'Wrong message'

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'Wrong message'

JTA head rejects Chang's claim; says boys not marginalised

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Owen Speid has staunchly rejected claims by Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang that the island's education system is designed to keep males at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.


During a road-renaming ceremony held in his St James North Western constituency recently, Dr Chang argued that while the country is faced with numerous challenges involving young men, the country has also partly failed to recognise that the education system is tailored to suppress males. He said the country has not done enough to address the issue.


“While we have a lot of challenging criminal activities involving young men, the country doesn't very often recognise that we have designed an education system which is designed to really suppress our young, humble males in the society, and that means 99 per cent young, black males.

The entire system is designed to put them at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder; that is the education system we inherited and we have not done enough to change it,” Dr Chang stated.


However, the JTA president told the Jamaica Observer earlier this week that such a statement could have a negative psychological impact on boys.


“I think politicians have to be careful that they don't send the wrong message to any sector of the society and make them start to think negatively of themselves — because that is what it could do to some of our boys,” said Speid.


“A statement like that could cause boys to start resigning to their fate that the system is not designed for us, so we are just not going to do well in the system. So, we have to be very, very careful when we make these statements,” he said.


The JTA president said he is of the opinion that there are equal opportunities for both genders.


“I believe that there are equal opportunities for boys and girls in the education system in Jamaica. It has been so since I was a little child — schools take them in from the same age, they take them in from the same parents, they take them in from the same community; both genders. And so I cannot see where we are saying that the boys are marginalised in any serious way,” Speid argued.


However, the president did concede that at the secondary school level, especially in the third and fourth forms, boys could be marginalised if the institution is not adequately resourced to cater to programmes that boys gravitate towards. Examples of the programmes the president listed are building technology, electronic technology and welding.


The JTA president said what is needed is an overhaul of the education system with adequate resources so that help can be provided to both genders.


Speid also had a word of advice for males.


He said there is a need for males to treat education with priority, as females do.


“The boys must understand, too, that when they leave high school with five subjects and they just grab onto a little low-paying job out there instead of going to university, that there is going to be a problem later on in life for them.

And what they are doing is leaving the spaces at the university for the girls, and this is where we have the issue.

Boys have to develop that kind of focus, that kind of tenacity to improve their educational status, or else we are going to be singing this tune wrongfully,” he cautioned.


“We must tell our boys: Go to school, pay attention to your lesson, don't mess around in class, participate in discussions in class and don't believe that it is feminine to participate in discussions in class, and channel the energy into formulating a study plan.

If we can get our boys to formulate a study plan and stick to that study plan, then we will get more out of them and we will stop talking the whole thing of marginalisation of boys in a few years to come,” he said.


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