Fostering True Literacy in the Commonwealth Caribbean: Bridging the Cultures of Home and School

Fostering True Literacy in the Commonwealth Caribbean: Bridging the Cultures of Home and School

S. Joel Warrican (The University of the West Indies Open Campus, Barbados)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8668-7.ch015
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This chapter takes a close look at literacy in the Commonwealth Caribbean and explores factors that contribute to its status in the region. It links the current state of literacy to historical roots of education and relates it to other educational phenomena such as democracy in education, universal secondary education and technology in education. It argues that the current reported literacy rates for the region may be misleading as evidence suggests that for years, many students have been leaving school with insufficient literacy skills. The chapter proposes that the disconnect between the home or out-of-school culture of students and the academic/school culture contributes to poor literacy development which disempowers young people, especially males. It reports on what is being done to promote literacy in the region and concludes by sharing a vision of the way forward.
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Education In The Commonwealth Caribbean: Its Genesis

The notion that literacy is empowering is not a recent one. The European colonizers who settled in the Caribbean and who used slave labour to keep their properties functioning knew this well and consequently, prior to emancipation, the skills of reading and writing were reserved for the ruling class. Since schooling was considered a contradiction to the system of slavery (Gordon, 1963), no formal provisions were made for educating slaves (King, 1999) and, in the Caribbean and other places in the Americas, slave owners vigorously opposed teaching slaves to read and write, sometimes treating it as a criminal offence (Dunkley, 2011; Perry, 2010; Mizell, 2010). With the signing of the declaration of emancipation, colonizers lost the ability to physically control former slaves, but to some degree, seemed to find other ways, whether consciously or otherwise, to maintain control over the lives of these individuals. This control was achieved through education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Literacy: The ability to use language to interrogate the relationship between language and power; to analyse popular culture and media and to understand how power relations are socially constructed and to consider actions that can encourage social justice.

Technology in Education: The use of electronic technology in an educational setting to enhance the teaching and learning transactions.

Democracy in Education: The application of democratic ideals and principles in classroom and school settings for a more equitable education system and to encourage the students to apply these ideals and principles to their own activities, both in and out of school.

Universal Secondary Education: The provision of compulsory post-primary education that generally leads to high (secondary) school certification.

Home Language: The language to which children are exposed in their homes and communities; it is the language that they use as their primary means of communication, and identifies them with their community.

Colonial Past: The legacy from a period in which European nations imposed its rule in the Caribbean region.

Third Space: The context in which the literacy behaviours in which students engaged in their homes and communities meet with academic/school requirements of the classroom.

Academic/School Culture: The activities promoted by the school through the formal education system; it includes the practices, rules and requirements, curriculum, the language promoted, and the relationships that are encouraged.

Home/Out-of-School Culture: The activities in which students engage away from school; it includes the language they use, music to which they listen, the social relationships that they form and the technology that they use to facilitate these activities.

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