Investigating the cultural identity of the Bahamas through a study of Bahamian primary education.




Walkine, Jennette Felicia Louise.

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Thirty-six years ago, the Bahamas attained independence from Britain. With this change, the nation’s leaders determined that a core element in building an independent nation was forming a sense of cultural identity among its people. Since then, there has been a continual effort by the government to develop cultural identity among its citizenry, particularly through education. The purpose of this study was to investigate how curriculum and instruction in Bahamian public primary schools are presently serving to develop cultural identity among Bahamian students. Oral traditions are considered to be a significant part of Bahamian history and culture. Moreover, Bahamians widely practice and depend on oral forms of communication. For these reasons, the cultural expression chosen to facilitate this investigation of Bahamian cultural identity was oral traditions. The theoretical framework of this study was based on the ideologies of cultural literacy and multicultural education. Although these ideologies are usually seen as opposites within the discourse of American education, I propose that these two approaches may actually be used in conjunction with each other as a means to develop cultural identity within the Bahamian context. Based on this premise, this study explored how a select number of primary school teachers use Bahamian oral traditions in several content areas to help primary school children develop a sense of cultural identity. This study used an ethnographic case study design, which included document analysis, questionnaires and interviewing. Findings from this investigation revealed that oral traditions were integrated across several content areas to various degrees, but received the greatest support in language arts and social studies curricula and instruction. Other observations included the use and influence of Bahamian dialect in the practice of oral traditions, and the prevalence of native oral traditions in mostly indigenous learning resources. Implications of these results are discussed in relation to the development of cultural identity among schoolchildren. I offer several suggestions for improving the present practice of content integration, alternative means to produce more native learning materials to stimulate increased pedagogical inclusion of oral traditions, and discuss possible effects of social attitudes towards Bahamian dialect on oral traditions instruction.



Bahamas., Multicultural education., Cultural literacy., Ethnographic case study., Oral traditions., Folklore., Curriculum and instruction., Primary education.