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Educational Assessment, Social Reproduction and Power in Trinidad and Tobago Michele Mills.

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Presentation on theme: "Educational Assessment, Social Reproduction and Power in Trinidad and Tobago Michele Mills."— Presentation transcript:

1 Educational Assessment, Social Reproduction and Power in Trinidad and Tobago Michele Mills

2 Outline : The context of the current study. The background to the 11 Plus examination and the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago. Rationale for the study. The overview of the theory that underpins the current study. The methodology which underpins the study and the methods that support it. Educational research in a small state.

3 Working Title: The Reproduction of Power and Inequity: Assessment for Secondary Education in Trinidad and Tobago. Aim of study: To examine the extent to which the secondary school system in Trinidad and Tobago reproduces power and inequity, with specific reference to the part played by the assessment and selection process for admission to secondary school.

4 The Regional Context The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a small state at the southern most end of the Caribbean archipelago. It lies 10 degrees north of the Equator and at its north western tip is only 6 miles from Venezuela on the South American mainland.

5 The National Research Context Trinidad and Tobago is a Republic within the Commonwealth. Population of 1.3 million comprises people of Amerindian, African, European, Asian and Middle Eastern descent. Immigration from South American and other West Indian islands has further impacted on the ethnic composition of the country. English is the official language.

6 The National Research Context Trinidad was under Spanish rule for almost 300 years from 1498. The British captured Trinidad in 1797 and the island was a British colony until 1962 when it became independent. Tobago changed hands among the Spanish, French and the Dutch, finally becoming a British colony in 1814.The British made the islands a twin state in 1889. The basic system of education established by British colonial government continued after independence. The 11-plus examination originally known as the Common Entrance Examination was established prior to independence in 1960, to widen access to secondary education.

7 The Research Problem Trinidad and Tobago inherited a British model of education and, as a small state it often continues to look toward educational models of the larger western countries for guidance. Existing education systems in postcolonial societies may still bear hallmarks of the colonial encounter in that they remain elitist (Crossley and Tikly, 2004: 149). The top ten percent of students who sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) in a given year obtain places at the state-assisted faith schools (prestige or first-choice) based on their performance in the examination.

8 The Research Problem The secondary entrance examination and selection process has been retained in spite of the introduction of universal secondary education in 2000. The education system in Trinidad and Tobago (as in other countries) is dominated by an examination culture. The examination culture is a pervasive feature of educational systems that are the legacies of colonialism (Broadfoot,1996, Dore, 1997. The later a country embarks upon modernization, the greater the importance attached to certifications for occupational selection (Dore, 1997).

9 The Secondary School System State - Assisted Denominational Schools: Seven-year schools: First choice or prestige schools. State Secondary Schools: i) Five – Year Secondary Schools: Introduced in early 1960s with 11- plus examination and based on British secondary modern model ii) Junior Secondary Schools: Came on stream in 1970s as 3-year, double shift schooling (am/pm) iii) Comprehensive Schools: Initially students progressed to these schools from Junior Secondary schools for last 2 years of secondary schooling iv) High Schools: New wave of school development to accommodate increased intake after introduction of universal secondary education.

10 Rationale General: While issues are not peculiar to small states there has been less research into these issues in recently independent contexts. Small states seek to balance necessity of being part of regional and global communities with desire to retain unique identities. For Trinidad and Tobago: Divisions in T&Ts education system involving differential access to educational opportunities and equity among types of educational experiences still dominate the system. The SEA individualises failure; many students believe that they have to overcome the disadvantage of attending a second-choice secondary school. Personal: My experiences as a student at a state-assisted secondary school and my later experiences as a teacher at a state secondary school made me very aware of the gulf that exists between the state schools and the first-choice schools.

11 Theoretical Framework Three main bodies of literature provide the foundation of the theoretical framework for this study. These relate to: 1. Schooling and social reproduction. 2. Educational assessment and selection and their relationship with equity and justice. 3. Postcolonial perspectives and implications for small states of the uncritical transfer of educational policy and practice.

12 Theoretical Framework Social Reproduction: The study draws primarily upon Bourdieus theory of social and cultural capital as it explores how groups within Trinidad and Tobago are able to manoeuvre successfully through the assessment process for secondary education. Assessment and Selection: The study also draws upon work of Broadfoot (1996) and Little (1996) on assessment; as well as Dores thesis on qualification escalation (1990,1997). Postcolonial perspectives, small states and international transfer: The literature surrounding postcolonial theory, small states and, the international policy transfer, either imposed or voluntary, is also applied to the adoption of early selection in the form of the SEA. Hickling-Hudson (1998;2004); Jules (2006); Mignolo (2005); Phillips (1989; 2000); Ochs & Phillips (2004); Steiner-Khamsi (2003; 2004; 2006).

13 Theoretical Framework Therefore the study questions whether: The SEA functions as social selection in the guise of technical selection (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990). The impact of early selection is more severe in small states (Dores thesis of qualification escalation and its links with later developing countries, 1990;1997).

14 Methodology and Method Crossley and Vulliamy (1997: 5) differentiate between specific research techniques or methods and a research strategy or methodology as the underlying epistemology of research. Methodology is: as much about the way we live our lives as it is about the way in which we choose to conduct a particular piece of research (Clough and Nutbrown, 2002: 68).

15 Methodology and Research Methods The research methods to be undertaken in this study are consistent with the epistemological and philosophical positions outlined. The current study operates largely within the interpretive and qualitative paradigms. Qualitative research has significance for developing countries (Crossley and Vulliamy, 1997: 13). It is an instrumental case study in which the case plays a supportive role, facilitating understanding of something else (Stake, 2005: 446). It incorporates elements of critical theory and postcolonial perspectives.

16 Research Methods The overall case study design draws on the diagram by Yin (2003: 50) represented in Figure 2 below: Research Questions Select cases Plan case study fieldwork Conduct 1 st Case study Write Case Report Conclusions Write individual case report International literature Compile Data Areas of focus Choice of Respondents Interview guide Contact Interviews Documentary analysis Comparative analysis Country data Conduct 2 nd Case study Interviews Observations documents Modify theory Policy Implications Contribution to International Knowledge

17 Research Methods The cases: Six students (from three primary schools) involved in the preparation for the SEA examination, as well as their families. Sampling: Criterion or purposive sampling has been applied in selection of schools. I have selected one school in the city (western peninsular); one urban school in the east of the island and one rural school (north eastern area). The selection was based on information from recent SEA Report 2000-2004, as well as practical and financial considerations.

18 Sources of Data 1. Open-ended interviews with the students, their parents and possibly older siblings who may have already sat the examination. 2. Students narratives of their experiences. 3. Supporting interviews with students class teachers; former minister of education in early days of independence; one representative of faith schools; one researcher involved in work about violence among youth. 4. Documentary evidence (Policy document re: introduction of 11 Plus examination; Education Plan 1985-2000; most recent education plan; SEA Report 2000-2004)

19 Research in a Small State Small states have an ecology of their own Farrugia (2002: 18) The characteristics of small states can impact on the research activity in such a setting : The highly personalised nature of societies in small states The closely integrated and open nature of small states Traditionally research is such settings has been dominated by positivist strategies (Crossley and Vulliamy (1997: 13). Power relations may take on greater significance in smaller societies.

20 Conclusion Is the impact of early selection is more severe in small states? Is the SEA actually social selection in the guise of technical selection? In whose interest is it to retain a creaming off process in the face of universal access to secondary education? Small states seek to be part of regional and global communities while retaining their unique identities. Qualitative research has significance for developing countries. The methods to be undertaken are consistent with the epistemological and philosophical positions.











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