The History of Secondary Education and the Development of Curricula

When Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence in 1962, more than four and a half centuries of colonial rule ended. As colonies, the islands developed essentially as extensions of the European country that possessed them. This condition determined the character of the earliest provisions for secondary education in the islands, and its effects are still visible in the present system.

Trinidad became a colony of England in 1797 after a period of Spanish domination from 1498. After a period of colonization by the Dutch, and after shifting from hand to hand in the skirmishes between the French and British, Tobago was finally ceded to Great Britain in 1803.

Records of the social development of the islands before their permanent occupation by the British are not easily available. The absence of records is indicative of the neglect that the territories suffered due to the bankrupt policy of Spanish colonialism. Gold, the main objective of the exploration and colonization of the islands, was never found in Trinidad and Tobago, and the interest of the Spaniards in developing the islands was therefore minimal.

One can presume, however, that some secondary schooling was provided in the islands during the period of Spanish rule by looking at the history of similar colonies like Venezuela—with which Trinidad was associated during this era. Education was provided mainly by missionaries who were operating energetically in the Caribbean and South America from the 16th century. Moron1 reports that most of the education supplied locally was given by private tutors—who only the rich could have afforded. The most important schools were those attached to monasteries where secondary as well as primary education was conducted. The curriculum consisted of Latin, Rhetoric, History, Geography, Divinity, Language and Literature.

The event of greatest significance in the history of the islands after their seizure by the British was the Emancipation of the slave population. The slaves made up the greatest percentage of the inhabitants in those times, and a large percentage of the present population2 of Trinidad and Tobago is descended from them. The early period of British settlement was also marked by physical, social and intellectual impoverishment. Besides the obvious indices of neglect, Gordon3 cites as evidence the fact that nearly every writer about the West Indies at that time was a visitor and rarely a settler.

It could be said that the era in the history of Trinidad and Tobago that ended with Independence began in 1834—the date of Emancipation. The point has been made, however, that through Emancipation a people was freed, but a society was not born. The lack of social and national consciousness among the people could be attributed to the failure of the educational system, and in particular, to the curricula of the early secondary schools, in making a positive contribution to the emergence or creation of a national society.

According to some reports,4 there was one English female boarding school, and three French5 day schools in Port of Spain at the time of Emancipation. Records do not indicate whether these schools were fully secondary, or were of the non-graded type found in Venezuela and other Spanish colonies in those days. By 1859, two Catholic schools were providing a full secondary education. These schools were for the sons and daughters of the European population. The education provided for the slaves before and right after Emancipation was essentially instruction in the Christian religion. A simple form of education was also offered to the Amerindians in an effort to convert them to Christianity. Rudimentary education given to the slaves was resisted by plantation owners who accused the missionaries of injecting ideas into the slave population that were detrimental to the plantation system. Slave rebellions were often blamed on these missionaries. The observation has been made that "the planters regarded literacy as a sort of social dynamite."6 This attitude that education for the mass of the population was politically hazardous and economically unsound makes an ironic comparison with the present day belief that universal education is indispensable to political stability and economic prosperity.

In 1869, a decision was made by the colonial government to allocate public funds to secondary education. However, the students who received this publicly-funded education were not representative of the "people" of the country. During the 18th and 19th century, the majority of the population of the country was generally Negroes and Coloreds, but records7 show that in the first secondary school to be established with public funds, less than one-fifth of the students were Coloreds and none were Negroes. This early provision for secondary education set a pattern that meant that secondary education was a privilege of only a small segment of the population and this segment was by no means representative of the people of the country. At one point it was observed that "secondary or higher schools in England and Wales and indeed in most Western European countries were at the time of their origin, and even down to a comparatively recent date, to a considerable extent, institutions for the education of children, chiefly boys, either belonging to more prosperous classes or selected for their ability."8

Early secondary education in the colony, as well as in the metropolitan country, had a pronounced "elite" orientation. Moreover, due to the circumstances of colonialism or perhaps due to the mentality of the inhabitants or "residents" of the country, the character of the early secondary education was not merely "elite," but "alien" as well.

The alien character of secondary education in Trinidad and Tobago could be attributed not only to the fact that such secondary education was not intended to serve the majority of the members of the society, but also to the attitude toward education of those citizens who were privileged to receive it. Throughout the colonies, the European inhabitants kept their gaze turned towards the metropolitan country. Thus, when they sought to have secondary education provided in the colonies, it was not in order to prepare their sons and daughters for a Trinidadian society, but rather for an European culture. Indeed, it was the practice of the more prosperous settlers to send their children to Europe for their education, especially at the secondary-school level. It has been recorded that "in 1770 about three quarters of the children of the proprietors growing up in Jamaica went abroad for education. The consequences were that all the real interests of such students centered in England which became home to them as it had been to their elders."9 Moreover, this physical and psychological rejection of Trinidadian society characterized not only the inhabitants of English descent, but also those of French and Spanish origin10 even though they were inclined to consider themselves more "native" or "creole" than their English counterparts.

Thus the education that was to be offered to Trinidadians in the first attempt to provide secondary education for "the people" of the country (if such was the intention in using public funds in 1859), was a victim of the circumstances of colonialism. An alien character was inevitable, for the function of this education was to prepare the "residents" of the islands for "another" society.

The first public secondary school was Queen's Collegiate School (currently known as Queen's Royal College), and it was considered the most influential secondary school in the system for quite some time. By 1859, however, two private Catholic secondary schools were already in operation. Carmichael11 reports that in 1836, the religious Order of St. Joseph opened St. Joseph's Convent, the first secondary school for girls in the colony. It was considered a "finishing school for young ladies of class." The Catholics also established a boys' secondary school, St. George's College, in 1837.

Queen's Collegiate School was set up as the apex of the secular educational system established in an ordinance in 1859. Its raison d'Ítre was unashamedly to turn young Trinidadians into young English gentlemen. This intention is clearly identified in the Attorney General's proposals12 in 1857 for the school's curriculum:

instruction will be that which is generally known as classical education, founded on the same principles, proposing to itself the same objects, and attaining those objects by the same means with the education which is given at Eton, Harrow and Winchester. The education supposes an early vigorous, but not exclusive, training in Latin and Greek.

The English Public School became the model for curriculum design for the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago.

The conditions of colonialism made secondary education in Trinidad and Tobago a pale imitation of the most eccentric type of English secondary school. In spite of some Catholic opposition to the secular Queen's Collegiate School, the school's position at the apex of the government educational system guaranteed its influence on the secondary school system and perpetuated the alien and imitative character of curricula in the secondary schools.

An ordinance in 1870 embodied a scheme whereby other secondary schools could become affiliated with Queen's Collegiate School, which by now was called Queen's Royal College. The leading Catholic boys school, St. George's College, had deteriorated and in 1863, the College of the Immaculate Conception was founded. On becoming affiliated to Queen's Royal College, the new Catholic secondary school adopted the same curriculum as the government school as a condition for receiving public grants. This also permitted the students of the Catholic school to qualify for the four cherished Island Scholarships.

