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(Y)our policies, (Y)our directions: Contextualizing educational policy discontinuities in Trinidad & Tobago

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Abstract:

"It would be helpful for the bank to be cognisant of local peculiarities as it relates to processes of decision making and project implementation. Many of the processes though similar to elsewhere are implemented in a somewhat different manner in Trinidad and Tobago. A deeper understanding of some of these will be very useful in assessing performance by executing agencies."
Michael Ramkissoon, SEMP Coordinating Unit (IDB, 2011)

The Caribbean region was the first scene of major European imperialist expansion, and as such, it was at one point the epicenter of the colonial enterprise. Today, it sits at the global margins, even within intellectual discourse. In most area studies, the Anglophone Caribbean is subsumed within Latin American studies; and while this disciplinary conflation makes geographic sense, it is deficient in its political, economic, cultural and social application. Within this context, it is our belief that Trinidad & Tobago (TT) as a case study, can provide a strong example of the influence of global educational policy and practice on a postcolonial setting.

Globalized educational policies have shaped policy educational harmonization among thirteen CARICOM nations (Caribbean Community; the ‘EU of the Caribbean’ nations) (Jules, 2008; Jules 2011). This adoption of globalized educational policies for the most part seems to be driven by international donor funding. TT’s robust economy, which relies heavily on oil/ natural gas production and export, has positioned it as arguably one of the economic leaders of CARICOM, and has protected it somewhat from a more comprehensive control of international donors. Instead of receiving development aid with its customary conditionalities, as is commonplace with aid tied to structural adjustment policies, TT predominantly resorts to loans. One of its most recent and significant loans in the education sector was for US$105 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in 1999, for a seven year Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP). The goals of this loan were to: construct more secondary schools and achieve universal secondary education leading to improvements in educational quality. Because of a number of delays over the years, as a result of considerable political instability evinced by multiple elections and government changes in the period, and local capacity deficits in TT, SEMP was finally completed in 2011.

TT’s embrace of Education For All (EFA) may be proof-positive to the neoinstitutionalists that global dictates are compelling educational policy harmonization around the world (Baker & LeTendre 2005), but the educational externalists and anthropologists give sufficient reasoning to take pause (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004; Anderson-Levitt, 2004). We do not necessarily share this intellectual bifurcation between neoinstitutionalists and the culturalists; it is quite possible that global educational policy harmonization can co-exist simultaneously alongside localized implementational/impact differentiation (Sjolander, 1996). In other words, donor logic may be synchronous in its dictates, but localized appropriations may reveal vast dissonances - as evinced by the policy discontinuities we discover in SEMP, which include: insufficient counterpart funding; lack of integration into and buy-in by the Ministry of Education bureaucracy; the IDB’s paucity of contingency planning for project continuity and timely completion; and failure in providing adequate mechanisms to ensure project sustainability, among other shortcomings.

This is where we perceive our contribution: to conduct not only a policy analysis of SEMP, but also interviews with school principals affected by SEMP, to procure a richer picture of how EFA implementation affected their schools. In a secondary school where Williams conducted research, the principal spoke about the burdensome impact that EFA has had on his secondary school: increased illiteracy and innumeracy rates, insufficient remedial resources from the Ministry of Education, lack of teacher training for this particular cohort of students, increased school violence resulting from students frustrated with an alienating curriculum, strained psycho-social staff resources at the school, lack of material upgrades to the existing school facilities to match the increased interest in technical/vocational areas, lack of decentralized involvement in schools in the procedural implementation of EFA, to name a few. This singular interview indicates the need for more research beneath the veneer of the IDB final SEMP Project Completion Report (2011) and the Government’s political rhetoric around its EFA achievements. This two-tiered study, of policy analysis and implementational impact, will augment the anthropological claims that there is much educational discontent beneath the discursive isomorphism of globalized educational policies.

