CELEBRATING THE PAST AND BUILDING ON THE LEGACY

 

Keynote Speech delivered at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

President Paul Adams, President Elect Clayton Hall, Immediate Past President Nadine Malloy-Young, Past Presidents, Parish Presidents, Secretary General Dr. Adolph Cameron, Members of the Executive and Council, delegates to Conference invited guests, colleague teachers and ladies and gentlemen, the Association has accorded me the high privilege of addressing our Annual Conference in this year of Jamaica’s Jubilee. This is the third and most likely last occasion, that I will have this great honour of being the Keynote Speaker at an Annual Conference of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association of which I am a founding and lifetime member. Further, my professional career almost perfectly spans the period of Jamaica’s independence. Probably most importantly as a teenager faced with choices of careers I felt called to be a teacher and have lived my life always striving, by the Grace of God, to be faithful to that call. In addressing the Theme of the Conference I will therefore speak with the passion of a teacher by choice, professional understanding gained through research and lessons learned by experience as a practitioner.

BACKGROUND

To fully establish and appreciate past achievements in education, especially since independence, it is critical to know about some of the features and facts about the education system of the colonial era. In 1900 Jamaica entered the twentieth century with a socially segregated system of education created in the aftermath of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. On one hand was the elementary school/teacher college system created after emancipation that was expanded and improved, following the 1865 rebellion. This system catered largely to the descendants of the slaves. Able and ambitious students of the elementary schools were employed as pupil-teachers in elementary schools. As pupil-teachers they qualified to enter teachers’ colleges through a series of examinations, first called the pupil teacher examinations and later named the Jamaica Local Examination: First Year, Second Year and Third Year. These were set by the Department of Education.

On the other hand there was the preparatory school/high school system that had its genesis in charity schools created for poor white boys during the period of slavery. These schools offered elementary education. Following the improvements to the elementary school/teachers college system after the Morant Bay Rebellion Creole whites, browns and Jews demanded education reforms to prevent the descendants of slaves becoming better educated than they were. Responding to these demands in the latter half of the 1870s Government adopted and adapted the policy that had been implemented in England to provide ‘middle class’ education. This started the process of transforming charity schools into high schools. Charity schools were restructured to operate at two levels. Their preparatory schools fed into high schools. These newly created high schools were linked into the Cambridge University examination system and the award of the Jamaica scholarship. The Jamaica Schools Commission was created to manage the high schools system.

By 1900, both systems had outstanding accomplishments to their credit. In 1900 Jamaica ranked 14th in the world in the spread of elementary education to its people.  Barbados ranked 15th. Jamaica and Barbados were only surpassed by nine countries of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. Jamaica and Barbados had accomplished this as colonies, with economies that were largely agricultural and populations that were mainly rural. Not to be overlooked is that fact that Jamaica and Barbados, with overwhelming black populations, placed ahead of a large number of countries that had predominantly white populations.

The accomplishments of Jamaican elementary schools in the latter half of the 19th century attracted international attention. In 1884 General Eaton, the United States Commissioner of Education, invited Jamaican schools to participate in the International Congress on Education and its Exhibition in New Orleans. About 30 to 40 Jamaican schools participated in the Jamaican Exhibit which was awarded a Diploma of Honour. This was followed by Jamaica being among the ‘civilised countries of the world’ invited to the International Congress in Chicago in 1893 at which three Jamaican educators and officials were appointed as honourary Vice Presidents in the Departments of School Supervision and Elementary Education.

Beginning in the late 1870s Jamaican high school students began to sit the Cambridge University examinations done across the British Empire. Almost every year after 1879 some Jamaican student placed in the top 10 in the ‘world’ in some subject in the Cambridge exams and on some occasions placed first. It must be noted, however, the high school system that developed was extremely small. In 1900, total enrollment in all high schools in Jamaica, public and private, was 1372 students, which was less than one percent of students of secondary school age.

