Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

Education for Economic, Social and Political Development in the British Colonies from 1896 to 1945

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

Education for Economic, Social and Political Development in the British Colonies from 1896 to 1945

Article excerpt

M. Kazim Bacchus, Education for Economic, Social and Political Development in the British Colonies from 1896 to 1945, Ontario: The Althouse Press, 2005, vii + 322 pp.

Bacchus's book is the product of many years of research, dating back to the 1970s, and is the third volume resulting from that research. The work comprises twelve well-written chapters, a preface, and an introductory overview, fittingly written by Professor Carl Campbell, until recently a member of the Department of History and Archaeology, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. He himself is an authority on the history of education in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Professor Bacchus casts himself in the role of a data collector, with a difference. He is not merely satisfied with reporting the data as collected, but has presented a fairly in-depth analysis of the political, economic and sociological variables that have determined the direction in which education in the former British Caribbean has gone between 1896 and 1945. Throughout the book there is the recurring theme: political and social considerations were paramount in the minds of the imperial policy-makers as they sought to develop an educational system in the British Caribbean aimed at maintaining their dominance and the relegation of the majority population to manual and menial tasks. Professor Bacchus aptly elucidates this theme in the section entitled "Education as a Means of Legitimizing Colonial Rule". He observes that "These [educational] programmes were expected to lay the foundation for a continuous, even if graduated, rate of economic growth for the region" (p. 22). The imperial government's position was that most Caribbean persons would eventually have to earn their living by cultivating the land. One general aim of colonial education, then, was to serve a moral function in developing in the young British West Indians a positive attitude to manual labour, while at the same time reinforcing British dominance over all aspects of colonial life. To enhance this policy the educational system placed an over-reliance on British texts. This approach, Bacchus argues, has had an adverse effect on the region's educational system.

The book discusses the main features of British Caribbean education, based upon a system during most of the period under review in which (as noted above) the labouring population would be equipped with the skills and discipline necessary for them to earn their living by cultivating the land and/or becoming a more conscientious proletariat (p. 20). Thus, the system placed strong emphasis on technical and agricultural education, which involved the establishment of 4-H or Young Farmers' Clubs. In order to develop this discipline in manual labour, the fostering of moral principles and social values was desirable. This "moral function was to develop in students a positive attitude towards manual labour" (p. 36), while the socializing functions were to get the population to accept the existing structure of authority (p. 37).

The work is well structured and themes flow fairly logically. …

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