The Young Colonials: A Social History of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, 1834-1939

By Carl C. Campbell | Go to book overview

2
The Age of Marriott and Cutteridge

The Imposition of Agricultural Education 1897-1922

The origins of the drive to have agricultural education lay primarily in the disaster suffered by Trinidad's sugar industry, indeed by the British West Indian sugar industry, in the mid 1880s and 1890s, and also in the energetic pursuit of imperial development by the secretary of state for the colonies, Joseph Chamberlain ( 1895-1903). Competition with European beet sugar revealed the inefficiency of British Caribbean cane sugar production.1 Recovery necessitated metropolitan protection and subsidies but, additionally, planters in Trinidad (as in many of the other islands) became more convinced that agricultural education was needed locally. This did not mean that planters understood precisely how school gardening in primary schools would help the sugar industry; rather, it was a common- sensical assumption that agricultural education in general could not fail to improve the situation. For the entire nineteenth century agricultural education was absent from the schools except in one or two Canadian Presbyterian Mission schools from about the mid 1880s and, of course, in orphanages and reformatories.

Restructuring the curriculum of the primary schools came before changes in CIC or QRC. The introduction of agriculture into primary schools was preceded by the establishment of three important institutions which fostered it: the Agricultural Society of Trinidad ( 1894); the Department of Agriculture ( 1908) and the Imperial Department of Agriculture ( 1898). The latter came into existence on the recommendation of the West Indian Royal Commission (the Norman Commission) of 1897 which insisted on the urgent need to spread agricultural education in the West Indies. This Commission proposed a special imperial agency located in the West Indies, but funded entirely by the British government, to promote agricultural research and education. Chamberlain approved a budget of about $84,000 per annum and in 1898 the Imperial Department of Agriculture

-78-

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