A common feature of both systems was that boys performed better than girls. At the turn of the century the public high school system consisted of seven boys’ high schools, three coeducational high schools and two girls’ high schools. The stellar performances in the annual Cambridge examinations were by boys. At the turn of the century the only institutions in Jamaica considered to be at the tertiary level were three small theological colleges.

These two separately managed systems provided education to different social segments, largely defined by race, colour and economic means. Both systems were managed by British officials. Essentially, teachers colleges were the ‘black man’s secondary school. After years of service in teaching some of the graduates of teachers colleges were accepted into the small denominational theological colleges established to produce local clergy. At the pinnacle of the high school system was the annual award of the Jamaica Scholarship which allowed recipients to gain entry into Oxford or Cambridge University in England. Both systems charged fees.

In 1892 the Department of Education took over the denominational system of education at invitation of the churches.  The Department introduced free elementary education. Indeed, it was resistance to some measures of this policy that caused the creation of the Jamaica Union of Teachers in 1894. Following the take-over of the system the Department closed small denominational schools operating in the same area and built larger government schools to accommodate students. The Department created a small bridge between the two systems through the annual grant of six scholarships to students of elementary schools to attend high schools. In 1899, the Assembly capped the expenditure on education to 10 per cent of its annual budget. The effectively put a clam on further development of the elementary system.

But in 1899 it was not only the Government that was in retreat following the success that had been achieved. The missionaries were in similar mode. The Methodist closed York Castle High School which had served boys mainly from the peasantry. Worthy of note is that students of this school had won the Jamaica Scholarship more times than the other high schools combined and several of them had placed in the top ten in the ‘world’ as judged by the Cambridge Examinations. The Baptist closed Calabar Teachers’ College and the Moravians closed Fairfield Teachers’ College. Government and denominations cited economic reasons for their decisions. This would be the second time that success in educational development would be rewarded with economic curtailments of its continued development.

REGRESSION AND CHANGE IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Comparatively speaking, enrollment in elementary education regressed over the first half of the twentieth century. State take-over of the denominational elementary school system at the end of the nineteenth century arrested further progress in elementary education in the first half of the twentieth century. During the same period all of the leading western countries implemented and consolidated universal primary education in their countries.

Having retreated from elementary education, several denominations established high schools in the first half of the twentieth century. Several of these newly founded high schools received government grants in aid for their operation. Up to 1949, high school students sat the Cambridge Examinations at three levels: Junior Cambridge, Senior Cambridge and the Higher Schools’ Certificate. A significant number of students who attended high schools did not remain in school until Fifth Form to take either Junior or Senior Cambridge examinations. It was a social badge of honour just to have attended high school. Approximately 40 per cent of those who remained in school till Fifth Form sat the Junior Cambridge and 60 per cent sat Senior Cambridge.

A change that must not be missed is that in the first half of the twentieth century there was a shift in structure of opportunity for upward social mobility accorded through both elementary school/teacher College and the prep school/high school segments of the segregated education system. Starting in 1899 in the elementary school/teachers’ college segment, there was one (1) college training male teachers and three (3) colleges training female teachers. Among high schools, by 1953 there were fifteen (15) girls’ high schools compared to seven (7) boys’ high school. In other words, the institutional structure of opportunity had shifted in favour of girls. However, in high schools, enrolment was almost equally balanced between male and females but boys continued to perform better than girls. The Census of 1943 showed that for the first time in Jamaican history women were more literate than men.

Note, however, in the first half of the twentieth century all leading western countries had provided mass secondary education, and in the case of the United States, universal secondary education. While some progress was made in secondary education, as a result of the action of churches and some entrepreneurs, the result was extremely modest.

