We were happy to see that veteran educator, Anthonyson King, shared our observation that there is too much of a gender difference as it relates to performance in education, as well as, a significant gap in the performance of students in private and public schools. Mr. King commented that he found it “disturbing” that just a few students from public schools placed in the top 100 at this year’s Grade Six National Assessment.
Both of these topics are extremely complex but we need to do the groundwork to identify the reasons that contribute to the stark differences. Mr. King called for a study to be performed by the Ministry of Education to examine the decrease in the number of boys attempting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certification (CSEC) examination when compared to those attempting the grade six examinations and we completely agree with that recommendation. In fact, we would like to further recommend that the scope of any study undertaken by the ministry be widened to include all factors that cause differences in performance, whether gender-based or facility-based.
The private versus public school debate will continue and people will always point to the quality of facilities and educators as the key advantages that the private schools have over public but we think it is much deeper than that. There are so many socio-economic factors that play into this debate that, simply laying the blame at the feet of those two obvious observations, does a disservice to our youth. There are many brilliant students who are products of the public school system and there are also many dedicated, well-qualified teachers and principals. At the same time, there are many poor-performing students and sub-standard teachers at private institutions. The difference may be in the ratios, the economics, or something else altogether. We really do not know, and it is obvious that no one else does either. That is good enough reason to undertake a study.
What we need to do is to identify what differences may be factors and remedy them to the best of our ability. Obviously, home life and many economic factors are near impossible to address but we should not shy away from examining all factors and seek to establish certain mitigation techniques to help in any way that we can. The school meals and uniform programmes are two that help address economic disadvantages and we are sure that if we look around we can find more.
When it comes to examining the gender-based difference in performance, that is a tough one because it obviously goes beyond the teachers, principals and schools. There is certainly natural ability, but the key factors that contribute to this gender difference are likely more societal and cultural. We admit, it could also be that discipline or maturity at different ages contribute significantly to this gender inequality but, again, the point is, we do not know and we should take steps to become educated on the contributing factors. Only when we have identified the root causes can we take remedial steps.
Regular readers will likely be complaining that that they are tired of hearing us beat the same drum and we would not fault them for that. Education is just one of those things that we take to heart and we will continue to beat the drum until someone hears us. If we were to use our readers’ reactions and online feedback as a measure of how interested they are in a subject, education would not fare well.
Not too long ago, we wrote on the subject of gender- based performance and it garnered zero comments. In contrast, any piece that even brushes, be it ever so slight, upon politics, the internet lights up, comments fly and everyone drapes his or her self in his or her favourite political colour.
This demonstrates that we are more interested in the politics of the day than the future of our nation, and it is a mindset that we must reverse. We understand that our politics is entertaining, but education and our youth are so much more than cheap amusement. If only we were to put as much energy into our youth and their education as we put into politics, we would have long ago become an economic powerhouse.
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