Schools and the Concordat
MARION O'CALLAGHAN Monday, June 25 2012
THERE it was in Newsday June 18th: in the USA teachers are taking Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President, to task. The issue? Class size. It seems that Mitt Romney questioned the argument that the size of the class had an impact on the performance of pupils.
In the same Newsday June 18th, there was a report from London on a curriculum review for primary school students. These return to learning arithmetic tables and basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This may well be to offset the easy cheating provided for by varieties of calculators.
There is more. At seven years old, British pupils will be expected to know in science about the solar system, speed, evolution and the lives of some of the famous scientists.
They would not only be expected to learn English Grammar.
They would be expected to know and recite poetry. At seven it will become compulsory to learn a foreign language. They will be taught art, design, ICT, history and geography.
I note that there will be the recognised University subjects of history and geography, rather than the dubious social studies we favour. And there will be music and gym.
In the same issue of Newsday I note that in the North of Ireland, Catholic schools are doing better than other schools. This interests me not because the schools are Catholic, but because the Catholic population of “the North” has been subject to pretty ferocious segregation and discrimination in the past. What then accounts for today’s educational success? Commitment and determination, turns out to be the answer. This commitment and determination brings together teachers, parents and children. Ask no more …. it is the absence of this which accounts for the poor performance in many of our schools and particularly those serving those children already marginalised by poverty.
I could have added that education has been singled out as the number one subject for special attention by France’s President François Hollande. His “spending” will first of all be the recruitment of 60,000 teachers over the next five years and an immediate teacher increase in schools in poor areas where students are performing below the French average.
What then of our education news over the last week and a half? The Concordat There was the incipient conflict which stemmed largely from a loss of institutional memory. It is this loss which was there in the incident of the Point Cumana RC School. In the case of the School, both the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition considered knocking together two small primary schools, one Government the other Catholic. It seemed the easy thing to do, at least for a while. It was not only that it went against Article I of the Concordat as Archbishop Harris reminded the authorities. The Concordat was principally meant to provide guidelines through which Denominational secondary schools could be brought within the Dual System of management and finance until then limited in Trinidad to primary schools. This Dual System was a British model of Church and State education.
Within this both Church and State shared the education of the youth through an agreed system of subsidies and administration. This system was in existence in Trinidad since 1870. It was fostered by Governor Gordon as the answer to the failure of the Government or Ward schools as well as in the hope that Church management would be cheaper than the State.
Avoiding Confrontation This is quite different to the missionary schools in most of Africa or indeed schools established at the time of emancipation by Methodists and Moravian in the smaller islands. Catholic secondary schools were established by Religious Congregations and were for much of their existence funded by the congregations and their benefactors. Government assistance came, in stages, afterwards.
This sharp division between Catholic primary and Catholic secondary schools followed the Irish modification of the English system.
In the case of the Concordat it has taken on an importance which does not seem to be there at its inception. Neither Finbar Ryan nor Eric Williams overtly intervened.
It was however suspected that both were anxious to avoid a Church-State confrontation. The Concordat was the agreed “red” line of the time. Neither man wished to repeat the conflict between Church and State, QRC, CIC, which Campbell would classify as the worse perhaps, in the history of Caribbean education.
It is doubtful that the Concordat was meant to regulate all relationships between State and all religions for all times. The present situation where – quite rightly – all religions recognised by the State have the same rights, changes the nature of Church- State relationships, as it does in say, Ireland. It is this new situation that we have yet to debate and which Ireland has begun to debate. Add to that individual rights within this.