Jamaica Gleaner, Wednesday July 4, 2007
Failing Education (IV) - Education bias favours females
Peter Espeut (Peter Espeut is a sociologist and executive director of an environment and development NGO)
Jamaica's education system favours females; the systematic bias against men pushes them down and elevates women. Feminists are not comfortable with this thesis, for their instincts demand that in every sphere they are oppressed. But we have to be guided by facts: our education system is designed to fail the Jamaican male.
The first naked fact is that there are more high school places for girls than for boys, therefore more girls will pass the GSAT than boys. Check it out:there are seven high schools for boys only, while there are 14 high schools for girls only - twice as many! The average boys' high school is smaller than the average girls' school and co-educational high schools admit many more girls than boys, sometimes two-thirds girls to one-third boys. So, more Jamaican girls will get to high school than boys.
Men at the bottom of the ladder
So women will predominate at our universities, and men generally will become marginalised. Family life will be affected; women will complain of a shortage of marriageable men; and they will be right! There will be more men at the bottom of the economic ladder than women. And more men involved in crime.
This is not an accident; our educational policies after slavery were designed to protect plantation labour supply, which is why sugar areas like Trelawny, St. Thomas and Vere, and banana areas like St. Mary had no high school admitting boys until relatively recently. If too many boys go to high school, who would cut cane or weed bananas? So it is not so much that the system favours girls as it disadvantages boys.
The two political parties will be quick to say that they did not create this imbalance, partially true since none of the single-sex schools were established by government; it is mostly churches who are to blame; e.g. the Roman Catholic Church today has only one boys' high school but has all of five high schools for girls only! The parties have had all of 45 years to redress the gender imbalance, and they have not!
The gender bias is even more profound! In primary schools boys are often put to sit at the back; the students in front get more attention from the (usually female) teacher. The GSAT takes place at age eleven, when girls are psychologically more developed that boys. If it was a straight competition for high school places based on performance, girls have a big (and unfair) advantage over boys. And in co-educational schools, boys and girls of the same age are put in the same class, which means that girls will always do better, which has negative psychological impact on boys.
In my opinion, for best results, high schools should all be single sex! And then those of each gender can progress at their optimal pace.
So much is wrong with Jamaica's education system, and yet the best the two parties can do in this election campaign is make promises that the low quality education they are offering will be free.
Why don't they promise that they will put in place a system that can teach our children to read properly? Why don't they promise they will create a system where all Jamaican schoolchildren will get a good secondary education up to Grade 11?
Both JLP and PNP have rebaptised 'new secondary schools' into 'high schools', and there is great pretence that the new 'high schools' are of equal standard to 'traditional' high schools. The apartheid continues!
Why don't the parties promise that all secondary schools will be of equal standard? Why don't they promise gender equality? Why don't they promise that high schools will be neighbourhood-based, so students don't have to travel 30-40 miles per day just to get to a 'good' high school? All they should have to do is go down the street! Both parties are to blame for our failing education system, and it doesn't look like it will get better anytime soon.