The most important agent of civilization: Teaching English in the West Indies, 1838-1986

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Multilingual Matters Ltd


The development of English teaching is conveniently seen in three phases roughly coincident with the phases of political development: 1) the period 1838 to 1945, from the end of slavery to the end of Crown Colony government; 2) the period 1945 to 1965, when universal adult suffrage was introduced and there was internal self-government and the growth of trade unions--this period also marked the beginning of economic modernization; 3) the period 1965 to 1985, which saw the movement to national independence by individual territories, the development of the Caribbean Community (an economic and social union among 13 territories), and the beginning of dependence on loans and/or grants for education from external agencies. During the last period, political developments and the development of Caribbean linguistics caused West Indian scholars and teachers to begin to confront the problems of the teaching and learning of English in a mainly Creole-speaking community. This study of the teaching of English in the Caribbean leads to certain conclusions: 1) recognition that the teaching of English was deliberately used as a political tool to reproduce a Caribbean working class; methods and materials employed reinforced dependence and a hierarchical society; 2) this language policy did violence to the psyche and emotional needs of the mass of the people and the damage remains; this dependence was perpetuated and schools disempowered the lower classes in society; 3) Creole has so far existed in an antagonistic relationship to English in the schools; 4) pedagogical approaches still have to be found to help students master the knowledge codes and skills of the dominant groups while they learn to respect their own language and traditions; and 6) the strong resistance of Creole culture to European culture in the Caribbean is illustrated


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