THE TRANSITION TO INDEPENDENCE

It took social unrest in the 1930s and riots in 1938 to prompt change in the general conditions of the people. Constitutional reform in 1943 leading to the General Elections of December 1944 made Jamaica the first country of the British Empire to implement adult suffrage, that is, every adult 21 years or older had the right to vote without any other stipulation. This set in train the transition from policymaking by colonial officials to policy making by the elected representatives of the people. Ministerial government was implemented in 1953. The General Elections of January 1955 were the first conducted with a Ministerial system in place. The first major policy reforms were approved in 1957 and began to be implemented in 1958 with the introduction of the Common Entrance Examination, where merit replaced ability to pay as the basis for receiving public high school education. This year 1958 marked the date of effective transformation of the education system in independence.

By 1953, the segregated education system that had developed under direct colonial rule consisted of the elementary school system that catered to less than 40 per cent of preschool students, approximately 75 per cent of children from age 7 to 14 years, and enrolled no more than 5 per of students of secondary school age in high schools. In addition there were many different types of schools referred to as post-primary institutions. These were 14 senior schools offering three years of education, one technical school and five training centres offering technical education. At most, they offered three years of education beyond the primary level to another 5 per cent of students over 12 years old. At the tertiary level there were four small colleges training primary school teachers, four small theological colleges; the Jamaica School of Agriculture and the recently established University College of the West Indies of which Jamaica was one of the fifteen contributing territories. The total enrollment of UCWI in 1953 was about 400 students drawn from across the region. Special needs education was a totally private provision that was miniscule in its coverage.

Tertiary education had remained stagnant except for the establishment of the University College of the West Indies in 1948. The paucity of higher education opportunities that had been a feature of colonial education remained unchanged until the dawn of self-government was on the horizon.

Further, the segregated system of education had remained virtually unchanged. By 1953 there were only about 400 scholarships provided for elementary school students to attend high schools. The only alleviating factor was that more parents of elementary school students could afford to pay the fees for their children to attend high school based on improved economic circumstances in the post-World War 11 period.

One significant achievement of the high school system that must not be overlooked is its contribution to the development of athletics in Jamaica. The establishment of the sports competition between high schools began with Boys’ Athletic Championship in 1910. By 1952 Jamaican athletes spawn from this inter-schools competition had produced Olympians who had won a total of three gold and four silver medals in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in events such as the 100 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres and produced world records in the men’s 400 yards, men’s 400 metres and men’s 400×4 metres relay.

CELEBRATION OF TRANSFORMATION IN INDEPENDENCE

When the accomplishments of the last 54 years are considered there can be no successful challenge, supported by empirical evidence, that can be mounted against the assertion that the Jamaican education system under the administrative and policy leadership and control of the elected representatives of the people has done considerably better than when the education system was under the control of colonial officials and appointees. The changes that have taken place in the independence period constitute transformation by any definition of the latter. These changes are cause for celebration. Given the scope of this address allow me to mention just seven such causes for celebration.

