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Teaching Council teams with Commonwealth Secretariat to improve boys' education

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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The Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC), an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information (MoEYI), has teamed up with the Commonwealth Secretariat to improve on the educational achievements of boys in Jamaica.

At a recent consultative workshop aimed at improving Boys' Educational Achievement and Active Citizenship in the Caribbean, a policy toolkit and guideline, prepared by the Commonwealth Secretariat, formed the premise on which participants engaged in dialogue during the workshop. The document provided an in-depth analysis of the educational achievements among boys in the Caribbean, inclusive of a literature review and identified socialisation and gender issues, socio-economic status and presented case studies from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

Participants, comprising a wide cross-section of educators, were assigned the following objectives:

(1) Reviewing the status of boys' learning outcomes in Jamaica;

(2) Determining key components for the design of a multi-sector policy framework/guidelines;

(3) Identifying investments and support required by Jamaica to move towards a multi-sectoral approach;

(4) Contributing to the content and structure of the draft policy toolkit including terms of relevance and adaptability;

(5) Producing a document that outlines the status, policies, challenges and the way forward.

Chief executive officer of the JTC, Dr Winsome Green ,was grateful for the opportunity to again open the conversation on the pedagogical approaches to boys' educational outcomes, which encompass issues contributing to their underachievement, differences in gender and more importantly, the strategies to be employed to mitigate against this in future generation. Dr Gordon further stated that incremental improvements have been made in the system since the Boys' in Education Programme was introduced in 2014. The programme, which is a partnership between the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) and UNESCO, piloted 18 schools across the island. However, Dr Gordon said more needed to be done on a wider scale.

“This consultative forum will give stakeholders an avenue to explore the issues negatively affecting boys' education in Jamaica and the Caribbean,” Dr Gordon said, adding that one of the underlying challenges that boys in Jamaica faced was the breakdown in the family unit. She contended that in families where there is no father, boys tend to take on the responsibility of protector and/or provider in the home. This eventually leads to the lack of interest in their education and result in their underachievement.

Professor Disraeli Hutton agreed with the viewpoint posited by Dr Gordon regarding the breakdown of family life. He emphasised that parenting was crucial and the role of fathers in the home does have an impact on a greater number of boys than girls. Professor Hutton added, however, that there were other factors that affect boys' education. These include school leadership and the quality of teachers.

Hutton explained that studies have shown that effective school management also had a positive impact on boys. Concerning teachers' colleges, Professor Hutton added that these institutions needed to revamp their curriculum and place more focus on how teachers are prepared. He also added that teachers currently in classrooms should grasp a better understanding of boys — their genetic make-up, how they think and learn differently than girls, and hence differentiate their approaches in how they teach.

Principals and teachers who attended the workshop were delighted for the opportunity to be able to contribute towards the proposed policy toolkit, which they believe was critical at this time in Jamaica's history. They lamented that boys have consistently been left behind in the classroom due to the teaching methods that are employed while proposing that a project-based approach to learning be employed to engage boys.

According to the MoEYI/LASCO Teacher of the Year 2018, Amarkard Brown, the project-based approach in teaching had been implemented at Munro College, and the institution has seen greater engagement and interest from students.

Principal of Carron Hall High School, Carlington Johnson, agrees that different teaching approaches need to be engaged if the system wants to see improvements in boys' achievements.

Johnson cited Carron Hall High, being 70 per cent boys, introduced a 'Green Classroom' approach. The 'Green Classroom' concept constitutes a plot of land where an agricultural crop is planted. This crop (for example, Scotch bonnet pepper) is used to teach a Mathematical concept or a science or English language topic. He confirmed that this technique has increased the students' interest and creates greater class participation. He also pointed out that the use of technology within classrooms was an important avenue in engaging boys. The institution also offers a wide range of technical and vocational subjects in order to engage more boys.

Several boys who attended the workshop were ecstatic that finally some interest was being paid to transforming boys' low achievement in schools.

Jordan Evans and Jahmelo Sterling, both students of Papine High School, expressed delight at being included in the workshop and stated emphatically that lessons taught in schools must be boys-friendly as boys do learn differently from girls. They both agreed that boys like practical subjects and implored school leaders to implement more programmes along these lines.

Participants who attended the forum included education officers, principals, teachers, students, representatives from Jamaica Teaching Council, National Education Inspectorate, Core Curriculum Unit, Independent Schools, National Parenting Support Commission, and the Jamaica Teaching Council.


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