Ways in which Education might contribute to the Process of Decolonization:
(1) The point which one should bear in mind is that any real attempt at getting the educational system to play an effective role in the social transformation of colonial societies cannot be achieved simply by an increase in expenditure on education. An attempt must first be made to clarify the economic and social objectives which the society has set itself and examine the role which education can play in the achievement of these goals or objectives. Unless education is looked at in this way the society is likely to be continually absorbed with the instrumental aspects of educational policy- buildings, equipment, number of teachers, etc. – thus allowing the purpose of these educational institutions to be determined by the other societies. In short, ex-colonial societies would continue to do as they did under colonial rule- be faithful copycats of foreign institutions even when these really have no relevance to their needs. It is only when educational goals are somewhat clear in a terminal rather than an instrumental sense that any attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of the educational programme is really feasible or any meaningful analysis of the outlay of a country’s resources in education possible. Admittedly this is not an easy problem but a very important one.
Changes in the Content of Education:
The two most important inputs into the educational process are probably what is to be taught, and who is to teach it-the content of education and the teachers.
The content of education is important from two angles-first, the skills and knowledge which are to be imparted to the students and, secondly, the attitudes and values to be inculcated in teaching the different subjects on the curriculum. It is true that in most ex-colonial territories there has been a gradual recognition of the irrelevance of many of the topics which formerly appeared in the curriculum of their schools, and attempts have been made to substitute more meaningful material-the study of the hibiscus instead of the daffodil and West Indian or African history in place of English history.
But here again, the question which has not really been asked is “what is the purpose of this substitution?” What seems to have been done is simply that one type of instrumental goal has been substituted for another without a full examination of the terminal goals at which the educational system is or should be directed.
It is true that by substituting the study of the hibiscus for the daffodil the knowledge which the children acquire would be more meaningful in their environment and learning would be made less difficult and more realistic through the study of live specimens. But the question is why is Biology taught in the first place and are the aims and purpose of teaching this subject the same whether one is dealing with children in industrialized urban societies as in rural agricultural societies. The same question needs to be asked for all other subjects in the curriculum. In the teaching of history does one simply attempt to give children a grasp of historical facts or does one in addition try to inculcate attitudes and values such as a sense of belonging to a certain society as a first step towards national development.
The traditional emphasis has been on imparting factual information and this is understandable as far as teachers are concerned because facts are easier to teach and the success of one’s efforts easier to evaluate. But this does not mean that the development of attitudes and values are not equally important-or even more important in some cases-if the educational system is to make a greater contribution to the process of development and decolonization.
The almost total concern in education with imparting knowledge and skills is again seen very strikingly in the continued reliance in the West Indies and other ex-British colonial territories on the General Certificate in Education (G.C.E.) examination set by English examining bodies to test the success of their secondary education programme. In addition to revealing a feeling of security in a dependency relationship it indicates the underlying belief that the educational success in these secondary schools can only be judged by the skills and information which students can display in a written examination. The attitudes which students inculcate are by implication deemed irrelevant or unimportant in judging a successful secondary educational programme.
Some observers have commented on this over concern of teachers for the imparting of skills and knowledge at the expense of everything else. The late V.O. Key, Jr. was possibly referring to this problem when commenting on schools he noted “they are thought of as agencies to equip young people with those basic skills in literacy felt to be necessary in our society today. Or at a higher level to transmit the skills and information necessary to practice the professions or provide a grounding for young men who, properly trained on the job, may become junior executives and perhaps eventually useful citizens. (my emphasis) (15)
This overriding concern for imparting skills and knowledge, quite often at the expense of attitudes and values, would need re-examination if education is to play a more effective part in the social transformation of ex-colonial societies. In doing this it might also be necessary to look at the method of teaching used since these probably also affect the development of attitudes. A competitive classroom atmosphere might prove useful if one is mainly concerned with the amount of skills and knowledge which each individual child acquires. But teachers rarely stop to think what attitude are developed as a result of such forms of classroom organisation and whether these attitude are the ones which children ought to acquire or strengthen.
One of the additional purposes of including any subject in the school curriculum is to help students develop a greater awareness and understanding of their environment – both social and physical-so that they will begin to grasp the type of problems the environment poses for life in the society. It is only through this confrontation of the individual with his environment that he would begin to think about and seek meaningful solutions to these problems.
Yet despite this most of the schools, especially at the secondary level, continue to use textbooks drawn up for children in a different physical, social, economic and historical environment. True, some inroads have already been made into this problem but judging from the financial allocation for curriculum development and textbook production in the West Indies this activity is still regarded as peripheral rather than of central concern in their educational efforts.
To ignore this aspect of the educational enterprise is analogous to say a manufacturer who is concerned chiefly with the acquisition of new buildings and up to date equipment and not with the quality of the ingredients that enter into the production process-which in the long run would be one of the most important criterion in determining quality of the product.
(3) The Role of the Teacher:
Even if educational objectives and goals are clearly defined, translated into operational terms and a suitable curriculum content developed to achieve these goals-the success of the educational programme will still depend to a large extent on another input factor-the teacher, the quality of his training and the role he is expected to play in society.
If education is to play a part in the decolonization process the role of the teacher will be crucial since he is one of the main agents in the change process. In fact, as Harbison points out, teachers are the largest single category of high level man power in most developing countries and as such their possible innovative role partly as “change designers” but mainly as “change pushers” is something which needs to be considered more fully in these societies. If the view is accepted that teachers in ex-colonial or developing societies have to play an innovative role then the very basis of their educational and professional training needs to be reconsidered.
The traditional attitude has been that non-graduate teachers should, as in Britain, receive their training in separate institutions- Teachers’ Training Colleges-where, apart from the general education which the courses provide, the focus of the training is on the acquisition of skills and techniques to be used in classroom teaching. There is, however, need for a re-examination of the content of these courses and the existing arrangements for teacher-training to see if these are satisfactory in terms of the role which teachers are expected to play. Prima facie it seems as if the type of training which teachers receive in Britain (and which has been copied by many developing countries) might only be partly functional in societies where teachers are expected to play a somewhat different role. In fact, the very training which teachers are given with total emphasis on classroom teaching techniques suitable for young children may be dysfunctional in their efforts to play an innovative role, say, as “change pushers” within community groups.
The second point is whether primary school teachers should continue to receive their education in special teacher training institutions away from the general intellectual climate of institutions such as the University where other change agents in the society are being educated. Should they not be given the opportunity to mix with, listen to and partake in discussion with future scientists, sociologists, economists or historians in the society-all of whom are likely to play an important part in the intellectual life of the community, possibly in an innovative role. Such an opportunity would help to broaden the outlook of the teacher, encourage him to see his job in a wider social context and reduce the possibility of his treating education as an autonomous social system.
This does not mean that all teachers are to be geared to do degree courses, since most governments would argue that they cannot pay graduate salaries to all their teachers. But what will happen is that while they will do their professional training with their own colleagues they will get a chance of studying along with other students of the University in their general academic courses. It is felt that this contact with students in other disciplines will not only broaden their own education but will help them to see their work more in relation to the total development of the society.