  1. Increased access to basic education. The promise of universal early childhood and primary education which was deferred by the colonial state was soon realized in independence. Further, substantial progress has been made in achieving the goal of universal secondary education. The public system of education now includes provision for children with special needs.
  2. Expanded provision for higher education has finally been tackled in a meaningful manner. Not only has Jamaica benefitted substantially from its participation in the regional University of the West Indies but national universities, university colleges and colleges have been established. Higher education of quality is now available on Jamaican soil.
  3. Improved quality of the expanded primary and secondary school systems. In the 1960s over 50 per cent of students leaving primary schools were functionally illiterate. Recent date would suggest a rate of about 15 per cent.  In 1949, only 1272 students sat Senior Cambridge and only 25 per cent passed English at a standard comparable to SCEC English A of the Caribbean Examination Council. In 2011, over 25,000 school candidates sat English A in SCEC and the pass rate was 68.3 per cent. In 2012, the pass rate was 52.0 per cent. Allow me to give a little lesson here in interpreting statistics. Annual fluctuations in examination results are normal. It is not the same students who are sitting exams each year. At the same time, in any short-term sequence of years, the teachers are more or less the same. Improvement or decline is therefore best judged by looking at the direction of the channel created by connecting the peaks and connecting the troughs over at least ten years. When this channel is drawn in English Language, over the last 50 years, there has not only been a staggering increase in the number of students sitting and passing but also a significant improvement in quality as judged by the past rate. Allow me a personal comment. I have great sympathies for those struggling to pass English Language in CSEC based upon my own difficulties in school and am grateful that the bar set for passing then was lower than today. I was a good student of English Literature. My problem with English Language has nothing to do with interference from the Jamaican Dialect. I grew up in a home in which everyone routinely spoke standard Jamaican English. My father was a connoisseur of the English Language distressed by this son who stumbled over spelling. I envy “Miss Kitty”, “Babatunde” and others on the radio who can switch between the Dialect and Standard Jamaican English with such nonchalant ease. I learned a lesson about myself at age 16 that has stayed with me for life. Passing English in exams is about spelling and grammar, concord and syntax not about ideas. However, in life it is ideas than really count because there are far more people that can correct grammar and spelling than can originate worthwhile ideas that make a difference.
  4. Provision of Continuing Education for the out of school population. In 1962 there was very limited provision, public or private, for the out-of-school population to continue their education. In 1973 JAMAL Foundation was established to lift the literacy level of the adult population. The Census of 1960 showed that 57.1 per cent of the 15 years and over population was literate. Through efforts led by JAMAL by 1981 the rate had increased to 82.0 per cent. In 2007, JAMAL was rebranded as the Jamaican Foundation for Life Long Learning to allow the organization to provide more than literacy programmes. The Human Employment and Resource Training Act of 1982 established the HEART Trust with the mission to provide workforce education particularly in the areas of technical and vocational skills related to job opportunities in the various sectors of the labour force. Both JAMAL and HEART have achieved great success and have been copied in several other countries, particularly in the Caribbean.
  5. Jamaica has developed indigenous capacity to supply the teachers needed for all levels of the education system: early childhood, primary, special needs and secondary education. At the primary level the system is close to achieving a fully trained primary teaching force. At the secondary level the country is no longer dependent on teachers imported from overseas to staff our secondary schools. On the contrary, Jamaica is now a net exporter of teachers.  Further, Jamaican teachers are well regarded within the international labour market.
  6. The education system has produced students who are competitive in the international labour market. Further, because the education system has produced far more talent than the local economy can absorb, many educated Jamaicans have found job opportunities outside of Jamaica. Indeed, remittances from Jamaicans living abroad is now one of the important pillars of the economy second only to tourism. Also, products of the Jamaican education system have done well within the academies of Europe, the United States and Canada, the main countries in which they seek further education.
  7. The socially segregated system that was established in the latter half of the 19th century, and consolidated in the first half of the twentieth century, has begun not only to be integrated into a single system of education but unraveled in fundamental ways. For example, merit and not ability to pay is now the basis of gaining access to the best high schools in the country because the best high schools are part of the public system of education. In this regard, schools that were created initially to rescue poor white boys from perpetual poverty are now part of the social infrastructure which brings all social segments of the society into constructive relationships. Hence, persons of all ethnic groups and of all socioeconomic backgrounds desire to have their children gain access to these schools on the basis of merit. In so doing, children of these different backgrounds comingle in classrooms and in extra curriculum activities that allow them to form meaningful relationship across these social divides.

 

CRITIQUE OF PROGRESS MADE

In this year of Jubilee as a nation, it is right and proper for Jamaicans to celebrate achievements. However, to celebrate without also critiquing what has happened over the last fifty years is not only unbalanced but would be myopic. It would be looking in the rear view with selective lenses that filter out shortcomings and failures. Further, it would only be looking at Jamaica without any reference to other countries of similar history, especially within the Caribbean. In this regard, a critical question to be asked and answered is: How has other Commonwealth Caribbean countries fared over the last fifty years with respect to education development?