The Catholic school yielded to the influence of Queen's Royal College with its English Public School aspirations because with the capture of the island by the British, an "English" education as compared with the "French" education offered in the Catholic schools was proving to be of greater value in a British colony. A report in the Catholic newspaper of the day bears evidence of this change: "The education of our youth has become English and the heads of the College and Convent (though French themselves) are more than ever convinced of the importance of cultivating the English element in those useful institutions."13

It seemed inevitable that the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago, especially its curricula, should follow patterns of the United Kingdom. To many of the elite in the society for whom secondary education was provided as an exclusive privilege, this stage of education was regarded as a step towards university education. University education was not provided in the West Indies until 1948 with the building of the University College of the West Indies. Some form of higher education was being offered in Codrington College14 in Barbados from around 1847, but this was essentially a theological college to train West Indian ministers. It was necessary, therefore, for Trinidadians to go to institutions in the United Kingdom for their university education. If the local secondary schools were to prepare students to enter British universities, they were constrained to gear curricula to entrance requirements for those universities.

The government scheme of Island Scholarships also induced the secondary schools to subject their curricula to the dictates of foreign universities. Garcia15 estimates that the year 1863 is the beginning of the "era of Island Scholarships" when Queen's Royal College began presenting candidates for the Cambridge Examinations. These scholarships were offered on the results of the Cambridge examinations and gave Trinidadians an opportunity to pursue higher education in the British universities—an opportunity that every young ambitious colonial eagerly sought, especially as it represented an opportunity to rise to the level of his colonial masters.

The foreign (and decidedly British) character of the education offered in the secondary schools was further reinforced by the fact that the teachers (except in the case of the Catholic schools)16 were mostly young Englishmen, many of whom came to the West Indies for their first post in the Colonial Service. The practice of appointing an Englishman (not locally born) as principal of Queen's Royal College continued until 1927. Even in the leading Catholic boys school, it was not until 1958 that a Trinidadian was made principal. Before gaining Independence, the chief administrative officer in the Department of Education had always been an expatriate Englishman.

The report of Principals17 offers an idea of the curricula of the early secondary schools: Mathematics, Latin, Greek, French, German, English Language and Literature, English History and Geography. No scientific, artistic, practical or technical subjects were included. The quality of the syllabus or content of the subjects taught can be judged from the observation made about History that "students turned their faces away from their own life to that of a distant country, concerning whose Plantagenet and Tudor Kings, they learned a number of unpleasant facts."18

It should be noted that in spite of the predominantly classical and literary character of the education offered in the English Public School—which the secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago were copying—by 1837,19 science subjects such as Physics were being introduced at Rugby under the name of "Natural Philosophy," and a Physics laboratory was erected in 1859. This "retardation" has characterized the development of secondary education throughout the colonies. As an imitator of the British system, education in Trinidad and Tobago has always been following at a distance of a decade or more in the wake of its model.

Although the type of curriculum offered at Queen's Royal College set a pattern for the whole secondary school system, it did not escape criticism. Although the main objection of the Catholics was the secular nature of the education at this government school, they emphasized in a petition to the Queen that the curriculum of the schools was unrelated to the needs of the country: "A purely classical education does not appear to your Petitioners to be adapted to the circumstances in this Island, where Agriculture and Commerce are the principal pursuits of the inhabitants."20

Such criticisms about secondary education in Trinidad and Tobago remained valid for a long time. Even in 1964, when the "principal pursuits" of the inhabitants had become more technical in that the petroleum industry was and still is the greatest source of wealth to the country, it was noted21 that secondary level education was predominantly academic, retaining "the characteristics of an outmoded British Grammar School."

Considering the criticisms made by the Catholics, one could speculate that secondary school curricula in Trinidad and Tobago might have developed more independently of the British Grammar School model, and more oriented to local environment. However, the lure of the Island Scholarships was irresistible, and the Catholic schools "sold out" to the government-sponsored institution by adopting its curriculum and presenting candidates for the Cambridge examinations. The Catholic opposition was to some extent squashed by the allegation that their criticism of the curriculum of Queen's Royal College was really an expression of their opposition to the development of the island as a British colony. Their dissent was made to seem unpatriotic. It is ironic that the main Catholic boys school has grown to acquire a reputation for conservatism. It relaxed its adherence to Classics much later than Queen's Royal College, although it can be argued that the persistence with Greek and Latin in its curriculum might be due to the religious bias of its education. Greek was not removed from its curriculum until 1966.

The State institution that gave direction to the growth of curricula at the secondary school level was "un-Trinidadian" in that it persisted in its reluctance to open its doors to the children of African descent. Even when these children had the ability, they would be excluded on the grounds of illegitimate parenthood. According to a newspaper report of the time, "our honest Government says, that the youth of the present generation, the unfortunate offspring of a hell-born system, shall not receive the advantages of a superior education... regardless of their natural capabilities."22 However, voices were raised in opposition:

Will the bone and sinew of the land be suffered to soften and contract, because the lungs of a few of the would-be aristocrats are too tender to inhale the atmosphere in close proximity to those, the union of whose parents has not been blessed by the Church?

Records bear further evidence of the exclusiveness in the admission policy of Queen's Royal College, and the unlikeliness of its making an effective contribution to the formation of an integrated Trinidadian society.

Gordon quotes from a 1861 Report of an Inspector of Schools regarding the role of Queen's Royal College in maintaining class distinctions by its classical curriculum:

A distinction will always, however, be maintained in the social scale by means of the superior classical education offered at the Queen's Collegiate School. And had it not been for the establishment of this important institution, there seemed a likelihood of the "toe of the peasant coming so near the heel of the courtier as to gal his kibe,'for those born in the higher positions of life might have had to give way in point of intellectual culture to the pupils of the popular education.23

No factor reinforced the alien and imitative character of the curriculum of the first secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago as much as the feeling among the "colonials" that through education they could prove their equality to the "metropolitans." The Trinidadians who could afford to do so sent their children "home" to the United Kingdom to ensure that their children received an education equal to that of their English peers. Those parents who could not bear this expense would tolerate no other type of education than what was being offered in the English schools. Any deviation from British models would have aroused suspicions or fears of inferior quality. Thus, in patterning the local schools after the great English Public Schools, the colonials found a way to emulate and compete with their metropolitan counterparts who were often sent out to the colonies as administrators or in some other supervisory positions.

This attitude was also held by the Catholics in the islands who took pride in showing that they could qualify for posts that were considered the prerogative of the local and expatriate English. Press reports24 in 1867 bear evidence of the satisfaction they received from the fact that Trinidadians performed better than English students in the Cambridge examinations.

This preoccupation for emulating their "colonial masters" has been marked throughout colonial peoples over the world, and at times has persisted even when former colonies have gained their independence. With reference to education in Ghana, Foster observed that "what the schools do, was not important in itself, provided that their curricula were similar to those of English institutions at the same level."25 Beeby points out that in many of the emergent or ex-colonial countries, parents demanded "the same kind of academic schooling their European rulers had," the feeling being that "however unfit it might be to the life of the primitive village or farm, this was the type of education that evidently gave the European his material prosperity."26 The notion that by being given the same classical education as the metropolitans, the West Indian colonial could attain equal stature and power was expressed in a Barbadian newspaper in 1891: "It is in the education of those who have guided the real progress of the world, that Greek has played and still plays so important, so essential a part."27 Sentiments28 and attitudes like these precluded the emergence of locally oriented curricula in the secondary schools.

