence of Caribbean politics and ensures that in the foreseeable future, there will be no single Caribbean state, but a multiplicity of political regimes and vibrantly different forms of political life from one country to another in the region.
  4. Queen Elizabeth I, for example, attempted to have the 'Negroes' resident in Britain volunteer to hand themselves over to a trader named Caspar Van Senden.
  5. Only in the last decade before emancipation was there some instruction aimed at literacy provided through Sunday Schools. One historical result is that there are villages, districts, and towns in the Caribbean that have had schools for as long as similar communities in the industrialized world.

Sweeping educational reforms have been undertaken by these governments. Middleton 1992 makes the point that the conservative governments, not only in Britain, Canada, and the United States but also in Australia and New Zealand, have drawn heavily on the New Right for their critique of existing education. Elliott and MacLennan 1994 have summarized the lines of attack of the New Right on education as failure to: In many instances schools have encroached on matters that are the responsibility of other institutions, namely the church and the family, by programs related to sexuality and moral choices.

Also, the content of some programs offend the values of many, for example, teachings on the gay lifestyles. Further, by teaching relativism focused around a therapeutic humanism, based on self realization and self validation, the very basis of objective morality was being undermined. Reaffirm the high culture of Western civilization.

By imposing policies like multi-culturalism, and the idea of the relative equality of all cultures, the classics and other contributions of Western civilization were being devalued and underplayed.

Maintain standards by turning out illiterates at all levels of the education system, after six, nine or even twelve years of education. Many students leave school, or even college unprepared for available jobs or self employment. Indeed, some teachers even criticize the market system and instead promote collectivist values.

In Britain reforms implemented by Conservative governments have included: A national curriculum for all schools. National testing and standards.

Greater accountability of teachers and schools to their clients. Loosening the Local Educational Authorities control and responsibilities for education.

Increased parental choice in the selection of schools for their children. Privatization of various services, and even of schools themselves. Reforms in the United States and Canada have followed very similar lines with respect to curriculum, national testing and minimum standards, greater accountability, parental choice, and restructuring of the public education system.

Several writers, Aronowitz and Giroux 1987Livingston 1987Greene 1988Apple 1989Flude and Hammer 1990Yates 1991 have labeled and attributed the current wave of education reform in the Anglophone industrialized world to the New Right.

Flattered by the importance ascribed by this attribution, the New Right has accepted authorship. The concern raised by these writers is that schools and education are being taken over by economic considerations to the exclusion of its wider mission to develop the whole person. Comparative advantage, competitiveness, efficiency, accountability, cost benefit, and the free market have hijacked both administration and instruction to the detriment of the civilizing mission of schooling and education.

Bell 1976 argued that modern capitalism had promoted modernity in secularizing and rationalizing various societal processes but that this has had both negative and positive effects. The negative manifested itself in hedonistic, self regarding, anarchistic lifestyles that were eroding the tradition discipline of bourgeois life. Habermas 1985 makes the distinction between social modernity, which applies technical innovations to solve social problems, produce growth and prosperity, and cultural modernity, which embraces hedonism, self actualization, and alternative lifestyles.

Habermas goes on to assert that what is common to the evaluative scheme of the New Right critique of the contemporary situation in the several societies is their affirmative stance toward social modernity and denigration of cultural modernity.

  • The Denominational system survived for about 70 years;
  • National testing and standards.

Elliott and MacLennan 1994 make the point that cultural modernity is not only about hedonism and self actualization but also about the extension or rights of individuals, equity and justice, and the positive freedoms of association, communication, debate, and claiming new rights. This position has been more explicitly stated in Britain than in either the United States or Canada. Sir Keith Josephs, Secretary of Education in the Thatcher Government, argued for the abandonment of polices related to equality of opportunity and equality in educational system.

For example, multiculturalism is mainstream in the Caribbean; school prayers are standard practice; alternative lifestyles are not taught in schools; and an ideological retreat from the principles of equality and equity in social policy could not be sustained by any government or party depending on democratic means of ascent to power.

  1. The System of Payment by Results introduced in the British Caribbean territories in the 1860s was intended to secure a fair and equitable distribution of government grants-in-aid according to the merits of the educational efforts of the various recipients. The final slave emancipation colonial ordinance I have found is in the Gold Coast archives, and is dated 1928.
  2. Many ships, both merchant and war, were built for them with total impunity, despite the official neutrality, which made supporting either side illegal. In the early years of the century, it acquired Puerto Rico and the U.
  3. Roman Catholics did not deny Africans their humanity and made attempts at conversion, while British slaveowners forbade church attendance. The 1892 elementary education bill in Jamaica abolished fees and introduced an education tax to finance education.

