FUTURE PLANNING OF EDUCATION
Around the time that Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence and the 15-Year Education Plan was being formulated, "planning" was considered a highly desirable practice for governments, especially by the World Bank and other international agencies on whom developing countries like Trinidad and Tobago relied for assistanceboth financial and technicalto develop their educational systems. During that period of world history, because of the ideological rivalry and conflict that characterized the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union, planning suffered negative connotations in some Western countries, particularly the USA. Among the academicians and theoreticians of the time, however, planning was advocated as essential for the optimal utilization of resources, especially when they were notably scarce, as in developing countries.
In the field of education, the securing of loans from international agencies such as the World Bank almost invariably required the formulation of educational development plans. In view of the realization that the major obstacle to development in the new nations of Africa, America and Asia was the shortage of educated and trained manpower, attempts were made to use the manpower approach to educational planning more than any other theoretical method for planning the development of education.
The failure of the majority of the new nations to achieve targeted rates of economic growth and their persisting economic and social problems have caused some serious rethinking of the development policies of the 1960s and in the reevaluation, the manpower approach to educational planning has not emerged in a positive light. In scholarly publications, the manpower approach has been discredited as a theoretical construct and has lost advocacy in the lending policies of international agencies.
In the real world of constructing and developing educational systems, however, the practice of using the needs for educated and trained persons for the social and economic development of a country as a guide to shaping the growth of the educational system has continued. This is what essentially constituted the manpower approach.
The future planning of education in Trinidad and Tobago must take into consideration the types and numbers of workers that would be required in the programs of social and economic development. The inevitable link between education and work must be faced.
Development, like democracy with which is inextricably intertwined, must be for the people and by the people. And among the goods and services that development must provide for the people as its principal objective are work, jobs or employment. Thus, development can be considered as essentially the organization, management and utilization of the potential in people to produce the goods and services to be enjoyed by the people. For the preservation and continued prosperity of the society, it could be added that the goods and services produced by development should be distributed over the populace in an equitable way, and that in the utilization of the resources in the development process, both physical and human development should be "sustainable." Sound development would be to form the human resources of the countryby education and trainingfor people to interact, explore and develop the physical resources or natural endowments of the land or environment to ensure good standards of living and improve the quality of life for the people of this era and future generations.
What we call "work" should be the utilization or exercise of the potential and capabilities of people to provide the good life for themselves, their families, the community, the country and an ever-expanding circle for fellow human beings of this world as we continue to live closer and closer together in this global village that our earth is steadily becoming.
The matching and application of the human potential and talent in the people to the physical resources of the country should be a fundamental function in the organizing of a society. A government has the responsibility to create and maintain an arrangement or system to stimulate and facilitate this process among individuals or groups.
The fundamental principle on which the manpower approach to educational planning is based is the close relationship between the educational system and work in its broadest sense in a society. It can be posited that this method of planning education retains much of its validity for Trinidad and Tobago and other developing countries. The planning of education in the future must continue to take into consideration the needs of the social and economic development programs for educated and trained personnel, both in the public and private sector, and the "work" structure of the total society.
As an activity in the organization of a society, or in the investment in human resources, education has a relatively long gestation period. If we add together the years of primary and secondary education that are fundamental to the process of human resource formation, we would find that, on average, 10 years are required to produce a worker.
For the future, therefore, the planning of education in Trinidad and Tobago must include in its process the forecasting or estimating of the types and numbers of workers needed for the social and economic development programs. These estimates will serve as a guide as to the numbers and types of schools that will have to be constructed over a given period in so far as funds will be allocated to education as an investment. The plans for the expansion or improvement of the educational system would also have to take into consideration the education that people will want for its own sake (i.e., education for consumption). Whether for investment or consumption, one of the fundamental objectives of education will be to prepare the people of the country for promoting development by utilizing the environmentthe natural and physical resources with which the country is endowedto increase the goods and services that are to be enjoyed by the present generation and generations to come. The utilization of the physical and natural resources must ensure that development could be sustained so that the natural endowments of the land be preserved and enhanced as a legacy for future citizens.
