ALTHOUGH girls are entering fields that were traditionally dominated by men, the government said it will increase its efforts to promote the diversification of educational choices for girls and boys.
In addressing concerns raised recently by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) about Jamaica's education system, Information Minister Sandrea Falconer said that a number of programmes have been put in place to address gender-based stereotypes. These programmes, she said, include the Primary Education Support Project, the Reform of Secondary Education Project and the Secondary School Enhancement Programme which have all helped to address gender-based stereotypes in text books, the school curriculum and teaching methods.
"The overall objective is to modify the educational environment in order to allow boys and girls to select and pursue the subject areas of their choice.
"Women are now in fields traditionally dominated by men such as plumbing and pipe-fitting, construction, air-conditioning and refrigeration, welding, as well as both electrical installation and maintenance," she said.
She said the Ministry of Education also plans to intensify the incorporation of gender-sensitisation training for pre and in-service teachers as well, and noted that the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) results indicated that girls were increasingly studying subjects which were traditionally male dominated.
Subjects that continue to remain male dominated include building technology, electrical and electronic technology as well as mechanical engineering. Based on the number of candidates who sat the CSEC exams in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, Falconer made the following observations:
"More girls than boys actually sat exams in agricultural science, as there was an overall increase of 276 girls sitting the exams in 2009/2010 over the 2008/2009 period.
"Girls, therefore, are generally comfortable with entering the field of agriculture at this stage. For technical drawing, there was a slightly higher representation of girls sitting the exams," she noted.
The information minister pointed out that vocational institutions were now establishing quotas for women to enter traditionally male dominated fields of studies. Based on data compiled by the different institutions providing training to skilled and semi-skilled workers in 2010, of the 48,097 persons enrolled, almost 60 per cent were females.
"Categories of training in which women are becoming increasingly involved are computing, crafts, the production process and operating personnel, and agricultural personnel," she said.
"Women continue to dominate such categories as cooks, waiters and hotel personnel, secretarial and other commercial personnel and cosmetology," she added.
But while the success of women in academics was lauded, there were concerns about the fact that far more females were outperforming males in both the tertiary and secondary institutions. Given the extent to which girls were performing in comparison to men, Falconer said the government has established a male desk within the Bureau of Women's Affairs to address this fact by implementing policies and programmes to address potential gaps.