The major influence therefore in the formulation of curricula for the earliest secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago was the condition of colonialism in which the islands found themselves. The curricula were patterned after the English Public School model. The power and influence of Queen's Royal College overcame opposition to the externally oriented curricula it promoted. British universities kept the curricula and syllabus of the secondary schools in subjection. The Cambridge examinations maintained a firm grip on the content of the education offered in the schools. The coveted Island Scholarships were the goals to which teaching resources were directed. Moreover, curricula were designed to provide education for an elite group who identified, especially in the case of the English elements, with an external culture and society. The secondary education provided in these times did not serve the majority of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. In many cases, they were systematically excluded from it. The needs of the society which began with its Emancipation were neglected in the anxiety to emulate the metropolitan or beat the expatriate on his own ground. Such are the traditions which shaped the development of curricula in the secondary schools of Trinidad and Tobago. Traditions die hard, especially in education.

Education Provided as a Social Service

If the provision of secondary education for the majority of the people was a slow process in the United Kingdom, it was even slower in the colony of Trinidad and Tobago. To the commissions that came out of the colonies to examine conditions, it was clear that funds for providing education were too meager. The purpose of these commissions was generally to find ways to promote both efficiency and economy in the educational system. Invariably, the measures they recommended were aimed at economizing or reducing the expense on the Colonial Government or Local Assembly. The Colonial Government was not disposed to expending funds on education in the colonies which by colonial policy were created to increase the prosperity of the metropolitan country. Likewise, the Local Legislative Assembly that represented the interest of the sugar proprietors was unwilling to devote substantial grants to expand the education system beyond the narrow interests of this clique, especially since they continued to harbor the erroneous notion that widespread education was inimical to the plantation system. So parsimonious was the Colonial Government in its allocations to education in the colony that it took exactly one century and one year to build its second secondary school29 after Queen's Collegiate School.

Even during the 19th century, when it could be said that the colony prospered from the sugar boom, funds from the British government and the Local Legislature were not abundant for education. Because of the lack of identification with Trinidadian society, the rich proprietors and merchants who secured fortunes were unwilling to give back some of their wealth to the country. This was manifested by the absence of endowments or contributions to education and other aspects of the social infrastructure. One of the Commissions30 commented that "we are left wondering why there is so little record in buildings and foundations of the days of real prosperity when fortunes were being made and opportunities for showing gratitude to the country of their origin, must have been frequent."

As the golden era of sugar ended in the 19th century, grants to education became even less abundant, because education was viewed as essentially a social service. The notion of education as an investment, and the contribution that education could have made to the economic and social development of the colonies escaped early 19th century thinking. Whenever crises occurred, such as a series of epidemics of cholera, yellow fever, and small pox in the 1850s, funds were concentrated on these emergencies and education was further neglected. Efforts to provide schooling on a public basis would be the first to suffer in any crisis.

The attitude of the colonial government to education was reflected in the method of financing education—a system of "payment by results." This system was designed to secure the maximum amount of education as a welfare commodity from the funds expended, but a report of Inspectors of Schools for the Leeward Islands indicates that the stress on economizing was so intense that it almost reduced the system to ineffectiveness: "These payments, be it marked, having been regulated upon a scale as low as could have been adopted with reasonable likelihood of bringing about the object desired."31 Reducing the cost of the educational service was the constant concern of the colonial government and Gordon observes that "the commissioners, the inspectors and the members of school boards of education were constantly asked for proposals for more and still more economy."32

A letter33 from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Acting Governor of Trinidad in 1900 reveals clearly the attitude of the Colonial Government that education was being provided to the colonies as welfare, and as such its costs should be reduced wherever possible. This letter called "attention to the large expenditure on education in Trinidad" and insisted on a "minimum limit on such expenditure," in spite of the "strong representations being made on behalf of various denominations that the proposals would inflict hardship on them and lead to the closing of schools." The determination of the Colonial Office to economize was so intense that commissions sent out to examine education on the colonies were prone to recommend restrictions even though they might have been considered "reactionary": "At the risk of being condemned as reactionary, we are recommending the restriction of educational activity in some directions, in order to divert funds from the less to the more essential items."34

This 1931 commission seemed to have "regretted" that it had to make recommendations that would necessitate increased expenditure: "Other recommendations that we are compelled to make must involve increased expenditure."35 Commissions did compare the miserly education allocations that they were mandated to reduce where possible, with the provisions in the metropolitan country: "We find that the average expenditure per child in the English countries is 9 pound sterling, 17 shillings and 1 penny, and in the boroughs 10 pound sterling, 7 shillings and 9 pence, but in the islands visited, the average expenditure per child is 1 pound sterling, 15 shillings and 8 pence, varying from 2 pound sterling, 15 shillings in Trinidad to 15 shillings, 4 pence in St. Lucia and 13 shillings in the Virgin Islands."36

The reluctance of the Colonial Government to vote for larger sums for education when expenditure was so low compared with that in England, stands as a serious indictment of the colonial government's attitude to education in the colony.

It was only the political implications that stayed the "economizing" hand of the colonial government in their treatment of education in the colony. The Colonial Office 1931 Commission had thought "of concentration of funds on the really effective maintenance of a comparatively small number of schools and the complete withdrawal of State-aided facilities from a large section of the population."37 After reflecting on the possible consequences of such a measure however, they decided that "this would not be practical politics."38

The Moyne Commission Report, published a few years after the 1931 Commission, pointed out that the intention of the latter was not "a diminution of the educational provision, but a pruning of what had become a sprawling ineffective growth."39 It is ironical that the meager provisions for education by the colonial government—as the 1931 Marriott-Mayhew Commission itself disclosed—could be deemed to be capable of permitting any kind of "sprawling growth". The Moyne Commission itself admitted: "For our part, we could not for a moment countenance any attempt to reduce educational facilities from their present low state."40

The extent to which the colonial government economized its provision of educational services can be gathered from observations made by the Moyne Commission. They stated that whereas in 1938-39 the expenditure on education was 300,000 pound sterling in Jamaica, a sum of 2,500,000 pound sterling would have been required "if English standards were adopted." This means that educational allocations would have to have increased by 700 percent in order to bring educational services (in a better provided colony like Jamaica) closer to the standards of those obtained in England.

It was not until the 1954 report of a committee41 instituted to look at education in Trinidad and Tobago that one could see signs that the colonial government was regarding expenditure on education in the colonies as anything other than a financial burden. The policy of the Colonial Office changed from the view that education was merely a social service without tangible returns to the notion that sums allocated to education could constitute a sound investment for promoting development and prosperity in the colonies. The report of this 1954 committee stated that "without considerable further expenditure we do not see how either the existing system can be made efficient or adequate, or how the growing demand of the Colony's economic, social and political development can be met."42 This new attitude to education, however, was not fully manifested until Independence was achieved by the colony.

Three Major Commissions

Besides Queen's Royal College, government's effort in secondary education was by giving grants to the schools that the religious denominations set up. No form of control was exercised over these denominational schools, and although in 1918 an Ordinance set up a Department of Education with executive authority in a Director of Education, no advisory or inspecting service for secondary schools was established. Based on the recommendation of a Commission in 1914, the autonomy that principals enjoyed in curriculum construction was formally sanctioned. They continued to offer almost identical courses, however, in an effort to be awarded the Island Scholarships. As these Island Scholarships continued to be awarded on the results of the Cambridge examinations, preparation for them so consumed the bulk of the schools' energies that subjects and activities that could not be taken for the Cambridge School or Higher Certificate exams were almost completely excluded from the curriculum. Thus, forces tended to preserve rather than change curriculum patterns in the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago, and in spite of commissions and proposals for curriculum reform, renovation moved at a very slow pace. The little change that was brought about in curriculum in the secondary school between early colonial times and the eve of Independence was the result of the work of three main commissions, the Marriott-Mayhew43 of 1931, the Moyne44 of 1939 and the Missen45 of 1945.