It is for these reasons that, in examining educational reform in the Commonwealth Caribbean, this monograph has ignored the partisan debate that is currently taking place in the United States and Britain, principally because it is not a driving force among the actors and stakeholders in this subregion at the present time.

Instead, the reforms are examined and interpreted in terms of the imperatives identified within the subregion. Note, however, will be taken of the growth of the American influence on education in particular countries and specific levels of the educational system, especially in the immediate post-independence period.

Commonwealth Caribbean Education and the Third World In their highly impressive work on primary education in developing countries, Lockheed and Verspoor 1991 characterized the educational systems of these countries as being marked by improved, but not universal coverage of the school age population, high repetition, high drop-out, low completion, low efficiency with respect to through-put, limited access for girls and women and low standards of achievement.

History in Focus

Primary education in the Commonwealth Caribbean defies almost every one of these characterizations. The subregion has had universal primary education for at least the last thirty years. In all countries children have free access to public schooling up to age 15 years, at least. The drop-out rate is low, repetition rates are low, completion of primary schooling is high, the efficiency rate in terms of through-put is high, and girls have access to schooling on the same basis as boys. In fact, on the whole, girls enroll earlier, attend more regularly, drop-out less, repeat less, complete more, and achieve at a higher level than boys.

At the secondary level eight of the sixteen territories have universal secondary education up to age 17 years. Kitts and Nevis, and Turks and Caicos Islands. In the case of the other countries more than half the relevant population receive some form of secondary education.

It is important to note that the gender difference in favor of girls is even more marked at the secondary level than it is at the primary level.

  • It is for these reasons that, in examining educational reform in the Commonwealth Caribbean, this monograph has ignored the partisan debate that is currently taking place in the United States and Britain, principally because it is not a driving force among the actors and stakeholders in this subregion at the present time;
  • Elliott and MacLennan 1994 have summarized the lines of attack of the New Right on education as failure to:

It can be seen, therefore, that the educational provision in the Commonwealth Caribbean is broad based and does not have the gender inequities that mark the so called Third World or developing countries. Any analysis or examination of education in this subregion that adopts the Third World stereotype is bound to meet with numerous paradoxes and contradictions.

The UNDP 1993 Human Development Index, HDI, ranks 173 countries world wide on the basis of human resource development criteria including years of schooling, adult literacy and educational attainment. Of this number, 31 are listed as industrialized if one excludes the new countries emerging from the break up of the former Soviet Union, and 46 if one includes them.

For the purpose of this discussion one will exclude these 15 new republics from the industrialized country category.

  • While these latter schools may not be as old as 250 to 300 years, histories of more than 100 years are no less impressive in contemporary society;
  • Sir Keith Josephs, Secretary of Education in the Thatcher Government, argued for the abandonment of polices related to equality of opportunity and equality in educational system;
  • As such, its was the means to social ends;
  • Combined with the policy of annexing Princely states this resulted in the rebellion, which eventually brought about the end of the British East India Company's regime in India, and instead led to 90 years of direct rule of the Indian subcontinent by Britain;
  • The reasons why these systems never made the transition to full State system is beyond the scope of this monograph.

When the HDI ranking of these remaining 31 industrialized countries is compared with the ranking of the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries included in the list, nine of the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries are ranked before the last ranked of the 31 industrialized countries.

Among the 127 countries listed as developing, Barbados ranked 1st and Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas 5th and 6th respectively. The point to note is the considerable overlap on the Human Development Index between these so-called Developing Commonwealth Caribbean countries and the so-called Developed First World countries. The implications for education reform, by this location of the Commonwealth Caribbean in the Development Index, are threefold: The inferiority of Caribbean education is a myth that needs to be debunked.

In terms of the provision of basic education the Commonwealth Caribbean provision compares favorably with the industrialized world.

This myth of inferiority stems from its colonial heritage and was part of the psychological means of justifying the colonial relationship and the hegemony of the imperial power. Note that this myth continues to enjoy great popularity among some sections of the elite and intellegencia of the subregion and for the same reasons.

The Commonwealth Caribbean should approach reform in education with some measure of confidence. With far less resources than the industrialized first world countries these small states have been able to give their populations wide access to education and their attainment on basic standards are comparable to their better endowed counterparts. It is critical to recognize that the challenges and issues facing Caribbean education are indeed very similar to those facing the education systems of the so-called developed societies.

They are the problems of mature educational systems in a world experiencing fundamental and far-reaching restructuring.