Human rights and the struggle for
inclusive education in Trinidad and
Ann Cheryl Namsoo and Derrick Armstrong
The struggle for 'human rights' has had enormous significance in the history of social policy in Trinidad and Tobago. Yet it should not be surprising that this struggle has been uneven, reflecting the complex array of interests and influences that have been in evidence in, and contested through, policy arenas. The history of education policy, for instance, reflects both the aspirations and the contradictions of this struggle. In this chapter we examine how struggles around educational policy and teacher professional education in Trinidad and Tobago have been informed by efforts to reconceptualize the meaning of 'human rights' in a post-colonial society.
The education system in Trinidad and Tobago today has its roots in the former colonial system. While the general masses were excluded from education, local elites used a system of prestige schools to maintain their already established political and economic power. This system of elite schools laid the basis for a historic compromise between Church and State that has continued into the post-independence era, and has had significant implications for the quality of education made available to the general population. In this chapter it will be argued that this compromise has restricted the potential impact of education in the anti-colonial and post-colonial struggle for social justice based upon the principle of human rights. Instead, it has promoted the interests of traditional elites and of the rising black middle class, and has diverted resources away from