The Marriott-Mayhew commission made some proposals based on its examination of the secondary schools in Trinidad, one of which resulted in the 1931 Ordinance for Private Schools which had begun to grow in number. The measures had little effect on curriculum however, and the Missen Report46 points out that they appeared to have been "directed to morals rather than to teaching" and "in the interest of hygiene rather than education, with no effective control of the type and quality of education imparted in the private schools...."

The Marriott-Mayhew Commission did propose the establishment of a new type of secondary school which would offer curricula that deviated from the English Public School pattern:

A new and additional type of school is needed providing courses of instruction that are practical in the broadest sense, not merely vocational or utilitarian, but with a cultural basis of general education, directed essentially to the stimulation of interest in the pupil's social and industrial environment and calculated to create a taste and aptitude for industrial agricultural or commercial pursuits, or for social service in primary schools and elsewhere, rather than for the "learned" professions and sedentary or clerical posts in Government service.47

Although there had been critics of the secondary school curricula's strict adherence to the classical model, this was the first official proposal for a school with a less academically biased curriculum. The development of curricula in the colony had characteristically lagged behind trends in the "mother country" by almost a century. Records48 indicate that English secondary schools like Cheltenham College, founded in 1841, offered "modern courses" that were designed to prepare boys for careers not only in government office, but in engineering and commercial life.

The proposal for the establishment of a "modern" secondary school by the Marriott-Mayhew Commission was not implemented, nor is there any evidence that the idea led to any major change in the curricula of the existing secondary schools. On the contrary, the 1939 Commission observed the same resistance to deviations from the Public School model as was noticed by Foster49 among African colonials and by Beeby50 among New Zealand Maoris. The Moyne Commission reported that the proposals of the Marriott-Mayhew Commission for less academic or classical curricula "aroused a good deal of local opposition, on the mistaken ground that they were designed to lower the standard of education of the people."51

On the continually alien and imitative character of secondary school curricula, the Moyne Commission observed: "Curricula are on the whole ill-adapted to the needs of the large mass of the population and adhere far too closely to models which have become out dated in the British practice from which they were blindly copied."52 The Commission was severe in its repudiation of the secondary school system: "We wish to see an end to the illogical and wasteful system which permits the education of a community predominantly engaged in agriculture to be based upon a literary curriculum fitting pupils only for white collar careers in which opportunities are comparatively limited."53

The Commission showed some awareness of the effects this type curriculum could have on the social development and personality of the Trinidadian: "Constantly to look to other countries for their standards is to postpone indefinitely the emergence of a real sense of independence and self respect."54 Like the 1931 Commission, the Moyne Commission recommended the establishment of Junior Secondary schools to stimulate the development of more practical and realistic curricula than that offered by the traditional grammar school. In the hope of lessening the dominance of the Cambridge examinations over curricula, a proposal was made to abolish the Junior Cambridge examinations. The 1939 Commission felt, too, that the use of this exam was another illustration of the misconceptions that the colonies entertained in their anxiety to imitate the mother country: "The Junior Cambridge examination, which was used in the West Indies for a purpose for which it is not intended in England, is not taken in English schools maintained or aided from public funds."55

However, nothing resulted from the proposal to establish Junior Secondary schools. Records do not show any significant change in the curricula of the secondary schools. In 1946, a school similar to the Junior Secondary—called a Central Senior High School—was proposed in a Statement on educational policy that was presented to the Legislative Council. The Mission Report states that the Council Paper was never debated.

Although the existing secondary schools provided upward mobility for some citizens, they continued to vegetate in their "classical" isolation—isolation from the realities of the society they were supposed to serve. Both in the development of a prosperous economy and of a national society, their contributions were negative. Following the traditions set by Queen's Collegiate School, they continued to offer an alien education. Notable, too, was their isolation from the primary schools that were beginning to evolve a Trinidadian character and more direct relevance to the needs of the majority of the populace. A newspaper report56 in 1889 described the secondary system as one "that takes the pupil a leap from primary subjects to classical and unconnected subjects, without bridging the intellectual gap that lies between, and then hurries him through a crazy-quilted curriculum to reach at the shortest notice the Cambridge Examination for the Colonial Scholarship." As late as 1954 the Missen report asserted that "apart from the traffic in pupils there is little connection between the primary school system of the Colony and its secondary schools."57 The fees that were charged kept the doors of the secondary schools closed to the majority of the population. In spite of the criticisms by commissions, the colonial government continued its policy of elementary education for the masses, and secondary education only for an elite group.

By 1954, one of the social effects of the secondary school system's exclusive dedication to a "traditional" curriculum was that the white collar jobs for which the Cambridge Certificate gave entry and the limited professions for which this type of education was a preliminary preparation, were becoming overcrowded. The Missen report observed that "it is equally obvious that there must be a limit to the number of posts actually requiring children so trained, and we estimate that there are probably more boys and girls now leaving school annually with the School Certificate that the Colony needs."58 The same report made a plea for the diversification of curricula to meet the envisaged employment crisis and to cater to the wider variety of individual interests and talents: "They need schools with a broader outlook and curriculum with a wider variety of courses, and opportunity, free from the requirements of groups of examination subjects."59 And even if subjects were studied for the Cambridge exams, the report found a need to re-orientate the content of these subjects to local needs, especially Biology, Geography and History.

There are indications in the Missen Report that the prevalence of this stereotype curriculum among secondary schools was creating a "drop-out" problem. The Report referred to wastage rates (beyond that due to pupils moving to other parts of the country, or abroad) from two to ten percent. The report, however, assessed the problem as one of enrollment in schools of "several hundreds of pupils apparently quite unsuited to academic education."60 Yet another way of looking at the problem was not that the children attending these schools were unsuited to the education the schools offered, but that the education that the schools were providing was unsuited to the children. The type of curricula to which the students were subject could have been one of the major factors responsible for the high percentage of failures.

For meeting the problem of the stereotype curriculum of the grammar schools and the increasing unemployment of their graduates, the Working Party proposed the establishment of Central Schools with diversified and realistic curricula, and the setting up of a Joint Advisory Employment Committee to provide what could currently be termed "Vocational Guidance" services.

The Report conceived the Central School as almost the antithesis of the traditional grammar school in that the new schools would have "classrooms for general education, practical rooms, workshops and a home economics unit, in all of which the teaching will be related to the lives of the children, the mode of earning a living in the community around and the opportunities which may be offered further afield."61

Some of the subjects that the Report suggested for inclusion in the secondary school curricula such as Machine Drawing, Plan Reading, Woodwork, Metalwork, Art, Drama and Music were relatively unknown throughout the system. The new schools were to furnish an educational foundation for a wide variety of activities in the adult life of Trinidadian society. Some were intended as "general courses" to prepare boys and girls with no special aptitude to make the best of themselves in any work they undertook. A basic foundation for the technology of the Trinidadian society and economy was intended.

It was hoped that St. George's College—the second government secondary school to be set up in the history of the country—would seize the opportunity to experiment with the new curricula as suggested by the Missen Report. St. George's College was conceived in 1953 as a senior central school but never existed as such because its first principal had been the vice-principal of Queen's Royal College. The grammar school tradition was therefore continued and reinforced by subsequent transfers of the staff of Queen's Royal College to St. George's. This new school differed only in that it was co-educational.