Commonwealth Caribbean Comparisons

In 1900, Jamaica ranked 14th and Barbados ranked 15th in the world in the delivery of elementary education to their populations. From a regional perspective Jamaica and Barbados led the British colonies in the West Indies, and indeed all countries of the Caribbean in the provision of elementary education to its people. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries in terms of basic human needs indicators including infant mortality, literacy, basic education and life expectancy. This is a broader range of indicators than the provision of elementary education but usually these indicators overlap hence it is not entirely inappropriate to make historical comparisons. The UNDP 2011 Human Development Report ranks 187 countries. Barbados is the highest ranked Caribbean country at 47; followed by Cuba at 51; the Bahamas at 53; Antigua and Barbuda at 60; Trinidad and Tobago at 62; Grenada at 67; St Kitts and Nevis at 72; and Jamaica at 79. In other words, just over a century later, Barbados still holds basically the same position in the world as a Caribbean country that overlaps with the so-called first world countries in the provision of basic human needs indicators to its population. Further, Barbados leads the Caribbean, Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth Countries. Jamaica on the other hand no longer rivals or surpasses Barbados as it did in 1900. Indeed, Jamaica ranks 8th among the 16 politically independent Caribbean countries.

Universal secondary education is a phenomenon of the twentieth century. The United States was the first to achieve it in the early decades of that century. In the Caribbean, St Kitts and Nevis was the first country to do so in 1968. St Kitts and Nevis was followed by Barbados in 1976; the Bahamas and the six British dependencies in the 1980s; Trinidad and Tobago in 2000; St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica in 2005; St Lucia in 2006 and Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada more recently. Jamaica is among the three Commonwealth Caribbean countries that are still to achieve this goal.

The Caribbean Examination Council established in 1974, and offering its first examinations in 1979, has replaced Cambridge University in setting and evaluating exit standards for secondary in the region through its Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). The
CSEC results for the first decade of the 21st Century show that students from Barbados, the British Virgin Islands and St Kitts and Nevis consistently perform in the top five countries of the region each year. Jamaican students’ performance ranks in the middle of the range.

At the tertiary level, Barbados leads the Commonwealth Caribbean in the proportion of its population that has access to higher education. Trinidad and Tobago runs a close second. It is only in the last fifteen years that Jamaica has implemented measures that compare to similar measures in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

It is fair to say that while Jamaican education has advanced over the last fifty years, several other Caribbean countries have outstripped Jamaica’s performance in the development of their education systems. Further, this comparative decline is not only restricted to countries in the Caribbean but also to countries in South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

 

CONUNDRUN OF PROGRESS WITH COMPARATIVE DECLINE

The conundrum of substantial progress and comparative decline, evident from the critique, is resolved if account is taken of the fact that Jamaican society is challenged by continuity. Progress made in one generation, or in one era, is not necessarily sustained by the succeeding generation or in the next era. Let me put it another way: We often solve a problem, then unsolve the solution resulting in the recurrence of the problem, then solve the problem again. In either case we regress while others pass us, as we mark time in the same place.

This pattern was not only manifested in the late 1840s following the establishment of mass elementary education in 1834, and in first half of the twentieth century after the achievements of the latter decades of the 19th century, but have several examples in the 50 years of independence. Brief mention of three examples should suffice. First, the back and forth we have had on the policy of free secondary education. Second, is almost reaching the goal of a fully trained primary teaching force in the 1980s followed by the closing Moneague Teachers College, then the largest college training primary teachers in the country. This led to shortage of trained primary teachers, followed by the reopening of Moneague and other measures which has again resulted in having an almost fully trained primary teaching force. Third, the Common Entrance Examination implemented in 1958 employed national placement of students in high schools. After reviewing the problems associated with national placement in 1974, parish placement was employed. With the replacement of Common Entrance by the GSAT parishment placement system was rejected and national placement reinstated. Currently the same problems that occurred with the Common Entrance have returned with GSAT. We are back to square one.

