He said he had not seen the book but spoke with a member of the ministry’s Curriculum Division and was informed the book had not been approved. He also said there is an evaluation committee responsible for reviewing textbooks to be used by schools.
“Authors of textbooks cannot badger, negotiate or offer any inducements to principals to get their textbooks on the book list,” said Garcia. “The freedom of choice policy which allowed principals to choose the books to be put on the book lists fostered mismanagement and other problems in the Ministry of Education.” As a result, the learning material evaluations committee, chaired by former chief education officer Peter O’ Neil, was revamped by the ministry. “An author would have to provide samples to the committee and, if successful, their books would be placed on a list of approved books for consideration by the principals.” However, the editor of the textbook told Newsday he was not aware this process existed.
“As far as I know, there is no official approval process for textbooks.” He said authors create a book, carry it to schools and if teachers believe it meets the curriculum needs, they put it on the book list.
Newsday, on Wednesday, reported on the social media discussion surrounding the textbook. Two pages from the table of contents were circulated and showed an absence of two major observances (Indian Arrival Day and Emancipation Day) and the inclusion of foreign celebrations including Halloween.
The exclusion incurred the ire of members of the public who shared the pictures on their pages.
Newsday sourced a copy of the book and found a section on Indian Arrival Day was included but Emancipation Day was not. The editor said the omission was unintentional and the holiday would be included in the book’s second edition. TT Unified Teachers Association president Lynsley Doodhai said as far as he knew, the evaluation committee is non-functional and there is a need for it to be revived.
The holiday’s absence from the textbook is worrying for some educators. They see it as a larger deficiency in the education system.
“It is sad that Emancipation was left out since it is such a critical part of our history,” said Dr Agnes Howell-Jack, a local and foreign educator for over 40 years.
“The ministry and, of course, teachers must do more and use other resources to ensure this information is taught.” Lecturer and the University of the West Indies Rhoda Bharath said she had concerns over the textbook but her main concern was with the ministry.
“That book couldn’t be in schools if someone at the ministry didn’t recommend it as worthwhile. So we need to ask who establishes criteria for these textbooks and selects them.”