The two aspects of the educational system to which the planning process should be directed are the increasing of access and the improvement of quality. With respect to the formeraccessthe thrust would have to be in school construction, and for the latterquality the focus would be on curriculum renovation. To increase access, attention would have to be given to the setting up of schools in those geographic areas that are presently underserved. To improve quality, high priority should be given to curriculum evaluation research to make education more relevant to the needs of the society.
With respect to access, Trinidad and Tobago has achieved the creditable record of providing universal primary education for its people. But at the secondary level, an enormous gap remains between supply and demand. Increasing access to secondary education will have to be the principal concern of the planners of education in Trinidad and Tobago in the future.
The major question that will have to be answered with regard to increasing access to secondary education is who will get whatever secondary education the country can afford at a particular time. It was previously mentioned that ultimately a country gets the education it can afford. The answer to this question will require very hard decisions, and in the final analysis, it will be a political decision to which purely technical or professional considerations will be subservient. But decisions on access to secondary education should not emerge as victims of sheer political expediency as was evidenced in some changes in the implementation of the 15-Year Education Plan. One can be sure that "the secondary-education pie" will be divided up according to the convictions of the political party in power. "The pie" will be served to the people in portions that will maximize voter satisfaction. The issue of equality of opportunity that the 15-Year Plan, in spite of its noble intentions, has left unresolved, will have to be faced squarely by incoming governments. Planners of education will have to address the anomaly of eight different types of secondary schools and the phenomenon of the "prestige" school.
Planners of secondary education will have to operate within the context of a policy that school fees will not be charged. The policy of "freeness" declared by the first national government will undoubtedly be respected by subsequent governments. No political party will dare to reverse this policy. They may play around with the tuition fees at the university level, but the people will not accept the charging of fees in government and Assisted schools.
Paradoxically, it is quite possible that if certain circumstances persist, parents who are determined to give their children a secondary education may not be reluctant to pay fees in private secondary schools. If the price of petroleum, on which the government relies mainly for its revenue, does not rise, and the other sources of national income do not meet their expected targets, government may not be able to build the secondary schools needed to meet the growing demand. If the double shift persists and the anomaly of different types of secondary schools with varying desirability by the people is not corrected, one can envisage the reappearance of private secondary schools for which parents who could not get their children into one of the schools of their choice, may be willing to pay fees.
A private secondary school system flourished in Trinidad and Tobago during the 1950s. The first secondary schools in the history of education in Trinidad and Tobago were absolutely "private" schools in that they received no government assistance and they charged fees. These early private secondary schools were set up by religious denominations and were attended exclusively by the very rich. As the country moved from colonialism to independence, and especially during the initial period of national government, the thirst for secondary education by the people grew so dramatically that it opened up opportunities for the establishment of private schools. These later private secondary schools were generally started by teachers with long experience in the profession, and although some of the schools turned out to be essentially business ventures, their principals were invariably very dedicated and professional in the management of their schools. The country owes a great debt of gratitude to these principals and their devoted staff for their contribution to education in the country. Private secondary schools like Osmond, Progressive Educational Institute, Bishop's, Pamphilion, Modern Secondary and Ideal provided secondary education to many middle-class and working-class children and produced a remarkable number of outstanding citizens in the community. Most of these private secondary schools went out of business as the government launched its massive secondary school construction program with junior and senior secondary schools. One can speculate that if the government secondary school building program cannot keep pace with the demand for places, opportunities may once more be created for a re-emergence of private secondary schools. Although the building of such schools will constitute "free enterprise," planners of education may need to consider some controls and regulations that would reduce the worse effects of unbridled expansion of private secondary schools. One of the most feared risks would be the growth of private "prestige" secondary schools and the negative effects on equality of opportunity as threatened by the assisted "prestige" schools.