If we are to contemplate building on the achievements of the first fifty years of independence, then it is necessary to begin to probe why we have this challenge with continuity.  There are at least three hypotheses that are worth exploring. First, many believe that change is always good and therefore spend little time understanding the structures and situations they find in place. Second, whatever structures or situation exists, even if they are unjust or highly unsatisfactory, they are actually to the benefit of some persons or groups. When those structures and situations are changed the previous beneficiaries or their successors, over time, work to reinstate the status quo that previously existed. Third some persons, to make their mark, simply discount and discard what went before and embark upon a frolic of their own under the rubric of change for the better.

The point that must not be missed is that whatever may be the mechanisms at work, the curbs put on educational development have always been justified on economic grounds and have taken place in periods of economic downturn. Indeed, the greatest mistakes made during the fifty years of independence, by Governments led by both major political parties, have been to sacrifice educational development on the altar of economic reform. The stark reality is that it is continued educational development that gives a fighting chance to Caribbean countries to contend with the vagaries, vulgarities and vulnerabilities of our externally driven economies. Jamaican and Caribbean education has always produced far more talent than the Jamaican and Caribbean economies can absorb. The fact that Jamaican and Caribbean talent has always been competitive in the international labour market has been an alleviating factor in the economic distress of our countries. My sense is that the Caribbean countries that have surpassed Jamaica over the course of the twentieth century have mainly been those countries that have maintained their investments in education despite economic woes.

BUILDING ON THE ACHIEVEMENTS

The principal goal of education is to mobilize a people to construct their future. That future has to be constructed taking into account what is, the imperatives of the times and the destiny towards which the people strives. We are living in the era of the knowledge of society. Wealth creation is being driven by technology and information much more than by an abundance of capital and cheap labour. In addition, middle income countries like Jamaica and its Caribbean partners, with their small open vulnerable economies must rely even more on the talents of their peoples as a result of their lack of military might, small markets, and very limited geopolitical clout. The era of exporting raw materials to the European and North American markets is virtually at an end. The words of the prophet: “Not by might or by power but by my Spirit” are particularly applicable.

In the first 50 years of Independence the emphasis has been on academic, technical and professional competence: producing literate and literary people possessed of the necessary knowledge and skills. The imperatives of these times begin with the assumption of competence. The future of illiterate and unskilled persons with limited knowledge is very dismal. Further, take note of the inflation taking place around the world in the education credentials required for available jobs. Primary and secondary education now comprise basic education, it is higher education that offers prospects of upward social mobility and a good life. This inflationary trend can be expected to continue well into the future.

I wish therefore to suggest four priorities on which education in Jamaica and the Caribbean must focus if our peoples are to cope with and contend successfully in the future.

