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History and Evolution of ECCE in Trinidad and Tobago

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History and Evolution of Early Childhood Education Care and Development in Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago is a small twin island country located in the south of the Caribbean. Prior to independence from Britain in 1962, Trinidad was colonized and brought under Spanish, French and later, British rule (Educational System, 2011) and in 1976 Trinidad and Tobago became a republic nation within the commonwealth realm (George, 2001). Following independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago continued to shadow the British system of education (Education System, 2011). In Trinidad and Tobago, education is free for all, and compulsory beginning at age six, and ending at age thirteen (AACRAO, 2008), however, early childhood education, between the ages of three and five is not mandatory, but nevertheless, many people enroll their children in early childhood education centers, in order to prepare them for primary school.

According to the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago (2013), “an Early Childhood Care and Education Centre refers to all facilities providing learning support, care and development services, to children from three to five years of age”. Throughout time, the early childhood educational system of Trinidad and Tobago has evolved since it’s early beginnings; many milestones have been attained, standards for the provision of early childhood care and education (ECCE) have been created, maintained and improved, and nevertheless, there are plans for further evolution of the system. History/ The Early Beginnings.

The contextual elements of the early childhood education system in Trinidad and Tobago have radically evolved over time (EDC, 2008). In the early years, up until the 1950’s, unqualified providers were offering early childhood care in private settings that did not follow any sort of standards and regulations, as facilities consistently exhibited substandard conditions (EDC, 2008). Beginning in the 1960’s, efforts boosted the “formalization of a systematic approach to early childhood care and education”, as “the Government of Trinidad and Tobago responded to the need for an early childhood education system” (EDC, 2008, p. 11). After this decision, the government created “a preschool unit, which established community centres as multi-purpose facilities to serve the comprehensive needs of the communities”; theses centres offered a range of cultural and educational activities, as well as skills training for all, free of charge (EDC, 2008, P.11). Following this, training and resource centres were made available, in order to prepare, and qualify, ECCE teachers to provide such care and education to the children of the country (EDC, 2008). Later on, after a vast amount of qualified early childhood practitioners were readily available, and policies and regulations were put in place for the ECCE centres in Trinidad and Tobago to conform to, a new vision for early childhood education and care was created (EDC, 2008). Milestones/ Timeline.

After efforts by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, to create a systemic approach to ECCE, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago accomplished many milestones within the early childhood education system (EDC, 2008). Following the formalization of a systemic approach in the 1960’s, the government piloted the first two model nursery schools in Trinidad and Tobago, that offered a services to families and communities- one in San Fernando and the other in La Pastora (EDC, 2008). During those pivotal years, many various infrastructures and materials were developed that provided a basis for the development of the systemic approach (EDC, 2008). In the 1970’s the Service Volunteered for All (SERVOL) agency “established a Regional Training and Resource Centre to prepare ECCE teachers, and created sixteen new centres in the areas of Trinidad with the most critical needs” (EDC, 2008, p. 11). The government later began to collaborate with Service Volunteered for All (SERVOL) centres in the 1980’s, to subsidize the training and resource operations, later assigning SERVOL to manage fifty public centres (EDC, 2008). Through the Service Volunteered for ALL training centres, many teachers received training; this helped build a foundation for ECCE within Trinidad and Tobago (EDC, 2008).

Later on in 1993, the government presented the ‘Educational Policy Paper of 1993’ which outlined a set of regulations and policies for ECCE centres to follow, and concentrated on the “governance, staffing, and management of ECCE centres in Trinidad and Tobago” (EDC, 2008, p. 12). This ensured that all children had equal access to quality education and care (EDC, 2008). As progress continued, within a ten-year period- between 1995 and 2005- many private, as well as government and government assisted early childhood centres were established to equally facilitate the young population of Trinidad and Tobago, as the enrollment in preschools drastically increased (EDC, 2008). In 2004, the “Proposed National Standards for Regulating Early childhood services I” was created; According to the Ministry of Education (2005): “The proposed regulations are designed to ensure that all service providers throughout the country, irrespective of affiliation (public or private) offer a safe and stimulating environment in which children can develop and learn according to their individual needs and abilities.” (p. 2)