Regulations that have already been instituted for the running of private schools will have to be reinforced and provisions will have to be made for their compliance. The principal instrument of control has been the requirement that private schools be registered. In future planning of the secondary school system, government could use the instrument of registration to zone the location of private secondary schools so that they complement the public system. Building codes for these schools will have to be reviewed to ensure that students attending these schools are provided with an educational and physical environment that approximates the conditions in the government and assisted schools. The most difficult, but highly important responsibility of government will be with respect to the quality of education offered in these schools. The Ministry of Education may have to consider using its supervisorsboth the administrative and curriculumto promote proper levels of quality in the education that private secondary school students receive.
In the private secondary school system, the most effective promoter of high quality and eliminator of low-quality education will be the external examinations which, as far as one can see into the future, will maintain their historical influence in the educational system and the society at large.
Passing the examinations of the General Certificate of Education and the recently introduced Caribbean Examinations Council will continue to be the main concrete expectations of parents for sending their children to secondary schools. Schools that succeed in getting their students to pass these exams and with goods grades will have no difficulty in filling their classrooms with students and even in charging high fees. Those schools with poor external exam results will not survive. The "market," therefore, will determine the survival or elimination of private secondary schools. This argument has been advanced by the advocates of "privatization" in their romantic espousal of the notion of free enterprise. But because of the critical role and value of education in social and economic development and the absolute necessity to ensure minimally acceptable levels for all members of society, government cannot shirk its responsibility of shaping the educational systemin both the private and public components. The planning of secondary education in the future must adhere to this principle.
While the successes of the 15-Year Educational Plan in quantitative increases cannot be denied, some may argue that its thrust to improve quality did not fulfill expectations. Unfortunately, this argument is all speculative, for no studies or empirical research have been carried out to assess qualitative improvements. In any case, evaluating quality in education is not easy or straightforward. But for the future, the planning of education in Trinidad and Tobago must aim not only to increase access or physical expansion, but focus more directly on curriculum reconstruction and methodology reformation to improve quality and relevance.
The immediate temptation will be to look for new subjects to add to existing curricula, especially at the secondary school level. Technology and knowledge are increasing at a bewildering pace and subject matter in education can become obsolete almost overnight. But planners of education are going to find it difficult, if not impossible, to add any new subjects to existing curricula. For curriculum developers, the only feasible approach will be to conduct research to assess the relevance of existing subjects and subject matter to present and future needs of the society.
The most important phase of this research will be to understand, assess and prioritize the needs of society. With respect to secondary school curricula renovation, research should focus on the problems that young people are experiencing. From a cursory glance at the literature, one could anticipate the need to include more material related to drug abuse control, sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, teenage pregnancies, violent crime, unemployment and environment in future curricula. The guiding principle in curriculum reconstruction at the secondary school level should be that education should be a preparation for life and not for examinations.
It is possible that the solution to many of the problems afflicting youth may be outside of the domain of education. Planners of education will have to determine what education can really do and to which other aspect of development or area of the society, one would have to look for solutions or remedies to pressing social problems.
There are indications that the majority of the social problems afflicting youth are to be attributed to their increasing alienation from society. One would have to conclude that the school by itself is incapable of providing effective remedies. Planners of education would have to forge a closer collaboration between the school and the other agencies or institutions in society that mould the character and shape the minds of young people. The home would be the main institution with which the school should deepen this coalition. The influence of the Church and media in the formal and non-formal education of youth must be given due recognition. The well-established State-Church partnership has proven to be highly successful for the provision of education for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. The Church has long and valid experience in instilling morals and righteousness. The Ministry of Education should enlist the aid of the religious denominations for developing appropriate curricula and programs for the moral education of youth.
It is very important, however, to recognize the multi-racial and multi-religious character of Trinidad and Tobago society, and the presence of both Christian and non-Christian religions. The principle of "ecumenism" has already been observed in some religious activities; but for the development of curricula and programs for moral education, one would advocate an "interfaith" approach which goes beyond Christian ecumenism to embrace the Hindu and Moslem and other non-Christian religions. The Ministry of Education with the cooperation of all the religious faiths in the country should be able to identify a "common denominator" in the teachings of all the religions which could form the basis for teaching morals and cultivating humanism among the young people of the country.
