Inside Jamaican Schools

Inside Jamaican Schools

Inside Jamaican Schools

Inside Jamaican Schools


George Beckford left the Caribbean region, and the underdeveloped world in general, an extraordinary body of work that spanned his career as economics professor, advisor to governments, and consultant to international organizations. "George Beckford's work is characterized by a remarkable consistency of purpose and vision . . . [This collection presents] the unfolding of George Beckford's work from agricultural economics to political economy, to the social economy of 'man space', to the cultural roots of Caribbean creativity and a vision of one independent, sovereign and self-reliant Caribbean nation . . . His purpose was to reveal the legacy of dispossession originating in the slave plantation experience of African people in the New World; to 'free the mind' from the internalization of attitudes of inferiority and 'Afro-Saxon' mimicry. His vision was the affirmation of the culture of 'overcoming' rooted in the Caribbean 'peasantry' and the land". Introduction


This book is about what happens in schools and classrooms. It focuses on the experiences of students and teachers, and draws on research that I have conducted, as well as on research carried out by some of my students in Jamaica over the past twelve years. The research is distinctive in that it used qualitative methods of data collection. This method, also known as ethnography, relies on participant observation and interviewing, and aims at understanding peoples' lives, perspectives, and ways of thinking. This approach to studying schools provides an up-close view of what takes place in schools and gives a picture of the social reality of schools - the experiences and perspectives of teachers, students, principals, and parents.

One of the purposes of this book is to provide this up-close view of schools and classrooms — to describe in an ethnographic way the experiences of those who work and learn in schools, and to examine the ways in which young people are shaped and identities formed in face-to-face interaction. These descriptions also present the ways in which society's tensions are played out in these settings. Schools are institutions created by the society; they have a formative influence on and help to shape that society. In a postcolonial society, one has to be mindful of this influence and constantly and vigilantly monitor received values, beliefs, and practices in schools.

A second purpose is to show the ways in which educational theories can be used to understand what happens in schools. A theory or theoretical framework is simply a way of looking at, or interpreting, social situations or events, a view which is quite different from that seen when other theoretical frameworks are used. Theoretical frameworks also provide a set of ideas or concepts for describing what exists and posits certain relationships among the elements in question. Educational theories attempt to explain educational outcomes and especially differences in outcomes based on social class, race or colour, and gender.

A third aim of the book is to show through the research reported, the ways in which specific events in schools exemplify educational theories. The extracts from the research illustrate the ways in which individual thought and action are linked and how each is influenced by the structure or the institutional context. According to Giddens (1979: 49), an important task in social theory is that of connecting human action with structural explanation. This is also an important aim of research in general, and . . .

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