To what extent does the National Science Curriculum in Trinidad and Tobago as presented by teachers engage students as critical thinkers?

University College London (UCL), United Kingdom

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This thesis aims to elucidate the influences that determine the extent to which the National Science Curriculum of Trinidad and Tobago, as presented by teachers, engages students as critical thinkers. The interpretation of critical thinking is seen in terms of an emancipatory paradigm which leads to social justice.

The work takes the form of a case study completed at a mixed gender government secondary school. The context is set within an education system that has come out of a colonial history and where critical thinking is seen as important for the economic advancement of the nation. However, the level of success necessary for achieving this advancement is not seen as being actualised within the present educational regime.

A qualitative approach was taken in which critical theory and postcolonial theory were employed in establishing the nature of the power relations at play within this setting.

The methods included content analysis of curriculum documents, exercise books and textbooks, lesson observations, focus group interviews with students from Forms 1 to 5 based on a video clip stimulus and structured interviews with teachers. The interviews were all subjected to NVivo coding to determine the themes related to the research questions.

The main findings were that students’ skills in terms of the cognitive and affective domains and their critical thinking skills did not appear to develop significantly as they progressed through school nor were the students any more confident to engage in social activism. The pedagogical methods used were more based in direct instruction and did not fulfil the expectations of a critical pedagogy as advocated in the National Certificate of Secondary Education (NCSE) and Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) syllabuses.

A neoliberal agenda is seen as influencing the maintenance of an elitist education system and suggestions are provided for changes within the administration of the system, teacher training and pedagogical methods which would result in a more appealing, relevant and motivating school science.


Perle Brewster
17 Gulf View Drive
Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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