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Exploring the context of Education

Evans, Hyacinth.
1999. Streaming and its effects on boys and girls in secondary schools in Jamaica. Journal of Education and Development in the Caribbean 3 (1): 45–60.

The article reports results of research on the effects of streaming on boys and girls in secondary schools in Jamaica, based on a sample of over 3,700 students from all types of secondary schools. There were two aspects to the study—a survey in which students responded to questionnaires, and a qualitative investigation into school processes and students’ sentiments. The study found that girls were more represented in high-stream classes, while boys were more represented in low-stream classes. Streaming affected academic achievement, students’ experiences of school practices such as being beaten or insulted, and students’ sense of alienation from school. There were gender differences in all responses, with low-stream boys most likely to do poorly academically and to experience negative school practices. However, low-stream girls were the group most likely to feel alienated from school. Implications of these results for equal opportunity and equal access to knowledge are discussed.

———. 2000a. The construction of gender and achievement in secondary schools in Jamaica. Caribbean Journal of Education 21 (1&2): 3–24.

A sample of eight secondary schools was used in this qualitative study on gender and academic achievement in secondary schools in Jamaica. One grade 9 class in each school was observed, and students, teachers, and principals interviewed. How teachers and students interacted in classrooms, the gender differences in students’ behaviour, and how these students constructed gender differences in academic achievement in the classroom are described. In ordinary discourse, in expectations communicated, and in teaching and learning activities, there was unequal participation in learning activities on the part of girls and boys, unequal access to knowledge as a result of gender-stereotypical choice of subjects, widening of the achievement gap between boys and girls resulting from the school’s inadequate response to boys’ reading difficulties, and in particular, some teachers’ use of sarcasm, punishment, embarrassment. Recommendations for creating a more gender-fair environment are outlined.

———. 2000b. A review of educational reform in the Caribbean since Jomtien. In Nine years since Jomtien: Is education for all a dream or a reality? ed. W. J. Smith and C. Mitchell. Montreal, PQ: Office of Research on Educational Policy, McGill University.

Caribbean countries’ efforts to implement the recommendations of the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA), Jomtien, Thailand, 1990. Progress is categorized under two headings, identification of needs and achievement of targets developed for specific areas. For identification of needs, some Caribbean countries established task forces, working groups, or national commissions, whose plans have all been adopted. Other countries adopted a project-driven approach, directing interventions at specific aspects of education, often funded by international aid agencies. The CARICOM Secretariat also sponsored an initiative to develop a regional education development plan for long-term development. The main achievements included

  • Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities
  • Universal access to and completion of primary education
  • Improvement in learning achievement
  • Reduction of the adult illiteracy rate
  • Expansion of provisions of basic education and training in skills required by youth and adults

The issues facing Caribbean education include contraction in expenditure, increasing numbers of youth at risk, continued inequality in access to quality education, non-support for literacy programmes and lifelong learning, widening gender gap in achievement, and implementing student-centred methods of teaching.

———. 2001. What are the benefits of single-sex and coed schooling? In Institute of Education annual, vol. 3, ed. H. Evans, pp. 65–87. Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Education, UWI, Mona.

With evidence of gender differences in academic achievement and choice of subjects at the secondary level, and decreasing participation of males at the tertiary level, the issue of the benefits of single-sex and coed schools has resurfaced in the debate on education in Jamaica and some countries of the Caribbean. The paper reviews the research on the effects of single-sex and coed schools in Jamaica and other countries, and considers implications for policy and action within the Jamaican context. The research is discussed under the following: effects on academic achievement; classroom interaction; attitudes to and choice of subjects; self-esteem and self-confidence; and masculinity, femininity, and gender roles. The research reviewed relates primarily to industrialized countries such as the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Jamaica, where there is a tradition of single-sex schooling, as well as to the USA.

Although pre-enrolment characteristics such as student socioeconomic status must be considered, since single-sex schools are usually selective in admission, it was concluded, based on the research, that in general the effect of single-sex schools on academic achievement is greater for girls than for boys. In choice of school subjects, much evidence is cited to show that girls in single-sex schools are more likely than their coed counterparts to take certain subjects traditionally considered masculine. While the international literature shows that boys are more likely to dominate classroom interaction than girls, the same could not be said of the Caribbean. And the research also suggests that boys and girls in single-sex schools develop different concept of masculinities than their counterparts in coed schools.

———. 2002a. How teachers and students construct gender inequality in secondary schools in Jamaica. Educational Practice and Theory.

The paper presents results drawn from a qualitative study on gender and academic achievement in secondary schools in Jamaica. The sample for this aspect of the study was eight secondary schools, with one grade 9 class from each of the schools observed and students, teachers, and principals interviewed. The ways in which teachers and students interacted in classrooms, the gender differences in students’ behaviour, and how these students constructed gender inequality in the classroom are described. These gender differences were constructed in ordinary discourse, in expectations communicated, and in teaching-learning activities.

Specific discourse and behaviours are described. It was found that gender differences are constructed through routines and rules, sports activities, and curricular choices as well as students’ classroom behaviour and response to the curriculum. Interviews revealed that boys and girls felt that teachers treated them differently and that there was much unfairness in the treatment—especially toward boys. Teachers, however, reported that they were gender fair in their interactions with students. Specific ways in which gender differences are constructed are outlined. The paper ends with some recommendations for creating a more gender-fair classroom.

———. 2002b. Issues in gender and gender equality in the Caribbean. In Gender equality in basic education. Santiago, Chile: UNESCO Publications.

The paper was one of several state-of-the-art papers on gender equality and basic education in Latin America and the Caribbean intended to complement UNESCO’s working document, Gender equality in basic education: Strategic framework. The paper is organized around three areas: a general overview of basic education with special reference to gender issues, policy responses, and trends in the past 10 years, and suggested strategies for realization of gender equality in basic education. The general overview described access to and enrolment in early childhood education and primary education, repetition and completion rates, learning and achievement, and social class differences and access to the secondary level.

The range of programmes implemented as policy responses to the existing situation was also described, as governments in the region had adopted different approaches. Most had implemented projects aimed at expanding educational provisions and improving learning and achievement, with the aid of international donor agencies. Some targeted programmes were described such as the New Horizon Project in Jamaica, and programmes for disadvantaged and at-risk youth, such as the YEAST programme in the Bahamas and the Uplifting Adolescents Project in Jamaica. Some successful practices across the region were examined, such as the Coalition for Better Parenting as well as the Baby Fathers Programme administered by Woman, Inc. Some suggested strategies for realizing gender equality in basic education are given.

 

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