By this time, however, a non-traditional education at the secondary level was being offered. Since 1906, the Board of Industrial Training—a statutory body—had been organizing classes in technical and vocational subjects. In spite of the recommendations of several commissions, it was not until 1948 that the Department of Education assumed responsibility for technical education. The Missen Report points out that in 1954 the Director of Education was not even a member of the Board.

A Junior Technical Institute was set up by the Board in 1943, but its courses were offered as evening classes in preparation for the London City and Guilds Examinations. A full five-year course in technical education at the secondary level was not provided until 1959. A Government Technical Institute was established in 1954 that offered a two year pre-vocational course, similar to that of its original body—the Junior Technical Institute. The first government Vocational Center was set up in 1960 as the Shell Oil Company's Apprentice Trade School and was handed over to government to become the Point Fortin Vocational Center. Agricultural education was being offered in short courses in mixed farming at the Practical Instruction Center at Centeno from 1945. This Center became the Eastern Caribbean Farm Institute where post-secondary vocational courses in agriculture have been offered to students throughout the Eastern Caribbean.

By 1954, twelve denominational schools (called Assisted62 Secondary Schools) and two government secondary schools, along with an unspecified number of private secondary schools, were all pursuing the same type of academic or grammar school curriculum. The senior section of the Intermediate schools also geared their syllabuses to the requirements of the Cambridge Examinations. The Missen Report indicates that in the Government and Assisted Schools "high standards" were reached in Classical and Modern Languages, English, History, Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology. There appeared to be some attempts to break out of the stranglehold of the Cambridge Examinations as the Missen Report mentions "two notable exceptions...two girls" grammar schools where the Headmistresses had used their ingenuity in fitting the needs of their pupils into the framework of the examination.63 This healthy, though light, wind of change was long overdue.

Pre-Independence Secondary School Curricula

In 1950, under a system of internal self-government, the country received a new constitution under which a Minister of Education was appointed and educational policy became the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Social Services. In 1956, the first well-organized political party came into power, and a new Minister of Education and Culture was named. In 1959, a committee64 to "consider the operation of the educational system of the country" was established. Prior to that date, commissions on education tended to be composed of expatriates, but the 1959 Committee consisted entirely of nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. It was hoped that the local character of the personnel would bring a fresh and realistic look to education in the then nascent nation.

As the country moved towards independence, the Committee became increasingly concerned with racial integration and the role of religious denominations. These preoccupations seemed to have dulled the perspicacity with which it might have delved into matters of curriculum at the secondary school level. In sum, the Committee showed an awareness of the need for diversification of secondary school curricula, but was reluctant to inject some realism into the traditional curriculum of the urban grammar school.

In spite of its "native" composition, it failed to draw upon any experience other than the English educational system.65 Much discussion focused on the "tripartite" arrangement of grammar, technical and secondary modern school—as compared to the comprehensive school—a question that the English educationists thought resolved.

In spite of the committee's determination to preserve the rigidly "academic" nature of the grammar school, it clearly saw the need to reduce the number of this type of school. But like the Missen Report, the 1959 Committee was of the opinion that the reason for failures in the Cambridge Examinations was that the pupils were unsuited to the schools, rather than that the curricula of these schools were unsuited to the needs and interests of the students.

The 1959 Committee advocated the establishment of Secondary Modern schools and proposed a much more diversified curricula than for the grammar schools. It offered no explanation for not extending this "new concept of educational service" to include grammar schools. It proposed experimentation with the idea of the Comprehensive school, and suggested that some of the existing grammar schools be considered for conversion to the Comprehensive model.

In its attitude to secondary education, this committee seemed to be laboring under the misconception that anything practical should be sternly excluded from the "grammar" or "academic" school. It thought that the teaching of Industrial Arts such as Woodwork or Commercial Studies in grammar schools was "unnecessary" and "undesirable". The committee was, however, a strong advocate for commercial education in the girls' grammar school, "because of the small number of girls who have their sights set on higher education at University level."66

Seeing how the 1959 committee viewed "practical" subjects with unease, one wonders whether they realized that the very grammar school tradition they were determined to preserve had already undergone drastic changes in the "mother country". In 1938, a committee67 in the United Kingdom was advocating increased time for practical studies and included Commercial Subjects in its model timetable. The notions of the 1959 Trinidadian Committee about practical subjects was repudiated by the 1938 U.K. Committee, which held the view that there was "no educational heresy so serious as the belief that culture and practical utility are mutually exclusive."68

In another part of the Report, the 1959 committee deplored the fact that Agricultural Science—with its practical bent—was not being offered in schools. In its ambivalence towards practical subjects, the committee did not emphasize—as did the Missen Report—the urgency of removing technical education from the care of the Board of Industrial Training to become part of the education system under the Ministry of Education. Nonetheless, it did underline the role of the educational system and particularly the technical subjects in the economic development of the country: "A nation's industry can grow and expand just so fast as its educational system can supply it with the trained personnel needed for its growth and expansion... more and more projects are requiring the use of engineering skill."69 Like the 1954 Missen Report, it stressed the value of vocational guidance services.

Although the 1959 committee proposed that the first three years of the grammar school course should be diagnostic so that major aptitudes including the technical could be identified, one finds that it excluded from its so-called "diversified" curriculum any subject or activity that would reveal or develop such an aptitude.70 In its conception of a diversified curriculum, it included "the historical and critical approach to the study of ancient languages,"71 to the exclusion of practical or technical subjects that would introduce students to the technology of the present. When the committee drew attention to the poor results in the exams in surveying, it never suspected that such failures might have been due to the unrealistic and irrelevant foundation that the grammar schools offered for such a technical profession. The committee's confusion over the non-academic subjects was further illustrated in its advocacy72 of agricultural science and the associated practical work in the rural grammar school, while it rejected basic industrial technology and its practical side in the urban grammar school.

Although the committee did suggest that the Colonial or Island scholarship scheme be "revamped,"73 it failed to appreciate fully the ill effects of the scholarships on the curricula and life of secondary schools. With regard to the Cambridge exams, it was more short-sighted than previous commissions. It attributed the "wastage" in the form of failures and the high incidence of drop-outs to the "willfulness of the adolescent age when many a pupil prefers the easy way out than to stay on another two years and try,"74 but saw no cause for such failures in the unrealistic curricula and exam subjects. The committee vehemently opposed the replacement of the Cambridge School Certificate by the General Certificate of Education.75 This new exam was designed to offer students a wider variety of subjects and serve more adequately individual interests. The committee objected to this new exam on the grounds that standards would be lowered.76 One wonders whether this passionate defense of the Cambridge Exams was not another manifestation of that anxiety that colonials have been wont to evince whenever some deviation from traditional patterns, or from what they consider to be "metropolitan," is being offered them.