The other powerful force with which the school would have to collaborate is the media. Regrettably, the notion of television as an enemy is not unknown among some educators. Violence and crime among young people and the increasing levels of brutality have often been attributed to television and the movies. Research needs to be done to determine the effect of television in Trinidad and Tobago on the behavior of young people. Findings from such research would guide planners in devising strategies or recommending measures and controls to ensure that the media exert a more positive and wholesome effect on the formation of attitudes and values among the young generation. Rather than see the media, particularly television, as the enemy, the school should join forces with them in educating youth.
Trinidad and Tobago has a long tradition of cooperation between the school and the family. Families of all socio-economic levels attach great importance to education. In spite of recent signs of lowering, the level of respect for teachers in the community remains fairly high. Teachers are generally highly respected. Parents strive to cooperate with the schools. This is particularly evident in the widespread establishment and survival of Parent-Teacher Associations throughout the country. This school-home collaboration may be subject to some deterioration, however, particularly because of the increase in families with both parents employed, and the absence of immediate parents in many homes due to migration. There are indications also that the economic situation of the country, particularly unemployment and reduction in earnings in families, may be taking its toll on the ability of parents to cooperate with the school in the education of their children. Planners of education, especially of the secondary level, will have to take into consideration that in spite of free tuition, sending a child to school does entail high cost to families that an increasing number may not be able to afford.
The realization that many of the problems in society may be solved thought education reinforces the need for comprehensive and integrated planning of development. Education must be planned within the context of a total plan for social and economic development, and the capacity of education to cure society of its ills should not be overestimated. Educational planners must realize that the provision of education consumes resources like other aspects of development, and that education will be in dire competition for those resources, especially when they are scarce. One of the lessons to be learned from the implementation of the 15-Year Educational Plan was that school building targets must be more realistically set, taking into consideration the demands on the building industry from other sectors.
For the future, governments will find that comprehensive integrated development planning will be its most effective instrument for fulfilling its responsibility for organizing and managing the resources of the country to provide the "good life" for its citizens. In its development priorities, education will continue to hold high status not only as a developer of the human resources but also as a most desired outcome of the development process.
At the moment of independence of Trinidad and Tobago, it was observed that a people was freed but a society was not born. After almost four decades of nationhood, it can be argued that undesirable traces of colonialism persist in both the mentality of the people and in the fabric of society. Development planning, especially in the educational sector, must have the achievement of true nationhood with a society and a people that are economically and psychologically independent as its prime objective. True independence could then emerge from "the schoolbags" of the children of the nation.
One of the psychological ills that would have to be addressed is the racial and ethnic divisiveness which was left as a legacy on the country from colonial exploitation. Compared with the racial strife that has been afflicting several former colonies, race relations in Trinidad and Tobago can be regarded as relatively wholesome. By and large, the various ethnic groups in the country live in peace and harmony. If there is any significant rise in racial tension, it would generally be found around election time. The process of colonization of the country by Europe in the early centuries was bound to leave divisions among the various ethnic sectors of the country. The different racial groups were introduced into the country at separate times and under differing circumstances, and were "reared" or educated separately. The education that was provided during early colonial times for the inhabitants of the country was calculated to keep the races apart and in constant rivalry. As the country moved towards nationhood, however, the educational system, especially in its widespread expansion, reversed the divisive trend and provided opportunities for greater integration of the society. The process of creating a society after the freeing of the people made significant strides. The unification of the races, especially the two major groupsthe African and Indianwas most noticeable in the primary, and to a larger extent, the secondary schools in the urban areas. More and more children of different races were sitting together in classrooms and getting a better understanding of each other and an orientation and preparation for living in an integrated society. For the future, the planners of education must be conscious of the divisiveness of the education provided in the early history of the country and steer the growth of the educational system to ensure that it fulfills its role in the racial integration of the society.
