“Language Problems, Village Improvement, And The Dullness Of Rural Life”: Colonial Education Reports And Implications Of Cultural Education In Belize

Alicia Ebbitt McGill, North Carolina State University, USA

Throughout Belize’s history, racial and ethnic identity categories and cultural differences have been problematized, highlighted, and manipulated by colonial administrators, government agencies, politicians, scholars, and social groups in contexts such as colonial political administration, education, and social and economic development efforts, to manage populations and cultivate constructs of citizenship. In particular, since independence in 1981, numerous and varied individuals and agencies have invoked racial and ethnic identities in cultural tourism programs, disputes over land rights, cultural heritage preservation initiatives, educational contexts (e.g. museums and curriculum), and in social movements to legitimize and challenge claims made to land and other resources, as well as to celebrate Belizean diversity. In this paper, I explore characterizations of cultural practices and differences (e.g. rural/urban, language, race, ethnicity) in the context of Belizean colonial education during the late 19th century to the 1970s. Drawing from sources found in the National Archives of Belize, I summarize trends from colonial education reports and demonstrate the value of thinking historically about cultural rhetoric in the institution of education. I present evidence for a history of colonial, state, and nationalist concerns about the management of cultural differences in education and in society more broadly. I demonstrate that, while current culturally relevant pedagogy is used to celebrate Belize’s rich heritage, earlier efforts acknowledging cultural difference in the classroom were often done to address what were considered to be cultural deficits, manage colonial subjects, and augment development agendas.

Colonialism, Education, Culture, Heritage, Race, Ethnicity, Schooling


Vol 4 2015 Research Reports In Belizean History and Anthropology