Education in Development and Planning

The 1959 Committee presented its report during the operation period of the first Developmental Program for Trinidad and Tobago. This program77 stressed the need for "the grammar schools to widen their curriculum" to include more modern and technical studies. With regard to the Cambridge exams, the 1958-62 program emphasized the undesirability of having "the whole policy of a school directed to the preparation of students for that examination."78

This program did not include a comprehensive plan for the development of education in the country. The recommendations of the 1959 committee did however provide the basis for a more extensive program of educational expansion that later formed part of the next Development Plan—the 1964-68 Second Five-Year Plan.79

The 1958-62 program was significant in that it financially provided for the construction of nine new government secondary schools and a technical institute, as well as for an increase in the number of Island and other Scholarships. The reformation of the scholarship scheme gave secondary school curricula a long overdue relief from the limiting constraints of the Colonial Scholarship. Moreover, the new scholarships were to be in subjects connected with the Development Program. This move gave direction to and promoted the growth of secondary school curricula that were more related to the needs of the society. The influence of the Island Scholarships continued to be weighty, however, because of their greater prestige and value. In the 1958-62 program, the Government (which although not yet independent, was entirely elected) declared its policy of free secondary education.

The bringing together of the scholarship scheme with the Development Program is evidence that education was beginning to be viewed as something more than just a social service. This change of attitude was more pronounced in the Second Five-Year Plan where education was clearly assigned a role it had never been given before. The contribution that education made to societal development and economic growth gained unprecedented acknowledgement in the 1964-68 Plan, where it was emphasized as "one of the most important instruments of social change."80

The 1964-68 Plan's assessment of the educational system to that date was that it was geared too slavishly to the School and Higher Certificate of the British universities, and was "an adaptation of the English education system forced by economic inadequacy and administrative exigency rather than by a reflective and thought-out attitude."81

The principal policy measures82 proposed for the restructuring of the secondary school system were that:

i) the West Indian environment should be emphasized in the secondary schools;

ii) the teaching of West Indian history should be compulsory in all secondary schools;

iii) the normal type of secondary school should be the Comprehensive;

iv) the Board of Industrial Training should cease to exist and the Ministry of Education should assume the responsibility for vocational training.

The Plan indicated that it would focus on the Comprehensive School in order to re-condition the secondary education system, and that greater emphasis would be placed on Science and Mathematics—the foundation of modern technology—and such Social Studies as History, especially West Indian, and Geography.

A significant break with the past was made in 1961 when fees were abolished in the Government and Assisted Secondary Schools and entry was based on the results of the Common Entrance Exam. This change considerably widened the opportunities for children with ability from poor families to get a secondary education, and was designed to lead to a secondary school student body that would become more and more representative of the country's population than in early colonial times.

The government began constructing Secondary Modern Schools by 1960. At the onset, these schools suffered from the notion that "culture" and "utility" were incompatible, and therefore practical and technical subjects were undesirable in a "proper" secondary school. Paradoxically, it was on the recommendation of the 1959 Committee that this type of secondary school was being attempted—the same committee that subscribed to the notions about practical and technical subjects.

The ironic result of the attempt to set up this new kind of secondary school is that they did not adopt curricula with the diversity and scope for the development of varying aptitudes that the 1959 Committee had proposed. The name "Secondary Modern" implied that these schools offered a curriculum that the 1959 committee regarded as inferior, or undesirable in the grammar school. The principals appointed to these new schools came invariably from Queen's Royal College and other grammar schools, and, as in the case of St. George's College, were unwilling to offer curricula different from that of the grammar schools which they felt would lower their prestige. These principals were impelled to offer similar curricula to that of the grammar schools since parents were averse to sending their children to the new schools whose name implied inferiority to the grammar schools.

It was not long, however, before the label "Secondary Modern" was dropped officially, and both the older grammar schools and these new ones were merely designated "secondary schools." One of these new schools was reputed to be a comprehensive secondary school, but its arrangement and curriculum were very much like the others. By 1962—the year of Independence—the government had built ten of these new schools, and contrary to the intention of the 1959 Committee, all were preparing students for the Cambridge exams. A change was made, however, from the School and Higher School Certificate to the General Certificate of Education, but these public exams continued to be set by English universities, and the curricula in local secondary schools therefore remained under "bondage" and the influence of "alien" forces.

An event that might have reduced the effects of examinations on the curricula of the secondary schools was the establishment of a university in the West Indies. During the colonial era, there was talk of setting up a West Indian university with one of its main functions being the writing of examinations, especially for secondary schools, in the West Indies. This idea did not get sufficient support until the middle of the 20th century when the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica was created in 1948. With reference to the start of this university, Sherlock identifies the symptoms of the "colonial mentality" that has plagued Trinidadian society and stagnated the growth of realistic curricula in secondary schools: "It was a symptom of the disassociation of West Indian intellectuals from the society that many of the elite who had been educated abroad, questioned the advisability of establishing a local university. Indeed the initiative for the starting of the University College of the West Indies came to a large extent from the British government."83

This university was not given the responsibility for setting secondary school examinations for the West Indian community it claimed to serve. Even with political independence, the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago continued to grow under the control of its "unnatural" mother—the English university—while deprived of the sympathetic influence of the West Indian center of learning.

Except for the push to include the West Indian component of history and literature, the University of the West Indies failed to promote any major change in the secondary school curricula. Moreover, it did not divert the aspirations of young Trinidadians away from universities in the United Kingdom. Just as in the case of the Secondary Modern Schools in Trinidad and Tobago, parents were unwilling to send their sons and daughters to this "local" institution, for like the Secondary Modern School, something inferior was imputed in "local." The colonial mind construed anything that was different from the British model as inferior and undesirable (just as the 1959 committee viewed practical and technical subjects in the grammar school).

Like the Secondary Modern School, the University of the West Indies, in spite of its reputed "local" purpose, started with courses, arrangements, gowns,84 staff and principal that made it differ little from an English university. The university was "primarily thought of as a projection of the best of Britain abroad,"85 and for some time operated under a special relationship with the University of London. Thus, during the early years after Independence, secondary school curricula in Trinidad and Tobago did not find in the West Indian university the strong force that could have helped steer their growth away from the traditional paths.

Secondary Education at Independence and the Influence of the General Certificate of Education Examinations

With independence, secondary education in Trinidad and Tobago came under the purview of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Constitution gave the Ministry of Education very specific authority and responsibility for the establishment and management of secondary schools. The Ministry of Tobago Affairs was later given some authority over education in that sister island, but this Ministry was later disbanded.

In addition to Government, other agencies involved in secondary education were the religious denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Hindu, Moslem and Baptist bodies. The Government assumed total responsibility for financing and administering secondary education in the country and was to be "assisted" by the religious bodies. By 1962, the aid to the denominational schools consisted of two-thirds of the costs of buildings, full cost of sanitary installations, maintenance grants, full salary and pension costs, and a per capita grant for students.

By 1962, the year of independence, at least 20 percent of the Secondary School age population (i.e., from 12 through 18 years of age) was receiving secondary education. The government schools had about three percent of this total and the Assisted Secondary Schools had about eight percent. The rest were enrolled in the private secondary schools that received no assistance from government and, except for building regulations, were left to be run as business enterprises. Tuition was free in the government and assisted schools, but fees were charged in the private schools.

Entry was gained to the government and Assisted Secondary Schools based on the results of the Common Entrance Exam which resembled, in form and effects, the reputed "eleven-plus" exam in the United Kingdom. The private secondary schools grew in number in the early 1960s to meet the increased demand for secondary education. In 1963, approximately 36 percent86 of the Common Entrance age group entered government and Assisted Secondary Schools.

In the government secondary schools, the control exercised by the Ministry of Education was essentially in the realm of finances and appointments. Unlike at the primary school level, there was no system of inspection. The supervisory staff attached to the Ministry of Education provided a service of advice to the secondary schools. The assisted schools tended not to submit financial statements of their accounts during the pre-independence period, even though they received public funds. The 1959 committee observed that the assisted schools seemed to show resentment, and viewed such requests as a "sort of interference."