The "inter-faith" approach that was advocated in this chapter for the construction of a curriculum for moral education could be expanded into other areas of the curriculum, such as Social Studies and History, to correct misunderstandings and promote greater mutual respect among the various ethnic groups of the country. In Trinidad and Tobago, race and religion tend to coincide, especially with respect to the non-Christian Hindus and Moslems. The education that the young citizens receive should provide accurate knowledge and greater sensitivity for the religious practices of all inhabitants, and promote greater tolerance and respect among the followers of the different faiths. This appreciation for each other's religion is bound to improve racial relations in the society.
Since "education makes the man," planners of education must see it as a major vehicle for removing prejudices and other negative characteristics and developing positive and wholesome attitudes and values in the personality of the young citizen. Through curriculum reconstruction and the production of teaching and reading material, especially the rewriting of the traditionally Euro-centric history and more accurate knowledge of the civilization, culture and religion of the two major ethnic groupsthe African and Indianeducation will make a substantial contribution to racial harmony in the country.
In the process of creating a truly independent society, the greatest contribution that education can make would be in cultivating "independent thinking" in the minds of the citizenry. It can be said that education in itself "frees up" the mind. We should not lose sight of the fact that some education can be doctrinaire and, rather than lead to independence of thought, can encapsulate the individual and bridle his or her thinking.
The early provisions for education in the history of Trinidad and Tobago were designed to affect the "conditioning" of the people, especially with respect to allegiance to the British Crown after the British occupation. Education engendered a preference for foreign things, especially European, and a colonial or dependency mentality.
This process underwent gradual reversal with the move to nationhood. Future planners of education must focus not only on strategies to remove the traces of colonial conditioning, but should institute reforms in the educational system, both in curriculum and methodology, to directly promote independence of thought. With respect to methodology, the most urgent reform needed is the elimination of the practice of rote learning in the classroom and the propagation of teaching methods such as learning by doing, the discovery method and other approaches that promote creativity and inventiveness. The shift in education from preparing for examinations to preparing for life is fundamental to this methodology reform. The dominating and sinister influence that examinations exert over curricula and methodology must be reduced so as to encourage and permit teaching methods that are more beneficial to creative thinking.
The promotion of creative thinking and critical intelligence in a citizenry is necessary for the exercise of true independence and the practice of democratic government. People must be able to "think for themselves," particularly with respect to carrying out their civic duties at national and other elections. Education for democracy should cultivate in people levels of critical analysis and intelligence to withstand the guiles of scheming politicians seeking their votes. Education should make citizens particularly wary of the overtures of those "petty" politicians who are so bankrupt of constructive ideas that they have to resort to race to obtain votes, or use political office for their own gain and for whom national interests are subservient to their personal advancement. It has been noticed that racial tensions increase in the country around election time.
Whether to reform teaching methodology so as to promote critical thinking, or to produce history books with a less Euro-centric bias, funds will be needed to carry out the research and redesign of syllabi, and train teachers to deal with the reforms in curriculum or methodology. As mentioned in a previous chapter, planners of education will have to operate within the context of a shrinking budget. Approaches will have to be adopted to reduce the costs of designing and implementing these reforms.
Because of the similarity in history of Trinidad and Tobago with that of the rest of the Caribbean, many of the problems in education of Trinidad and Tobago that future planning will have to address are not very different from those in other Caribbean countries, especially the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Planners of education in Trinidad and Tobago should seek to "share costs" of reforms with other Caribbean countries by adopting a regional or CARICOM approach. Meeting the national needs in education through regional projects would find favor among international and bilateral funding agencies and may even be a requirement for securing certain types of funds from some international sources.
In this context, greater use of the University of the West Indies as a regional institution for carrying out the research and teacher training for the educational reforms of Trinidad and Tobago is strongly recommended.
The movement toward an Association of Caribbean States, which was recommended by the West Indian Commission, should urge planners of education in Trinidad and Tobago to include the non-English speaking Caribbean in addressing some of the local problems in education. The development of associations with neighboring countries of the non-English speaking Caribbean and Latin America, with whom relations or connections with Trinidad and Tobago were very limited during colonial times, would be a mature step on the road to true independence and nationhood.