National Literacy Team Looking at Learning Between Boys and Girls


The Ministry of Education is aware of the fact that boys learn differently from girls, and the issue is being addressed by a literacy team, National Literacy Co-ordinator, Laurel Brent Harris has said. Mrs. Brent Harris was responding to questions during a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, where she outlined the Ministry’s four-pronged National Literacy Strategic Plan, as well as the composition of the Literacy Management Team.
This four-pronged approach, she explained, is intended to carry forward the Ministry’s mandate of raising the levels of literacy of Primary and Secondary students across Jamaica.
Giving her views, the Co-ordinator said: “Boys learn differently from girls. This fact is now getting the attention it deserves.” She informed that the issue is now being discussed around the world, particularly since boys’ underperformance in relation to girls is at a crisis level, adding that because of this, “we have a national team which is addressing the issue.” “We are currently putting in place special programmes which will help teachers to understand how to customise their instruction in order to ensure that the boys benefit as much as the girls,” she said.
Mrs. Brent Harris informed that a segment of the four-pronged approach is focused instruction, through the in-service and pre-service professional development, and differentiated instruction.
The other three prongs include: data-driven decision making in teaching and learning, analysis of performance on national tests, students’ cumulative records and planning, and implementing customised interventions to address findings; targeting schools that have particular challenges, as evidenced by a pattern of low performance over a period of three to five years; and establishing partnerships with stakeholders, inclusive of parents, the public and the private sector and soliciting support for literacy endeavours through a public education campaign.
“In focused instruction, we are working with the teachers and guiding differentiated instructions for boys,” Mrs. Brent Harris explained, noting that this whole concept of how boys learn is one of the sub-strands under the ‘focused instruction’ prong.
“Learning differences between boys and girls would come under differentiated learning by gender, interests, age and special needs. We are looking at learning styles, how boys learn as against how girls learn, how we select materials for boys versus girls,” she added.
In relation to how schools would be structured to take account of the learning differences between boys and girls, she said that this is an ongoing consideration among educators.
“Indeed, different options are being pursued in some regions, and other recommendations have been advanced. Within the Ministry these options are being actively evaluated. In the interim, we are working closely with the teachers, to sensitize them to recognizing and responding appropriately to the learning style of boys,” Mrs. Brent Harris said.

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