Between the periods of 2005 to 2007, the government focused on creating a Seamless Education System, which aimed at aligning preschool services with those regulated for the primary schools; this was done in order to increase the access and equity for all children, and to improve the quality of the education being delivered (EDC, 2008). In 2007 a draft of the “National Model for Education in Trinidad and Tobago (Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary)” was released (EDC, 2008). This established “a model for assuring quality through a common language and shared understandings of the principles and practices that support child development” (EDC, 2008, p. 14). These efforts to create a dynamic ECCE system in Trinidad and Tobago have had a profound impact, and continue to add to the accessibility and availability of quality education and care for the children of the country. Current Status.

As previously mentioned, the government of Trinidad and Tobago presented the Education Policy Paper of 1993, and the Proposed National Standards for Regulating Early Childhood Services I in 2004, that both outline government mandated standards and regulations for the provision of quality early ECCE, by both private and government and government affiliated early childhood centres (EDC, 2008). A quality ECCE centre is one that provides safe, stimulating, nurturing and developmentally appropriate environments. According to the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago (2013): “The principle underlying Early Childhood Care and Education in Trinidad and Tobago is that all children can learn and each child, regardless of economic status, physical; or emotional challenges, ethnic background or gender, has a right to high quality education.” (para. 1). With the implementation of different regulations regarding ECCE in Trinidad and Tobago, such principles are obtained. Currently, in Trinidad and Tobago, one of the most mandate pieces of legislation concerning ECCE centres, is that all early childhood centres, must be registered by the provider at the Ministry of Education (Ministry of Education, 2005), and must comply with the relevant policies and legislation pertaining to early childhood care and education in Trinidad and Tobago.

The ministry requires the same standards for both public and private centres (Ministry of Education, 2005). Once registered, all practitioners must be qualified or certified to work with the children in their care, and they must obtain a police certificate of good character, in order to ensure the safety and well being of the children in their care (Ministry of Education, 2005). Within each childcare centre, there is a specific ratio required of qualified practitioners and children; for ECCE centres, the ratio is one qualified teacher to fifteen children, aged three to five (Ministry of Education, 2005). Now a day, there are many ways to obtain qualifications as an ECCE provider in Trinidad and Tobago. There are diploma, certificate and bachelor programs available from prestigious institutions such as The University of the West Indies; St Augustine; The University of Trinidad and Tobago and Service Volunteered for All (SERVOL), which offer teacher training specifically directed towards ECCE (AACRAO, 2008). In Trinidad and Tobago, the National ECCE Agenda is managed by the ECCE Division, and according to the Ministry of Education (2005): “[Their] responsibilities [include]; Providing advice on policy as it relates to the ECCE subsector; Coordinating ECCE Programmes; Continuously revising standards and goals set for ECCE; Research; and Monitoring and Evaluation” (para. 3).

The standards and regulations laid out by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, ensure the provision of safe, quality care for children. Similarly, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is working on carrying out several initiatives in order to provide quality educational experiences for children (Manning, 2007); these include reviewing the performance management and appraisal system for the teaching service, for implementation; making curriculum fully inclusive, catering to the diverse population and ensuring equity; also they are providing audio logical testing and vision screening for all children starting at infancy, in order to foster nationwide learning and development, despite sensory disadvantages (Manning, 2007). High quality early childhood programs are established by the legislation, and put into place in order to ensure developmentally appropriate centres, that meet the needs of children (Ministry of Education, 2005). Future Plans.

As stated previously, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is working towards future plans for the educational system of Trinidad and Tobago, which includes the ECCE sector. One of the plans is the Education For All (EFA) plan Target 2015 aimed to be completed by the year 2015. This plan has been working towards accessible educational opportunities for all, by delivering quality education to citizens at all levels, including ECCE; developing sustainable policies for the education sector; and continuous alignment of the strategic direction in the education system with objectives set for national development (Ministry of Education, 2006). However, possibly the most important future plan at the moment in the country regarding education is the “Vision 2020”. By the year 2020 the government is aiming for Trinidad and Tobago to become a developed society (Draft National, n.d.).

