Qualifications have two functions- appointments and promotions. Holding a Dip.Ed. for a period of four years and working at a Secondary School is a requirement established by the CPO for a teacher to be eligible to apply for an administrative position in a secondary school. When the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (ECIAF), the San Fernando Technical Institute and the John Donaldson Technical Institute ceased to be institutes for technical and vocational education, we inadvertently disbanded qualifications like the Diploma in Agricultural Education and the Technical Teachers’ Diploma. The ensuing qualifications void impeded the upward mobility of technical vocational (Tech/Voc) educators who teach subjects like woodwork, pan manufacturing and agriculture from being interviewed for promotions into administrative offices such as Heads of Departments, Deans, Vice Principals, and Principals of Secondary Schools.
These Tech/Voc professional qualifications are comparable to the Dip. Ed. in modern foreign languages, mathematics, English language arts, science, social sciences, IT, and education administration. They are not unlike the BPTC that attorneys complete at Inner Temple to become Barristers or the LEC offered by Eugene Dupuch, Norman Manley or the Hugh Wooding Law Schools for admission to practice in Caribbean Courts. Some Tech/Voc teachers have skilfully skirted the qualifications void by completing a degree and the Dip. Ed., at UWI.
Ages before COVID-19, the Technical Diploma in Agriculture at ECIAF addressed concerns surrounding food insecurity. At one time, it was contemplated that the B.Ed. Programme of study at Valsayn Teachers’ College and Corinth Teachers’ College with a specialization in Agriculture should merge with the programmes of study at ECIAF to produce teachers who have in-depth practical knowledge of agriculture by linking the teacher education programme with courses available at ECIAF and the rich research at the Waterloo Field Station, established by Tate and Lyle.
For decades we have not created any credential to bridge the gap between teachers holding technical vocational credentials and their desire to hold administrative offices in the education system. It is now the case in December 2020 that the office of the CPO and the Personnel Department of the GORTT are expected to make a pronouncement on the refreshed MIC Technical Vocational Instructor Teacher Training (TVITT) Diploma Programme. If this credential is deemed to be acceptable, it will offer a new pathway for technical vocational teacher training, and it will be a bridge into the future that will prepare a new generation of Tech/Voc educators who can interview for administrative positions in schools. It is a candle in the window for countless teachers who have completed the MIC course of study.
ECIAF was established in 1954 with grants from the Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme, and the Carnegic Corporation. The practical aspects of the agriculture and forestry programmes were conducted on the Institute’s forty-hectare farm at Centeno. ECIAF once offered a Diploma in Agricultural Education. From August 1964, the Institute operated as a Trinidad and Tobago Institution. In 1969, the Forestry School was added with assistance from the UNDP and the FAO of the UN. In 1983, the Agriculture Teacher Education Centre (ATEC) was established as a joint project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, the Ministry of Education, and UNESCO. ATEC aimed to improve the pedagogical skills of Agriculture Science Teachers at Secondary Schools. The Agriculture Teacher Education Centre was situated on the Mausica Teacher’s Training campus.
This vignette is a cautionary tale. Reenergizing an exhausted organization requires authentic curiosity. In the recent past many actions in education went underway with flawed assumptions resulting in costly bridging programmes at accredited institutions for degrees which had benefitted from GATE. Others decisions were extemporaneous. The unintended outcomes from such actions based solely on tacit knowing, and void of planning and prudence, dawdle like Carrie’s hand in a Brian de Palma film, scraping through a cemetery plot set to drag us back into the darkness. Clear objectives lead to routine and discipline. They build resilience. They add structure to the environment.
Reenergizing education requires programme articulation among tertiary institutions. The TSC must shift to a Monitoring function swiftly using Delegation Orders to transfer authority to the seven district offices and Tobago. From 1962 to 2020 the TSC adopted the Public Service Regulations. The first ever Teaching Service Regulations submitted in 2019 awaits approval and can be modified incrementally, as is the case with all legislation in every jurisdiction.
New District Offices and the Division for Education must be purpose-built with new establishments that create positions for Discipline Units, Investigations, Legal Departments, Selection Boards meeting Rooms, Tribunal Offices, Curriculum Offices, Quality Assurance, Institutional Effectiveness, Supervision, Planning, Audit and Finance, Bursary and Procurement Units. A New Education Act is overdue. A new model of financing schools based on parental income and measures from a proposed Index of Multiple Deprivation. Empowering principals to staff schools through District Offices monitored by the TSC. An Education Estate Audit to determine priorities for repairs and strategic expansions. A New Concordat between businesses and all state schools to fund quality pedagogy to the 80% not covered by other arrangements. Lastly, new guidelines for an Open Source Curriculum Architecture.