Columns

Male educators needed!

Keriffe
Clark

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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With the myriad issues plaguing the education system, especially at the school level, it is imperative that we re-evaluate our own beliefs and ideas of how we define a school curriculum. Many individuals are of the belief that a curriculum is solely a document prepared and distributed by the Ministry of Education, but, as curriculum experts will attest, a curriculum is the composite of the mulitfaceted experience lived by students. These experiences, therefore, cross-cut instructional planning and delivery, co-curricular activities, leadership, parental and community involvement, among other things.

Noted educator and author Baruti K Kafele articulated in 2012 that the greatest challenge faced in education is motivating, empowering and educating black males. Arguably, teaching has become a feminised profession as male educators have seemingly, as referenced by some researchers, assumed the title of the endangered species. Some researchers have argued that the desire to have more male teachers as role models in schools is linked to the moral panic of underachieving boys and the feminisation of the profession. But, to what extent does the presence of male educators impact student outcomes? How important, if at all, is gender in school leadership?

In the mid-19th century the teaching profession experienced the exodus of males as they sought opportunities in industry and business. It is therefore not a mystery that there is a paucity of males in the profession desirous of assuming principalship within our schools.

The National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL), an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI), offers to aspirant school leaders the Aspiring Principals' Programme (APP) in collaboration with The University of the West Indies (UWI). The programme exposes participants to critical leadership modules such as transformational leadership, community leadership, organisational leadership, and instructional leadership. The NCEL operates with a mandate of improving student outcomes through innovative, context-relevant, and practitioner-based training programmes, support and initiatives. Across five cohorts, NCEL has assembled and trained just under 500 individuals in its APP, of which only 231 are males.

High-performing principals, according to Professor Disreali Hutton from The UWI, share a common philosophical belief that every child has the capacity and ability to learn. It is therefore crucial for this belief to be transmitted to the wider school community, even to include non-academic staff, as they too become curriculum enactors. In fact, the concepts of Other Mothering and Other Fathering is foreign to some, but, with the increasingly visible challenges which permeate our schools, we must seek to unpack, promote and foster the tenets of these concepts as we prepare educators and school leaders.

Interestingly, however, research studies in the United States of America have ignited discussions on the effectiveness of having black male teachers as disciplinarians. This is as a result of the typically stern and no-nonsense approaches to discipline employed by males which are reflective of approaches taken at home. In light of this, though, we must contend with the notion that substantial male presence is oftentimes absent from many Jamaican homes.

Believe it or not, an issue that contributes to the constantly dwindling number of male educators is the question of their masculinity. Have we, as a society, reached a level of maturity to accept that masculinity is not eroded if men are empathetic and demonstrate nurturing attitudes towards students? To what extent have we, as a society, acknowledged the importance of male role models who are educators?

It is commendable that a few teacher-training institutions have sought to innovatively attract male students to be trained as educators. These efforts must, however, be sustained and improved to preserve the 'endangered species' before it becomes extinct.

The NCEL, without gender discrimination or bias, has sought to recruit and train aspirang school leaders who possess the rudiments to effect impactful and meaningful changes in schools. This is a means of ensuring that positive role models, both male and female, exist within our schools. Additionally, NCEL continues to implement support mechanisms to enhance the leadership capabilities of all school leaders. After all, effective leadership in schools should be translated into holistically developed students.

Keriffe Clark is a programmes officer at the National College for Educational Leadership and president of the Association of Graduate Researchers in Education at The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or kerclrk@gmail.com.


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