The Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) said the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago recognises parental rights to provide an education for their children in keeping with their values, “the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own choice for the education of his child or ward.”
The controversy surrounding the Computer Science pre-test administered to children in Barbados has raised questions about parental consent being bypassed and the rights of parents in relation to what their children are exposed to in the education system.
Responding to questions from Catholic News Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM Sharon Mangroo cited the provision in the Constitution which gave a parent or guardian “freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance”. She said sexual activity among persons who are legally children is illegal and the curriculum cannot promote such an activity.
Mangroo said she is not aware of any plan or intention by the Ministry of Education to introduce Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) or gender theory. She explained that the official Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) remains on the Ministry’s website.
Mangroo added that she was aware that overtures were made to the Ministry by an international agency, but these have not resulted in any changes. Questioned if changes could be made to the curriculum, she responded, “The usual curriculum development process includes consultation with and inclusion of stakeholders. Some time ago the MoE embarked on a curriculum revision, and we were included in the consultation.”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) website, the Primary HFLE Curriculum “was approved and edited by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2006”.
The curriculum focuses on the “development of Life Skills making children psycho-socially competent, assisting them in acquiring proper attitudes, morals and values.”
The document addresses four thematic areas as mandated by UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) in collaboration with the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Secretariat: (1) Self and Interpersonal Relationships, (2) Sexuality and Sexual Health, (3) Eating and Fitness and (4) Managing the Environment. HIV and AIDS education is introduced within the Sexuality and
Sexual Health Unit. Course Outlines is organised in the following three levels: Level One – Infants Years One and Two; Level Two – Standards One, Two and Three; Level Three – Standards Four and Five.
Mangroo said, “with regard to the HFLE curriculum and especially the components that deal with sexuality, the MoE is guided by the Constitution and the law.”
She referenced the rights enshrined in the Concordat (1960) which assures, “In denominational schools, no books or apparatus to which the denominational authority formally objects, will be Introduced or Imposed.”
Mangroo explained the role of the CEBM, in concert with several Archdiocese Commissions—Catechetical Office, Family Life, Youth, and Evangelisation, is to educate Catholic school principals and teachers on the teaching of the Church and to ensure that “no material (physical, electronic etc; curriculum, text, video, music etc) is introduced into Catholic schools, and to object if there is any attempt to introduce or impose such materials or apparatus.”