Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, says that the Government may have to look at creating institutions and services that will cater specifically to the educational needs of boys, in order to improve academic performance among males.
The Minister was speaking this morning (June 25) during the opening session of the National Conference on Boys at Risk at the Mona Visitors Lodge, University of the West Indies.
He questioned whether there might be a need for the Government to establish more all-boys schools, rather than co-educational institutions, as a possible solution to the growing problem of underperformance of male students in the education system.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, greets Education Officer at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Hipolina Joseph (centre) during the National Conference on Boys at Risk held today (June 25) at the Mona Visitors Lodge University of the West Indies. Looking on is World Bank representative, Cynthia Hobbs.
“The question of whether we should separate the populations, the boys versus the girls, is a question that needs to be answered very quickly,” Mr. Holness said. “Very soon, we will be starting our programme of infrastructure development and I’d like to know whether or not we should be looking at building more boys’ schools or building co-ed schools,” he said.
The Education Minister said available data show that males attending all-boys institutions seem to outperform those in co-ed schools. “What the data is saying, so far, is that it does help to separate (the genders), but in the long-term it would be better to have co-ed education,” he noted.
“And, given the performance gap that we have, would it be an advisable policy position to build institutions that are more male oriented to deal with your extreme underperforming population?” the Minister questioned.
Noting that the factors that cause underperformance, such as the involvement of parents, violence in the community, and low income, seem to affect boys more than girls, Minister Holness challenged academia, government and non-government organisations and community-based entities working with youth, to look fully into these issues.
Student of the Stony Hill Primary School, Donique Forbes gives a dramatic performance of a dub poem during the National Conference on Boys at Risk held today (June 25) at the Mona Visitors Lodge, University of the West Indies.
“Why is it that violence seems to affect boys more and seems to lead them along a course of violence in a way that it does not affect girls?” he asked.
In the meantime, Vice Chancellor of the UWI, Professor Nigel Harris said the topic of boys at risk is “significantly important” to Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, particularly when one looks at data relating to student enrolment and performance in the education system.
He said that there is critical need for social intervention programmes geared towards finding solutions to the problem, noting that the conference was a significant step in that direction.
Professor Harris noted that the UWI must also get more involved in intervention programmes, particularly in the inner cities, in order to make a difference in the lives of at-risk boys. “I think it is these partnerships that are going to ultimately reverse the cycle of non-productivity, violence and hopelessness,” he said.
The one-day conference, held under theme: ‘Boys and Education: A Life Cycle Approach to Keeping Boys out of Risk’, was organised by the UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies in collaboration with the World Bank and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Participants looked at research and on-the-ground responses and interventions related to risk factors that impact boys’ education at each of four age bands in their life cycle.