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close this bookAn Analysis of Primary Teacher Education in Trinidad and Tobago: The MUSTER Project (CIE, 2002, 156 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentPreface
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentList of MUSTER Researchers in Trinidad and Tobago
View the documentList of Acronyms and Abbreviations
View the documentExecutive Summary
View the documentChapter 1. Background to the Study
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 2. Overview of the Education System
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 3. Trainees and the Training Environment
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 4. The Curriculum - Documented and Espoused
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 5. Trainees' In-College Learning Experiences
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 6. Trainees' Views of Themselves and the Teaching Profession
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 7. Learning to Teach - Experiences of Teacher Trainees and Newly Qualified Teachers
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 8. Costs and Financing, and Demand for Primary Teacher Education
Open this folder and view contentsChapter 9. Recommendations from the Muster Project
View the documentBibliography
View the documentAppendix A. MUSTER Symposium: Critical Issues in Primary Teacher Education in Trinidad and Tobago - Programme
View the documentAppendix B. Critical Issues in Primary Teacher Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Symposium Report
View the documentAppendix C. Letter to the Minister of Education

Executive Summary


This country report is a synthesis of reports of several sub-studies on primary teacher education in Trinidad and Tobago. This research project was a component of the Multi-Site Teacher Education Research (MUSTER) Project coordinated by the University of Sussex Institute of Education, United Kingdom. The Sussex initiative was funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID) and involved research in five countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. The research for the Trinidad and Tobago component was conducted by a team of academic staff members at the School of Education of the Trinidad campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI).

Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island, independent state in the Caribbean, which was formerly a British colony. Although it gained independence from Britain in 1962, some segments of the education system are still characterised by aspects of British colonialism. The system of primary teacher education is one such segment. Prior to this research project, there was little by way of documented research that explored the quality of the primary teacher education offered and this study sought to remedy this situation.

The entire MUSTER Project was organised around four strands: Becoming a teacher, Curriculum, Costs, and Colleges. Each strand was to be investigated through an examination of three arenas, namely, inputs, process, and outputs. Research questions were generated that were to be addressed in each of the cells of the arena x strand matrix. However, as the research progressed, individual countries participating in the project found it necessary to modify this matrix to deal with the realities of the local context. Eventually, the Trinidad and Tobago study took shape with emphases as outlined below:



Becoming a teacher

· On-the-Job Pre-Service Teacher Training Programme (OJT Programme)
· Characteristics of beginning teachers' college trainees (post OJT)
· Trainees' views of themselves and the teaching profession


· The documented and espoused curriculum in the teachers' colleges
· Trainees' in-college learning experiences
· Learning to teach: Experiences of teachers' college trainees and newly qualified teachers


· Costs and financing, and demand for primary teacher education

Research Objectives

The emphases detailed above gave rise to the following research objectives:

Becoming a teacher

· Who are recruited to be primary teacher trainees in Trinidad and Tobago?

· What do beginning teachers bring with them in terms of professional images, experiences, and expectations?

· What are the implications of these images, experiences, and expectations for the content and organisation of the programmes at the teachers' colleges in the attempt to produce quality teachers for the primary school system?


· What are the stated philosophies underpinning the teachers' college curriculum?

· What is the nature of the teachers' college curriculum?

· How is the delivery of the teachers' college curriculum organised?

· What do teacher educators claim are their intentions with respect to the content, method of delivery, assessment, and outcomes of their teacher training efforts?

· How well do the stated intentions of teacher educators mesh with what is revealed in the curriculum in action?

· What are the provisions for practice within the colleges and the cooperating schools?

· How do trainees make use of their preparation for teaching in the teaching practice sessions in cooperating schools?

· What are the views of the teachers' college supervisors, cooperating teachers, cooperating principals, and trainees on the efficacy of the provisions for practice in teaching?

· What orientation to teacher preparation is evident in the programme of the teachers' colleges?

· What are experienced teachers' perceptions of the value of the present teachers' college programme?

· How are newly trained teachers socialised into the school working culture?

· What happens to the knowledge and skills acquired at teachers' college?


· How much is spent on the training system in terms of salaries and non-salary recurrent expenditure?

· How much does it cost to produce a trained teacher?

· What will be the future demand for new primary teachers and how does this compare with the capacity of the college system?

· What opportunities are there to increase efficiency and effectiveness?


The project focused primarily on key stakeholders at the two government teachers' training colleges in the country - Valsayn Teachers' College and Corinth Teachers' College. In addition, data were collected from participants in the OJT programme, cooperating teachers and principals in the schools where trainees engaged in the teaching practice, and newly qualified teachers and their respective principals.

Data-gathering strategies were chosen to match the research objectives of the various sub-studies. The strategies utilised included semi-structured, one-on-one interviews; focus group interviews; autobiographies; analysis of data in students' files; classroom (school and college) observations; a survey questionnaire; and content analysis of documents.