According to the Ministry of Education (2008) “Vision 2020 has put ECCE at the forefront of the nation’s development goals. Modernizing the educational system includes setting high standards for teachers and children as well as ensuring equal access for all children” (p. 14). The government plans to open six hundred new centres as part of Vision 2020 (Ministry of Education, 2008) and according to the Ministry of Education (2008) they will include: “State-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as well as twenty-four hour security to ensure safety; fully credentialed teachers—teachers and administrators with bachelor’s degrees and ECCE credits; and staff that includes one administrator/teacher, two teachers, two teacher assistants, and one auxiliary assistant.” (p. 17). With Vision 2020 “all citizens are assured of a sound, relevant education system tailored to meet the human resource needs of a modern, progressive, technologically advancing nation” (Draft National, n.d). Conclusion.

The ECCE system in Trinidad and Tobago has come a vast way since the 1950’s, as advancements have been made to improve the education level in general, as well as the quality, for young children. With new legislation, resources, facilities, infrastructures, initiatives and plans, the government is slowly reforming the system to create equal access to rightful education for all young children of Trinidad and Tobago. According to the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (n.d), “the demand for [ECCE] is growing as parents and educators see how pre-primary education helps to set the foundation for lifelong learning” (para. 1). The ministry of Education is living up to their “promise of excellence”, as stated by the Honourable Hazel manning (2007).

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers. (2008). The educational system of Trinidad and Tobago [pdf file]. Retrieved October 10, 2014 from http://handouts.aacrao.org/am08/finished/T0130p_K_Trayte.pdf

Draft National Strategic Plan [pdf file]. (n.d). Retrieved October 9, 2014 from http://www.transforme.gov.tt/sites/default/files/library/documents/Vision%202020%20Draft%20National%20Strategic%20Plan%20Trinidad%20and%20Tobago.pdf

Education Development Centre, Inc. (2008). Trinidad and Tobago seamless education system project: Early childhood care and education study, final report [pdf file]. Retrieved October 9, 2014 from http://www.moe.gov.tt/national_consultation_primaryschool/EDUCATION_DEVELOPMENT_CENTER_INC_2008T_and_T_Seamless_Education_System_Project_Early_Childhood_Care_and_Education_Study.pdf

Educational System of Trinidad and Tobago [pdf file]. (2011). Retrieved October 10, 2014 from, http://photos.state.gov/libraries/port-of-spain/223843/PDFs/EDUCATIONAL%20SYSTEM%20T_amp_T%202011.pdf

George, J ., Kallon, M., Keller, C., Lochan, S., Mohammed, J., Rampaul, B, and Quamina- Aiyejina, L. (2001). A baseline study of the teacher education system in Trinidad and Tobago. The University of the West Indies, St.Augustine: School of Education. Retrieved October 9, 2014 from http://uwispace.sta.uwi.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2139/5998/Monograph1.pdf?sequence=1

Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. (n.d). Early childhood
care and education (ECCE) [online]. Retrieved October 13, 2014 from http://www.ttconnect.gov.tt/gortt/portal/ttconnect/CitizenDetail/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/gortt/wcm/connect/gortt+web+content/TTConnect/Citizen/Topic/EducationandTraining/The+Trinidad+and+Tobago+Education+System/Early+Childhood+Care+and+Education+%28ECCE%29

Manning, H , The Honorable. (2007). Feature address [pdf file]. Retrieved October 12, 2014 from http://www.moe.gov.tt/Docs/Speeches/2007/ArimaWestGovtPrimary.pdf

Ministry of Education, Trinidad and Tobago. (2013). ECCE: General Information [online]. Retrieved October 9, 2014 from http://moe.edu.tt/learning/ecce/general-information

Ministry of Education, Trinidad and Tobago. (2006). Education for all: Target 2015 [pdf file]. Retrieved October 9, 2014 from http://www.moe.gov.tt/media_pdfs/publications/Action%20Plan%20Booklet.pdf

Ministry of Education, Trinidad and Tobago. (2005). Proposed standards for regulating early childhood services [pdf file]. Retrieved October 9,,2014 from http://moe.edu.tt/Docs/Policies/ECCE/Proposed_Stds_forRegulatingECS(UPDATED).pdf

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