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Misrepresenting the Concordat
Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2003

By Stephen Kangal, Caroni

I reluctantly intervene to correct certain misrepresentations contained in George Alleyne's commentary on the 1960 Concordat (Newsday March 12, p.10).

Let it me state quite categorically that:

-The annual 20% intake of students facility accorded to Denominational Secondary Schools (DSS) drawn from the CE/ SEA's Pass List as provided in the Concordat did not discriminate against children of poor families in favour of those of the privileged middle/upper class when one considers the objective criteria of the selection process. Students so selected must pass the CE/SEA and must have placed the school in question as their first choice. With the current universal secondary education in force the 20% pales into insignificance as a non-issue.

-The Concordat or denominationalism did not contribute to inequality of educational opportunity but to the very opposite since the building of DSS and primary schools in the rural/ extra-East West Corridor areas that were neglected by the British and the PNM regimes until 1975 substantially increased the opportunities for secondary education. What contributes to inequality of educational opportunity is the building of the Library Complex in Port of Spain instead of 8 smaller libraries across the nation.

-The Concordat was a compromise reached by the Christian Churches in 1960 with late Premier Dr. Williams who wanted to nationalise all DSS and bring them under State control to facilitate his free secondary education programme. The late Archbishop Ryan should not be accused falsely on mere uninformed speculation.

-The Concordat introduced a moratorium on the building of DSS post -1960. The UNC disbanded this moratorium in 1995- 2001 and the PNM re-introduced it in 2001 although the DSS have been outperforming the state schools at lesser costs in the efficient delivery of quality education.

The DSS are not prestige but high performance schools being the first choice of the best students who wrote the CE.

How, Mr. Alleyne can the 1960 Concordat run counter to a later 1965 Johnson Head Start programme? Mr. Alleyne must learn to curb his penchant for citing American experiences/policies that are not even remotely related to the subject in hand.

Let it be known that there are more notorious and important promotions/ inequality of employment issues institutionalised in the Concordat that cannot be terminated with a wave of the hand since the practice on which the Concordat is based is now the prevailing norm with the denominational boards/churches in a strong bargaining position.

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