  1. Creativity. In the future, the development of the intellect will take on even greater significance than over the last 50 years. However, it is not convergent but divergent thinking that will be at a premium. As large bodies of knowledge in the different disciplines become more standardized as education is universalized and internationalized, it is divergent thinking leading to invention, innovation, intriguing imaginations, problem solving, crisis resolution and differentiating identities will be prized. In this regard, Jamaican and Caribbean start with an advantage. Our history has biased us towards individuality, beating the system instead of conforming to its requirements, and creating and resolving crises with great alacrity. Interestingly, it is some of our less schooled peers who have been the pioneers of our creativity. It is our folks who have invented much of our music, foods, religions, dialects and dances that have captured the attention and admiration of the world. It has never ceased to amaze me that Jamaican formal education has paid so little attention to the formal teaching of music in schools, compared to the world-wide recognition of our music and its huge contribution to our economy. Over the next 50 years, Jamaican formal education must be transformed to foster and nurture divergent thinking such that the full potential of or people can be realized.
  2. Community. Currently, we use the word community to mean people living in a defined geographical location. The way that I am here using the word community is with its African meaning. That is, all the people who came from that defined place plus all the people currently living at that place added to all the people who will come from that place. Community is the continuing connections between people which obligate them to respect and build on the sacrifices of those who went before, share solidarity with those who are alive and leave a legacy for the benefit for those who are to come. It is the breakdown in our sense of community that lies at the base of our challenge with continuity. At the same time, it is the lifelong embrace of the school or college we attended and Parish identity that continue to conserve a sense of community. In building this sense of community it is imperative to attempt to resolve its relationship with creativity. All creative imagination, invention, and innovation emanate from individual effort and enterprise.  Yet unbridled individuality is selfish, anarchic and often vulgar. Community demanding conformity, convergence and compliance in all things is robotic and humanoid. The ideal is to reconcile individuality and community, such individual enterprise and imagination are always focused on the common good of community and where community respects individuals who contribute to the common good, notwithstanding idiosyncrasies.
  3. Conscience and Character. A few years ago, at the beginning a work-week a don and his deputy in a certain area of Kingston served a letter on contractor setting out the virtues of protection. The next Friday morning at around 9.30, some men jumped the fence of the construction site. The contractor and his men were apparently waiting for the assault. In the exchange of gun-fire the don and his deputy were shot dead. The people of the area demonstrated. They made accusations of brutality. They explained that the men had jumped the fence in search of work. Normally, Mondays are days in which people seek work. Friday is pay day. In more recent times it was reported in at least one of the newspapers that members of a community were very upset about the fact that police action was being taken against persons suspected of being involved in scamming elder persons in the United States out of some of their savings. The community members argued that they were benefiting from the scam: children were going to school and people ‘were eating food’ out of the proceeds. The amorality displayed in these two examples does not only involve individuals but whole communities. Individuals perpetrate extortion and scams and share some of the benefits with the people of the area in which they live and operate. Clearly, individuals are acting to benefit the common good of community. However, the modus operandi is amoral. It is not sufficient for wholesome society. Both individuals and community ought to be bound together to operate within the boundaries of morality, honesty and integrity. This question of morality, however, is not only applicable to disadvantage communities who adopt amoral means of seeking to survive. It is equally applicable to bankers on Wall Street, leaders of political parties, pastors and deacons of churches, union leaders and delegates, Chief Executives Officer and the board of corporations, principals and teachers in school, Civil servants and all who occupy positions of trust who misuse and abuse those positions instead of servicing the interests of clients, citizens, church members, shareholders, policy holders, and students. Character and conscience must be addressed frontally and deliberately if we are to be just in our dealings with those belonging to communities, our own and others not our own.
  4. Caribbean Civilisation.
  5. Caribbean distinctiveness and identity were born in the crucible of the mixing of the peoples from the old world and within the asymmetry of power that existed between those who came, at different times and were brought. Language adaptations, religion, rum, sex and the region’s salubrious climate have all been contributors. Later, migrations to Central America, particularly Panama, Cuba, Britain, the United States and Canada have caused the variants of Caribbean distinctiveness to meet on grounds mutual to each other and equal in the obstacles and opportunities presented. On these soils Barbadians, Guyanese, Antiguans, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, St Lucians and all others became even more aware of the shared Caribbean distinctiveness, thus enhancing the sense of Caribbean identity and solidarities emerging in living in these new cultures. A Caribbean Diaspora has emerged that is probably more self-conscious of a Caribbean civilisation than those resident in the region. Within the last 30 years a common destiny is being imposed upon the region as the geopolitics of globalization and regionalization reconfigure the globe. During this period when hard decisions have to be made and the term Caribbean is invoked to disaggregate the region, fourteen politically independent countries are the recipients of this label. They are the twelve independent English Speaking countries, Haiti and Surinam. Within the next 50 years of necessity the peoples of these fourteen countries will have to learn to communicate and cooperate with each other in order to contend and cope with the rest of the world. From my perspective the task of education in all fourteen countries must be to help the peoples to build Caribbean civilisation taking account of Caribbean distinctiveness and the shared common destiny. Education begins with ensuring competence, it is obliged to foster creativity, constrained to build community, character and conscience but is culminates in civilisation. To accomplish this, teachers have to become the exemplars of the Caribbean civilisation that is our destiny.

God bless you as the Jamaica Teachers Association and the Caribbean Union of Teachers take on this mission in building on the legacy of the first fifty years of Jamaica’s independence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.