Author's Keywords:

Education For All, policy discontinuity
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Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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MLA Citation:

Streete, Denzil. and Williams, Hakim. "(Y)our policies, (Y)our directions: Contextualizing educational policy discontinuities in Trinidad & Tobago" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p718221_index.html>

APA Citation:

Streete, D. and Williams, H. M. , 2014-03-10 "(Y)our policies, (Y)our directions: Contextualizing educational policy discontinuities in Trinidad & Tobago" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p718221_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: "It would be helpful for the bank to be cognisant of local peculiarities as it relates to processes of decision making and project implementation. Many of the processes though similar to elsewhere are implemented in a somewhat different manner in Trinidad and Tobago. A deeper understanding of some of these will be very useful in assessing performance by executing agencies."
Michael Ramkissoon, SEMP Coordinating Unit (IDB, 2011)

The Caribbean region was the first scene of major European imperialist expansion, and as such, it was at one point the epicenter of the colonial enterprise. Today, it sits at the global margins, even within intellectual discourse. In most area studies, the Anglophone Caribbean is subsumed within Latin American studies; and while this disciplinary conflation makes geographic sense, it is deficient in its political, economic, cultural and social application. Within this context, it is our belief that Trinidad & Tobago (TT) as a case study, can provide a strong example of the influence of global educational policy and practice on a postcolonial setting.

Globalized educational policies have shaped policy educational harmonization among thirteen CARICOM nations (Caribbean Community; the ‘EU of the Caribbean’ nations) (Jules, 2008; Jules 2011). This adoption of globalized educational policies for the most part seems to be driven by international donor funding. TT’s robust economy, which relies heavily on oil/ natural gas production and export, has positioned it as arguably one of the economic leaders of CARICOM, and has protected it somewhat from a more comprehensive control of international donors. Instead of receiving development aid with its customary conditionalities, as is commonplace with aid tied to structural adjustment policies, TT predominantly resorts to loans. One of its most recent and significant loans in the education sector was for US$105 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in 1999, for a seven year Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP). The goals of this loan were to: construct more secondary schools and achieve universal secondary education leading to improvements in educational quality. Because of a number of delays over the years, as a result of considerable political instability evinced by multiple elections and government changes in the period, and local capacity deficits in TT, SEMP was finally completed in 2011.

TT’s embrace of Education For All (EFA) may be proof-positive to the neoinstitutionalists that global dictates are compelling educational policy harmonization around the world (Baker & LeTendre 2005), but the educational externalists and anthropologists give sufficient reasoning to take pause (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004; Anderson-Levitt, 2004). We do not necessarily share this intellectual bifurcation between neoinstitutionalists and the culturalists; it is quite possible that global educational policy harmonization can co-exist simultaneously alongside localized implementational/impact differentiation (Sjolander, 1996). In other words, donor logic may be synchronous in its dictates, but localized appropriations may reveal vast dissonances - as evinced by the policy discontinuities we discover in SEMP, which include: insufficient counterpart funding; lack of integration into and buy-in by the Ministry of Education bureaucracy; the IDB’s paucity of contingency planning for project continuity and timely completion; and failure in providing adequate mechanisms to ensure project sustainability, among other shortcomings.

This is where we perceive our contribution: to conduct not only a policy analysis of SEMP, but also interviews with school principals affected by SEMP, to procure a richer picture of how EFA implementation affected their schools. In a secondary school where Williams conducted research, the principal spoke about the burdensome impact that EFA has had on his secondary school: increased illiteracy and innumeracy rates, insufficient remedial resources from the Ministry of Education, lack of teacher training for this particular cohort of students, increased school violence resulting from students frustrated with an alienating curriculum, strained psycho-social staff resources at the school, lack of material upgrades to the existing school facilities to match the increased interest in technical/vocational areas, lack of decentralized involvement in schools in the procedural implementation of EFA, to name a few. This singular interview indicates the need for more research beneath the veneer of the IDB final SEMP Project Completion Report (2011) and the Government’s political rhetoric around its EFA achievements. This two-tiered study, of policy analysis and implementational impact, will augment the anthropological claims that there is much educational discontent beneath the discursive isomorphism of globalized educational policies.


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