St. John’s Antigua- As Education Minister Dr Jacqui Quinn Leandro announced the results of the 2011 common entrance exams yesterday, she said that heavy attention is being placed on squeezing shut the performance gap between boys and girls.
Although 11-year-old Akanii Simon from Baptiste Academy is the 2011 top student at common entrance exams, he has earned the title following five straight years when girls came out tops. His percentages were 95 in Language Arts, 96 in Mathematics, 91 in Science, and 85 in Social Studies, an average of 91.75 per cent.
Dr Quinn Leandro was, however, happy to say that although the solution to the entire problem is not in sight, improvement in boys’ performances year by year was something to celebrate.
She said incremental gains were the result of direct action aimed at improving academic performance among males.
“We have had several workshops, seminars, dealing with the different abilities of students be it girls or boys,” she explained. “We are aware, and we have had several of our officers going overseas to seminars dealing with how to reach and teach boys, and they have come back into the system and held debriefings with our teachers.”
“Certainly (at) the principals’ institute which we had last year, the educators’ summer leadership institute which we’re having this summer which is closing off today (Friday), one of the areas that we looked at is how to reach boys,” she said.
The 88.5 per cent of girls who passed to attend secondary school dwarfs the 74.7 per cent of boys, but those figures aren’t the whole story. Only about 52 more girls passed the exams than boys as there were more boys sitting the exam than girls. Also, boys’ performance has been trending upward after 2006. That year, males had just a 53 per cent pass rate.
Each year when the results of common entrance exams come out there have been many complaining that teaching methods and the education system give girls an advantage. Boys have proven to be more adept at subjects requiring a combination of brawn and brain and girls are more oriented toward mental exploits.
It has also been noted that schools, which specifically cater to either sex – Antigua Girls High School, St Joseph’s Academy, and Antigua Grammar School – generally do better academically than mixed schools.
The government emphasis, though, has been on keeping a mixed system, and Dr Quinn Leandro said yesterday that her ministry will keep plodding away.
“The (education) act stipulates that we must educate children in the way that they learn, and it is our responsibility to find the way, so if it means continuing to research this issue, if it means finding the ways – whether it is funding; whether it is looking at the socio-economics; whether it is looking at the home environment – we have to find the ways, and we must take responsibility for this, and we will not shirk from that responsibility,” she said.
Meantime Golden Grove Primary and TN Kirnon schools were singled out for special mention during yesterday’s media conference.
TN Kirnon produced the top junior secondary pupil, Amanda Ross, whose score was 295 out of the possible 500, and Golden Grove has also moved from having among the worst academic performances to having two girls scoring spots in the top 100 positions – Tamara Thomas who placed 54th and Dionisia Diaz whose spot was 91.
Overall there were 102 students in the top 100. Government schools only had 11 of those spots.
The schools registering 100 per cent passes were Old Road Primary with 12 students, TOR Memorial with 25, Gray’s Crescent with 21, St Peter’s Primary with 17, Sunny Dale Primary with 19, Kids Unlimited with 17, Seaview Academy with 15, Sunnyside Tutorial with 54, St John’s Catholic Primary with 78, Cobbs Cross Primary with 14, Baptiste Academy with 25, Minoah Magnet Academy with 10, and New Bethel Seventh-Day Adventist with 27. St John’s Lutheran had 24, New Winthorpes Primary 13, Gospel Light Elementary 13, St Nicholas Primary 20, and Grace Christian Academy 24.