Under this system of administration by the Ministry of Education, principals of secondary schools—government, assisted and private—were free to make their own choice as to what subjects to include in the curricula, how much time to allocate to these subjects, and all other matters concerning curricula. However, in spite of the autonomy enjoyed by principals, there was great similarity in the number and choice of the subjects and activities offered by principals in the curricula of their schools.

Of the 709 teachers in the government and assisted schools in 1962, only 85 or about 11 percent were graduates of universities with professional training. Courses in education or related areas were not pre-requisites to teaching appointments in the secondary schools. Thus, it was not impossible for a person without any professional training in education to move up from being a teacher to a principal.

The same could be said for university-level education since the only qualifications needed to become a professor or lecturer was a "doctoral" status or to be "learned" in a profession or a field of knowledge. The art or science of pedagogy was necessary only for the primary school level. The wide gap between the primary school and the secondary school system that the commissions referred to have persisted in Trinidad and Tobago for a considerable time.

Besides the ordinary secondary schools, the Government had established two technical institutes. The John Donaldson Technical Institute was established in 1962, and offered full-time courses in several subjects (that were usually of a two-year duration) to students who had already reached the G.C.E. "O" Level. The other institute, the San Fernando Technical Institute, offered full-time courses of a five-year duration, and admitted pupils from the Common Entrance Exam level.

The General Certificate of Education

Around the time of independence in Trinidad and Tobago, the "business" of all the secondary schools was to prepare candidates for the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.) exams. Whatever opinions may have been voiced about the purpose of an education, in practice the main concern of all principals and teachers was to get their pupils through these exams.

Enrollment figures in all schools showed a large number of students in the fifth year—the year for sitting the G.C.E. Ordinary Level Exams. In some schools, students repeated this year two or three times in order to pass or increase their number of passes on the G.C.E. exam. Promising students were hurried through the earlier classes to get to the fourth or fifth year so they could take the exam with the hope of finally gaining high results. Such successes would bring fame to the school and financial rewards to the students since all scholarships for continuing studies, whether in the Sixth Form or in the university, were awarded on the results of the School Certificate Exams.

Some schools put their pupils through the same curriculum for one, two or three years, and then reduced their subject load to four or five subjects in the fourth and fifth years. The older schools, in particular, steered their students very early into one of the four conventional areas—Languages, Modern Studies, Mathematics, and Science. These were the areas in which the Island Scholarships were traditionally offered. The Island Scholarships were later replaced by a system of national scholarships, but their award was similarly based on the results in the G.C.E. "A" level Exams. Where a common curriculum was followed by pupils for three years, a selection of subjects for each student was made before the start of the fourth year. In very few schools was the choice of subjects left entirely in the hands of pupils or their parents. The subjects chosen at this point would be the ones that the student would most likely take for the G.C.E. Exams. In some schools, principals would carry on discussions and advise pupils on the subjects they should take. Such discussions were the closest approximations to vocational guidance services within the schools themselves. Since employment surveys were rare, principals were forced to resort to sources like the newspapers for information about the labor market, and on their own judgement as to what subjects would be most appropriate or required for particular jobs or careers.

In general, however, the decision as to which subjects a pupil would present for the G.C.E. was based on his or her attainment in individual subjects in the earlier years at school. Pupils were hardly allowed to take subjects in which achievement scores so far had been low. Some principals tried to get students to take subjects that provided a balanced background—with a combination which included English Language, a Foreign Language, a subject from Social Studies, one from Mathematics, a Physical Science, a practical or technical subject, and an artistic or cultural one. Such a liberal combination was seldom possible, however, as most students were rarely allowed to take more than five or six subjects at one sitting of the exam. Some schools had an arrangement of compulsory subjects and electives. Staffing difficulties often forbade such arrangements. A balanced or liberal assortment of subjects was the exception rather than the rule.

It was quite possible to find students taking a set of subjects that was heavily biased in some direction. For instance, one would find that among the six subjects taken by a student, two would be foreign languages—French and Spanish—another, English, and the fifth English Literature; or a student might take both Health Science and Biology, in spite of their great similarity. Taking a set of related or almost identical subjects reduced the amount of preparation required and improved chances of success in the final exams. Educational ideals became secondary to exam successes. In Trinidad and Tobago, a secondary school's success as an educational institution was, and still is, judged by the number of passes in the G.C.E. Exams or other external exams. These external exams play the same part in former British colonies like Nigeria, where it has been reported that: "The excellence or poorness of a school is judged by parents, students and officials according to the number of candidates who receive the School Certificate."87

One finds that newspapers attach so much importance to the number of passes secured that in highlighting a school's success, they disregard the number of students presented for the exam. At annual Speech Days, principals would underline their examination passes as evidence of the success of their school. Even though a principal might bring to the attention of parents and the community the theoretical aims of education, he or she knows that high exam passes is the chief expectation of the school. Thus, whatever views on the purpose of a secondary education principals might hold in theory, in practice the preparation for exams is the main business of the schools. There was, and still is, no greater influence on the curricula of these schools than these exams.

In schools where the number of passes is not a creditable one, some attempt would be made to place failures on such exogenous factors as the unwillingness of parents to buy all the prescribed text books. Principals were intensely concerned with the failures in the exams, for they were deemed to be failing in their duty to the country if their school's passes were low. One can discern this national examination consciousness in the report of the 1959 committee: "For government has the right to expect, and if necessary to demand, better school certificate examination results from grammar schools with entrance—selected pupils, and the secondary schools should be so informed."88

The fourth, and especially the fifth, year in the secondary school course were exclusively devoted to special preparation for the G.C.E. Examinations. The textbooks and syllabuses set by the examination syndicates in the United Kingdom became the material and framework for the courses in the schools. One finds that in these two years, non-examination activities like Physical Education, Religious Instruction or Library were removed from the curriculum. Papers and questions from past exams were assiduously tried out. A complete dress rehearsal of the exams was often given, and candidates whose performance indicated poor chances of passing certain subjects were not allowed to take those subjects in the real exam. This move was calculated to keep down the percentages of failures to the school's credit. If accommodation was available, students were allowed to repeat the fifth year so that their Certificate credits would be improved. Students who did not get good results in the exams were made to feel that they had wasted their years at secondary schools. If such students were not allowed to stay upon to try the exams again, they resorted to private tutoring upon leaving school.

To a very large extent, the importance of the G.C.E. Exams was due to the fact that these certificates had come to be regarded as measures of ability—both intellectual and general—in the community. Moreover, both in the Government Service and in the private sector, passes in the G.C.E. were, and still are, demanded as entry qualification for a great number of jobs. Promotion to certain levels in the salary scale in some jobs and careers would often be based on G.C.E. passes. Admission to university and other post-secondary education can still be gained by way of G.C.E. passes.

Since the examination was a "subject" exam in which a student could take one subject alone and earn a pass or Certificate for it, employers or training agencies found it convenient to specify passes in the subjects they considered appropriate educational training for the job or foundation for further or specialized training. Thus, the G.C.E. Certificate became the instrument through which access was gained to jobs (especially white-collar) in the Government Services, industry and all areas in the world of work. In this way, in spite of whatever theoretical notions may be held about the objectives of a secondary education, the orientation of the education given in the secondary schools has learned strongly towards vocations or employment.

