Before beginning to discuss the topic “Education and Decolonization” it is necessary to attempt to define “decolonization” as the term is used in this paper. “Decolonization” refers to the process of transforming the social and economic structures of colonial and ex-colonial societies aimed at freeing them from their almost total dependency relationship with the metropolitan (or other) power which was a marked characteristic of their colonial status. Usually implied in this process is the assumption that the change will make it possible for these societies to experience a more rapid rate of development and this would lead to the introduction of a more egalitarian social and economic system.
It must first be pointed out that not all changes which took place in colonial societies during the period of their colonial domination or tutelage were specifically brought about as a result of colonial rule. It has been observed that many developing societies which experienced or missed what Coleman (1) calls the “stimulation and humiliation” of colonial rule exhibited somewhat similar characteristics in their social and economic structures.(2) So when the term “decolonization” is used here it refers also to the transformation of those aspects of the structure of colonial societies which developed during their colonial rule but which might not have been a direct product of the colonial relationship. This broad use of the term “decolonization” can be justified on the grounds that although certain changes might not have been directly introduced by the colonial power they were by and large functional to the colonial system as it was conceived or interpreted at the particular time in history when these changes or innovations came about,
Also, “decolonization” does not imply a total rejection of all aspects of the colonial heritage. Language is one example. The introduction of a common language in some colonial territories has played an important role in nation building especially where there were a number of different ethnic groups living within the same polity and speaking different languages. In the West Indies this has made it easier for territories that were once under the same colonial rule to think in terms of regional cooperation and the University of the West Indies as a regional institution was only possible because of a common language heritage among the ex-British colonies. “Decolonization” therefore is not synonymous with a total rejection of all aspects of the colonial past. It is more concerned with making self-government or legal independence not only a political but also a social and economic reality.
Another point which should be mentioned is that when we are thinking about decolonization we have to distinguish between what Professor Maunier refers to as “colonies of settlement” and “colonies of exploitation”. (3) “Colonies of settlement” were essentially extensions of the metropolitan country, e.g., Australia, and naturally their desire for decolonization especially in so far as it refers to freeing the country from the social and cultural dependence of the mother country will be non-existent or minimal. Then might, however, be some desire for economic decolonization. In “colonies of exploitation” such as the West Indies on which this paper focuses attention, one would expect to find a greater desire among the population for both economic and social transformation of their societies.