School supervision in Trinidad and Tobago started in the 1850’s when a school inspection system was first established in the fledgling government-organised education system in the then British colonies. The establishment of school inspection, even then, implied a degree of decentralisation of decision-making and an attempt to maintain standards and accountability in the school system.
Essentially the mandate of the inspection system was to ensure policy implementation regarding effective instructional practice and wholesome learning environments. The inspectorate thus became a critical link between the central education authorities and the school system, continuing as such into this century virtually unchanged in its mandate, despite name changes and different administrative perspectives. In the late 1950’s, for example, as the perspective changed from a more authoritarian one to a developmental one, the term ‘Inspector of Schools’ was replaced by ‘Education Officer’. Still later, towards the mid-1960’s, the name of the post again changed, this time being enshrined in the Education Act (1966) as ‘School Supervisor’.
By the early 1970’s Government rapidly expanded the school system, particularly targeting the secondary sector in an attempt to guarantee free secondary education for all students. The Ministry of Education, responding to this challenge, developed an expanded model of education administration, running entire divisions for each of its key functions. The Division of School Supervision now had the critical responsibility of ensuring the effectiveness of schools and pre-schools.
School supervision has played an essential role in the evolution of a decentralised system of education. School Inspectors and later School Supervisors earned significant respect for their role in preserving school standards. Since the 1970’s the Division has been headed by the Director of School Supervision who manages and co-ordinates a cadre of School Supervisors and support staff. The Division itself which was always part of decentralisation efforts also became the first to successfully decentralise its activities in accordance with the recommendations of the ‘White Paper’- the seminal education policy statement of the decade of the 1990’s.
In that enhanced configuration, the Division not only ensured quality schools, but played an essential role in providing the Ministry’s central administration with sound information and advice on the running of the school system. This configuration, formally established in 1995, consisted of the Head Office of the Director and eight Educational District Offices, under the umbrella of the Chief Education Officer.