SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS, 1800-1960
Before the middle of the nineteenth century, education
throughout the British Caribbean consisted of three types:
education abroad on private initiative; education in the islands in
exclusive schools designed for local whites lacking the resources
for a foreign education; and education for the academically able of
the intermediate group of nonwhites.
The wealthy planters generally sent their children abroad,
mainly to Britain, but a surprisingly large number went to study in
British North America. As early as 1720, Judah Morris, a Jew born
in Jamaica, was a lecturer in Hebrew at Harvard College. Alexander
Hamilton, born in Nevis in 1755, attended King's College (later
Columbia University), where his political tracts attracted the
attention of George Washington. Other students attended such
colleges as the College of William and Mary in Virginia and the
College of Philadelphia.
Indigent whites attended local grammar schools founded by
charitable bequests in the eighteenth century, such as Codrington
College and Harrison College in Barbados and Wolmer's, Rusea's,
Beckford and Smith's, and Manning's schools in Jamaica.
Slaves and their offspring were given little more than
religious instruction. Indeed, in 1797 a law in Barbados made it
illegal to teach reading and writing to slaves. In the early
nineteenth century, the endowment from the Mico Trust--originally
established in 1670 to redeem Christian slaves in the Barbary
States of North Africa--opened a series of schools for blacks and
free nonwhite pupils throughout the Caribbean and three teachertraining colleges--Mico in Antigua and Jamaica and Codrington in
After 1870 there was a mini-revolution in public education
throughout the Caribbean. This coincided with the establishment of
free compulsory public elementary education in Britain and in
individual states of the United States. A system of free public
primary education and limited secondary education became generally
available in every territory, and an organized system of teacher
training and examinations was established.
Nevertheless, the main thrust of public education in the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did not come from the
local government, but rather, from the religious community.
Competing Protestant denominations--the Church of England, the
Baptists, the Moravians, the Wesleyans, and the Presbyterians--and
the Jesuits operated a vast system of elementary and secondary
schools. At the end of the nineteenth century, the churches
monopolized elementary education in Jamaica and Barbados and ran a
majority of the primary schools in Trinidad, Grenada, and Antigua.
The most outstanding secondary schools--St. George's College,
Kingston College, Jamaica College, Calabar High School, and the
York Castle High School in Jamaica; Harrison College, Codrington
College, the Lodge School, and the Queens College in Barbados; and
Queen's College, St. Mary's, and Naparima in Trinidad--as well as
the principal grammar schools in the Bahamas, Antigua, St. Kitts,
and Grenada owe their origins to the religious denominations. Each
territory had a board of education, which supervised both
government and religious schools. Government assistance slowly
increased until by the middle of the twentieth century the state
eventually gained control over all forms of education. Although far
from perfect--most colonies still spent more on prisons than on
schools--public education fired the ambitions of the urban poor.
Based on the British system--even to the use of British
textbooks and examinations--the colonial Caribbean educational
system was never modified to local circumstances. Nevertheless, it
created a cadre of leaders throughout the region whose strong sense
of local identity and acute knowledge of British political
institutions served the region well in the twentieth century.
Data as of November 1987