The G.C.E. has two stages: the "O" Ordinary Level, which is taken at the end of the fifth year, and the "A" or Advanced Level, which is taken two years after the G.C.E. "O" Level by the highly successful students. Preparation for the G.C.E. "A" level is done in the sixth form—a characteristic feature of the British system of education. The "A" level Certificate is particularly relevant to university admission. Few of the secondary schools built after 1961 have sixth forms. The G.C.E. "A" level is regarded in the community as a higher measure of "ability" than the "O" level. What gives the "A" level its greatest importance is the fact that scholarships, including the coveted Island Scholarships and their replacement, the National Scholarships, were awarded on the results of these examinations. At one time, a special paper for the Island Scholarships was included in the exam. Now that the number of scholarships has greatly increased, more flexibility has been permitted in the curriculum of the sixth forms. In addition to the scholarships, prizes are offered in schools and among schools for outstanding performance in the "A" level exams.

The work in the sixth form can be considered on par with the preliminary year or first year in a university or college course. One of the government secondary schools was called a Sixth Form College—as it only admitted students after they have achieved a certain number of passes at the G.C.E. "O" level. Students invariably go on to university work after completing the sixth form. About six percent of the secondary school population in the Government and Assisted Schools were in the sixth forms in 1962.


1. G. Moron, A History of Venezuela (London: Allen and Unwin, 1964) 82.

2. According to 1980 figures, 41 percent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago of African descent, 40.8 percent of East Indian descent, 0.9 of European, and 16.4 percent of mixed descent.

3. S. Gordon, A Century of West Indian Education (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1963) 14.

4. Gordon 17.

5. The presence of French schools is due to the fact that in 1777 —during the period of Spanish rule—planters from the French islands to the north were allowed to settle in Trinidad since the Spanish Crown and Spanish colonizers showed little interest in the island.

6. J.H. Parry and P.M. Sherlock, A Short History of the West Indies (London: Macmillan, 1960) 217.

7. Eric Williams, History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (London: Andre Deutsche, 1962) 203.

8. Board of Education, Report of the Consultative Committee on Secondary Education (London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1959) 1.

9. Parry and Sherlock 246.

10. In a letter from Governor Keate of Trinidad to the Secretary of State, August 1857, he states: "Roman Catholic parents who can afford to do so have recourse to Europe quite as much as Protestants in the same position for the education of their children at an early age."

11. G. Carmichael, The History of the West Indian Islands of Trinidad and Tobago (London: Redman, 1961) 200.

12. Attorney General's Speech, Legislative Council, Trinidad, 2nd September 1857.

13. Star of the West 30th July 1874.

14. It is significant that even when Codrington College attempted to widen its scope, it remained subjected to the influence of the metropolitan universities, as it became affiliated to the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.

15. A. Garcia, History of the West Indies (London: Harrap, 1965) 285.

16. The teachers in these schools also would have contributed to the "alien" orientation of the teaching since they were in the main recruited from Religious Orders in France and Ireland.

17. For Principal's Report, Queen's Royal College, 30th July 1859 and Report on the Cambridge Examination of 1863, see Gordon 236 and 252.

18. P.M. Sherlock, West Indies (London: Thames & Hudson, 1966) 131.

19. Board of Education 23.

20. The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Roman Catholics to the Queen, 22 September 1859 (cf. Gordon 234).

21. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Educational Planning Mission, Trinidad and Tobago (Paris: n.p. 1964) 63.

22. Trinidad Press 4th June 1859 (Recorded in Gordon 237).

23. Gordon 67.

24. Port of Spain Gazette 18th May 1867 (Recorded in Gordon 252).

25. Philip Foster, Education and Social Change (London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1965) 103.

26. C. Beeby, The Quality of Education (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966).

27. "The West Indies and the Study of Greek," Agricultural Reporter 15 September 1891 (Recorded in Gordon 266).

28. Beeby vividly describes how a Maori chief in New Zealand left him speechless with the argument that since Latin was good for him (Beeby), and got him where he was, it must be good for the Maori too. (cf. Beeby 31).

29. St. George's College—a co-educational secondary school—was built by the government in 1953.

30. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education in Trinidad, Barbados, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands, 1931-32, Marriott-Mayhew. (London: H.M.S.O., 1933-Colonial No. 79) 19-20.

31. Gordon 131.

32. Gordon 112.

33. Gordon 131.

34. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 14.

35. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 14.

36 Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 15.

37. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 49.

38. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 49.

39. West India Royal Commission Report 1938-1939, Moyne Report (London: H.M.S.O., 1945) 106.

40. West India Royal Commission Report 106.

41. The Working Party, "Missen Report," Education in Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad: Trinidad Government Printing Office, 1954).

42. The Working Party 23.

43. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 49.

44. West India Royal Commission 106.

45. The Working Party 23.

46. The Working Party 5

64. Commission on Secondary and Primary Education 49.

47. Board of Education 25.

48. cf. Foster Notes 25.

49. cf. Beeby Notes 26 and 28

50. West India Royal Commission 106.

51. West India Royal Commission 92.

52. West India Royal Commission 120.

53. West India Royal Commission 120.

54. West India Royal Commission 126.

55. Port of Spain Gazette 23rd January 1889 (Recorded in Gordon 255).

56. The Working Party 11.

57. The Working Party 93.

58. The Working Party 93.

59. The Working Party 89.

60. The Working Party 94.

61. They are called "Assisted" because they receive grants-in-aid from public funds. One form of these grants further increased the influence of the Cambridge exams, as from 1936, a special examination bonus was given for pupils who had gained the School and Higher Certificates.

62. The Working Party 90.

63. Committee on General Education, "Maurice," Education Report 1959 (Trinidad: Government Printery, 1959).

64. An example of the Committee's inability to see beyond the English experience was its impractical proposal for the creation of Local Education Authorities along the British pattern. To divide a country as small as Trinidad and Tobago into eight Local Education Authorities would have resulted in some Education Departments not having even one secondary school to administer.

65. Committee on General Education 86.

66. Board of Education 25.

67. Board of Education 161.

68. Committee on General Education 85.

69. Committee on General Education 79.

70. Committee on General Education 78.

71. Committee on General Education 92.

72. Committee on General Education 72.

73. Committee on General Education 70.

74. The Missen report had pointed to the need for an examination, "something on the lines of the General Certificate of Education, now in its infancy in England." Cf. The Working Party 90. This G.C.E. exam replaced the School and Higher Certificate.

75. Committee on General Education 76.

76. Government of Trinidad and Tobago, Five Year Development Program 1958-62 (Trinidad: Government Printer, 1957) 44.

77. Government of Trinidad and Tobago 44.

78. Government of Trinidad and Tobago, Second Five Year Plan 1964-1968 (Trinidad: Government Printer, 1963).

79. Government of Trinidad and Tobago 123.

80. Government of Trinidad and Tobago 125.

80. Government of Trinidad and Tobago 125-126.

82. Sherlock 133.

83. Scarlet gowns are worn by students.

84. L.E. Brathwaite, "The Role of the University in the Developing Society of the West Indies," Social and Economic Studies 14.1 (1965): 79.

85. Government of Trinidad and Tobago 126.

86. Committee in General Education 75.

87. Erma Muckenhirn, Secondary Education and First in West Nigeria (Ann-Arbor: Malloy Inc., 1963) 73.

88. Committee on General Education 69.