Schools bi­ased against boys

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Peter Espeut is a de­vel­op­ment so­ci­ol­o­gist and Ro­man Catholic dea­con. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

RE­CENT RE­SEARCH by neu­ro­sci­en­tists at New­cas­tle Univer­sity in north­east Eng­land has ver­i­fied what we al­ready know: that, on av­er­age, girls’ brains de­velop ear­lier than boys’ brains. They dis­cov­ered that as the brain ma­tures, it be­gins to ‘prune’ stored in­for­ma­tion, to fo­cus on what is im­por­tant.

For girls, this can hap­pen as early as 10 years old, but for boys, it can take un­til between 15 and 20 for the same changes to oc­cur. Girls tend to op­ti­mise brain con­nec­tions ear­lier than boys, which ex­plains why fe­males gen­er­ally ma­ture faster in cer­tain cog­ni­tive and emo­tional ar­eas than males dur­ing child­hood and ado­les­cence.

There­fore, at age 10, girls are more con­cep­tu­ally de­vel­oped than boys, and will per­form bet­ter in ex­am­i­na­tions like GSAT.

Ja­maica’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is bi­ased against boys be­cause it forces both boys and girls at age 11 to sit the all-im­por­tant ex­am­i­na­tion to de­cide which high school they will at­tend. On av­er­age, girls will do far bet­ter and will be placed in tra­di­tional high schools, while the boys will pre­dom­i­nate in all-age, junior high and the newly up­graded high schools.

The data pub­lished nowa­days by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion hide the bias against boys. Data from 2008-2009 re­veal that 70 per cent of the stu­dents in grades seven to nine in all-age schools are boys; most of the girls have gone on to bet­ter things. And 62 per cent of the stu­dents in grades seven to nine in junior high schools are boys. The tra­di­tional high and newly re­named high schools are lumped to­gether in the sta­tis­tics, so it is im­pos­si­ble to see the gen­der bias, but the girls are in the vast ma­jor­ity in the high­erqual­ity high schools, show­ing the bias against boys in­her­ent in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

LIT­ER­ACY TEST HIGH­LIGHTS BIAS

The pub­lished re­sults for the Grade One In­di­vid­ual Learn­ing Profile, the Grade Four Lit­er­acy Test, and the Grade Six Achieve­ment Test show that the girls far out­per­form the boys. This is not just be­cause there is favouritism to­wards the girls (the boys are usu­ally put to sit at the back of the class), but be­cause the girls are psy­cho­log­i­cally and phys­i­o­log­i­cally more ready for these ex­ams. Putting boys and girls to­gether dis­ad­van­tages the boys.

A big way that our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem favours girls is that there are twice as many school places in tra­di­tional high schools for girls than boys. The stark re­al­ity is that in Ja­maica, we have only eight tra­di­tional high schools in Ja­maica for boys alone (Cal­abar, Corn­wall Col­lege, DeCarteret High, Ja­maica Col­lege, Kingston Col­lege, Munro Col­lege, St Ge­orge’s Col­lege, Wolmer’s Boys), while we have fully 15 for girls alone (Al­pha Academy, Bishop Gib­son High, Holy Child­hood High, Hamp­ton School, Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion High, Mary­mount High, Merl Grove High, MoBay High, Mount Alver­nia High, Queen’s, St An­drew High, St Hilda’s High, St Hugh’s High, West­wood High, Wolmer’s Girls). The rest are co­ed­u­ca­tional, and the ones I know have con­sid­er­ably more girls than boys. This sys­tem is grossly un­fair to boys, and is ev­i­dence of ex­treme bias.

Putting boys and girls to­gether in the same class in grades seven to 11 (forms one to five) places the boys at se­ri­ous dis­ad­van­tage. Aca­dem­i­cally, the girls will run cir­cles around the boys, af­fect­ing their self­con­fi­dence, and caus­ing them to over­com­pen­sate with ma­cho be­hav­iour.

Boys will do bet­ter in sep­a­rate­sex schools, and so will the girls (Cam­pion is an ex­cep­tion, be­cause all the stu­dents in the in­take – male and fe­male – are in the nineties per­cent­age band). It seems to me that the way for­ward is to con­vert all our schools at the sec­ondary level into sin­gle-sex schools. And we need an equal num­ber of schools for boys and girls. Six forms may be co-ed­u­ca­tional, for at that age the boys have caught up with the girls.

Ja­maica’s boys are un­der­per­form­ing be­cause of the way our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is de­signed. When will we ever have the trans­for­ma­tional lead­er­ship to fix the de­sign flaws?

Putting boys and girls to­gether in the same class in grades seven to 11 (forms one to five) places the boys at se­ri­ous dis­ad­van­tage. Aca­dem­i­cally, the girls will run cir­cles around the boys, af­fect­ing their self-con­fi­dence, and caus­ing them to over­com­pen­sate with ma­cho be­hav­iour.

FILE

Wind­ward Road Pri­mary stu­dents sit­ting per­for­mance task for the Pri­mary Exit Profile mock exam on Mon­day, June 18. Boys are at a dis­ad­van­tage, both phys­i­o­log­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally, in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, writes Peter Espeut.

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