Except for the study involving the entering characteristics of trainees, where the entire student body at both colleges was targeted (with a 75% response rate), all the other studies of human subjects involved the use of samples. Studies of in-college classroom observations and observations of trainee teachers on teaching practice in cooperating schools were done with those college tutors (8 or 13%) who were willing to be involved in this way in the research project. Fourteen college tutors (22%) were willing to be interviewed about their views on the college curriculum. About 70 trainees (20%) were observed in the teaching practice sessions. The study of the newly qualified teachers involved a very small sample of eight teachers in five schools and should thus be considered a case study.

Both qualitative and quantitative procedures of analysis were used. The SPSS package was used to perform simple frequency analysis of numerical data. Most of the data, though, were analysed through coding and the search for patterns and themes.

Significant Findings

Becoming a teacher

· The OJT programme extends for 9-10 months and provides untrained, novice teachers with the rudiments of teaching through theoretical classes and an attachment to a mentor teacher in a primary school for about one school year. Graduates from the OJT programme are usually employed as teachers for 2-3 years before they undergo the full teacher preparation programme at the teachers' colleges.

· Several beginning trainees at the teachers' colleges (but not all) had participated in the OJT programme prior to the beginning of their full training at the colleges.

· Teachers' college trainees and primary school principals regard the OJT programme as an important component of the teacher education system. Trainees value their OJT exposure to lesson planning and classroom management when they begin their teaching practice attachment during the teachers' college programme, and principals value the background experiences of OJT graduates who are assigned to their schools.

· Some trainees have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of mentoring provided on the programme.

· It is generally felt that the OJT programme is under-resourced and under-funded, and there is need to provide opportunity for training of personnel involved in the programme.

· The overall characteristics of the trainees entering the teachers' colleges can be summarised as follows. Trainees:

- are mainly female

- are mainly in the 21-30 years age group

- are mainly single

- have taught for 3-4 years prior to entry into the colleges

- have taught mainly at government-assisted schools

- possess more than 5 CXC/GCE O Level passes

- typically have not passed 3 CXC/GCE O Level science subjects

- typically do not possess GCE A Level passes

- come from homes in which the mothers are mainly house persons; the fathers operate at the lower professional, skilled, and semi-skilled levels; and few of the parents possess post-secondary qualifications.

· Teacher trainees enter their course of study at the colleges with well-defined views of who is a “good teacher,” but experience tensions caused by a mismatch between what they perceive a good teacher to be and the realities of the under-resourced classroom settings in which they must work and the low status accorded teachers in the society.

· Trainees enter the teachers' colleges with varying qualifications - nearly all (> 80%) have more than the stipulated 5 CXC/GCE O Level “passes,” but some acquired them in one sitting whereas others did not; few (17% during 1995-1998) have passed more than one science subject at CXC/GCE O Level; some (34% during 1995-1998) have passed at least one subject at A Level.


· Teacher trainees and teacher educators are unanimous in the view that the teachers' college curriculum is overcrowded. As currently structured, there isn't enough time in the two-year teachers' college programme to meet the time allocation for each of the subjects as stated in the official college curriculum.

· Trainees agree that the teaching practice is an important and valued part of the teachers' college experience. Yet, they speak of it as being very stressful and of varying helpfulness because of (i) their consciousness that they were being assessed, even from the first teaching practice session (at least 20% of timetabled time is allocated to assessment-related activities); (ii) their perception that different supervisors provide different levels of guidance and supervision; (iii) the lack of assistance and/or pedagogical guidance from some cooperating teachers and principals to whom they are assigned for practice in the primary schools; (some trainees were, however, high in praise for the assistance received); and (iv) differing levels of competence of cooperating teachers.

· Supervisors (teacher educators) view the provisions for teaching practice as less than ideal, mainly because of the heavy workload they have to carry during teaching practice rounds.

· There is no structured programme for the induction of newly qualified teachers but, rather, an informal system of mentoring and help from other teachers and advice from principals.

· Newly qualified teachers have been found to focus on survival strategies in their post-teachers' college teaching and to replace the recommended strategies they had learnt in college with practical solutions that provide some results.


· The cost of producing a trained primary school teacher is about US $11,100, which is about three times GNP per capita.

· It has been projected that enrolment in primary schools will decline in the next decade because the cohort of primary school-age children is shrinking. This would mean a reduced demand for primary school teachers if existing pupil-teacher ratios (20:1) are maintained.

· With the projected reduced demand for primary teachers, it may be possible to raise the entry requirements for primary teaching to include passes in one or two A - Level subjects.


Based on the findings of the project and the general educational climate in Trinidad and Tobago, the following recommendations are made:

1. The Pre-Service Teacher Training (OJT) programme must be made compulsory for all prospective primary school teachers.

· Successful completion of the OJT programme should be a prerequisite for admission to the teachers' colleges.

· Proper training programmes must be mounted for all personnel involved in the delivery of the OJT programme, namely, principals, tutors, and mentor teachers.

· The curriculum of the OJT programme should be reviewed to ensure that it allows for the development of basic classroom skills and a proper orientation to primary pupils and the context of primary school teaching by trainees.

· The OJT programme must be carefully monitored and proper evaluations must be done periodically.

· The OJT programme must be adequately funded on a timely basis.

· The OJT programme must be provided with adequate administrative staff and proper support systems such as computers for the storage and management of data.

· The OJT programme should serve to identify those participants who have demonstrated, by their attitude to teaching and their level of performance, that they are not suitable for primary school teaching. This process should be facilitated by the administration of suitably designed/modified/selected attitude/aptitude tests.

2. The identity of teacher trainees must be understood and catered for in the primary teacher education curriculum.

· The teacher education curriculum must be modified to include those issues that are based on the identity of the trainee, posing them as problematic and in need of interrogation by trainees.

3. The teachers' college curriculum must be revised to take into account the identity of trainees (as above), the varying entry qualifications of trainees, and the need to allocate enough time for deep learning to occur.

· The teachers' college curriculum must, therefore, be reworked to allow adequate time for deep learning to occur during the programme. It should allow for a focus on the development of competence in key areas of the curriculum (such as literacy and numeracy), while allowing for some exposure to the other areas.

· The teachers' college curriculum must be organised in a modular fashion to cater for the varying entry qualifications of trainees.

4. Trainees must be able to develop pedagogical competence in a non-threatening atmosphere.

· There must be a clear articulation of the goals of the teaching practice and the part to be played by each of the key stakeholders (trainees, supervisors, cooperating teachers, cooperating principals) in this enterprise. In particular, consideration must be given to assigning a more prominent role to the cooperating teacher in the exercise.

· Fully equipped teaching laboratories must be created at the teachers' colleges to facilitate the practice of basic teaching skills by trainees.

· There must be training programmes for supervisors, cooperating teachers, and cooperating principals. The School of Education, UWI, could be asked to mount a short course for the training/upgrading of teacher educators in the area of supervision. The teacher educators could, in turn, mount short courses for cooperating principals and teachers.

· Suitably trained cooperating teachers must be paid a stipend for their services and must be given a reduced teaching load when they are functioning in this capacity.

· The teaching practice must be restructured so that formative assessment (complete with trainee reflection on performance) is the dominant assessment mode for most of the programme, with summative assessment being highlighted only towards the end of the programme.

· The time allocated to teaching practice must be revisited, with a longer period of school-based attachment being given serious consideration.

5. Primary teacher education programmes must be adequately positioned within the structure of the Ministry of Education and must be properly financed.

· A unit must be established in the Ministry of Education that deals specifically with the affairs of the teachers' colleges.

· Investment expenditure per trainee must be increased to ensure that the colleges provide a suitable teaching/learning environment.

· College administrators must be trained in the effective management of resources.

6. A structured induction programme for the newly qualified teacher must be mounted in receiving primary schools.

· Newly qualified teachers must be eased into their jobs as full-fledged teachers through a carefully structured induction programme mounted at the level of the school.

7. The teachers' colleges must be fully equipped with computers to be used by (a) trainees for research work on the Internet and word processing, and (b) college staff for administrative functions including the management of examination results. The trainees must also be inducted into using the computer as a teaching tool. However, teacher educators must first be trained in the pedagogical uses of computers so that they, in turn, can help to induct trainees.

8. Consideration should be given in the long term to using the skills of college staff to help to improve other aspects of the system.

· With fewer teacher trainees in the colleges and/or a shorter training period because of a higher content knowledge level of entrants, college staff may be deployed to function in other areas of the system such as (i) the retraining of teachers who have been in the system for a long time, and (ii) contributing to systematic support and development programmes for newly qualified teachers. The latter should enable support for the use of new pedagogic practices by the newly qualified teachers.

9. In executing the recommendations outlined in 1-8 above, the ultimate aim should be to produce a totally unified primary teacher education structure, beginning with the OJT programme and continuing sequentially with the teachers' college programme, the UWI Certificate in Education programme, and the UWI Bachelor of Education programme

10. In the long term, active consideration should be given to making the B.Ed. degree the preferred entry-level qualification for primary school teaching.

11. Finally, it is recommended that a broad-based National Task Force on primary teacher education be established to:

(a) review the composition and function of the Board for Teacher Training in order to meet the demands of primary teacher education in the 21st century

(b) take steps to ensure that the recommendations outlined above are actively considered and implemented as appropriate

(c) devise structures for the continuous evaluation and upgrading of the primary teacher education system.