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Major Changes Needed in Teaching Skills - Bailey

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Valentine Bailey, principal of Camperdown High School

AN EXPERIMENT at Camperdown High School in Kingston, where boys are separated from girls for some subjects, is pointing to major weaknesses that exist within the teaching profession.

Principal of the school Valentine Bailey said that one of the things that has been reinforced is that boys learn differently from girls and as such, major work needs to be done at the teachers' colleges.

The programme, which started in September of last year, separates boys from girls at grades seven and 10 for mathematics and English language. Bailey noted that it was born out of recommendations made that co-educational schools should employ gender teaching for some subjects.

"What has jumped at me since we have started this programme is that over the years, our lessons have been tailored for the girls. We give a lot of 'seat work', and boys have to be stimulated. They cannot sit for too long, and we have to find a way to help them," Bailey told The Gleaner.

"They are tactile, and so we have to change the way we do things. We can't ignore any longer that there is a stark difference with the genders and their learning styles," he continued.

William McLeod, chairman of the Camperdown High School Board, said the institution was working hard to cater to boys at every level.

"We have found that even though the males and females come in with the same GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) averages, the girls will maintain the scores and even improve, while the boys will decline and some will eventually pick up at grade nine or 10," he explained.

"For most of the boys, they are coming from prep (preparatory) and primary schools in an environment where play was a central element, and so for many of them, it takes a long time for them to adapt. Girls always settle down faster anywhere you go," he said.

Fully committed teachers

McLeod also argued that a major part of the success of the programme would have to include teachers who were fully committed to the task.

"There are some teachers who will do very well with boys and not necessarily girls and the other way around, while some are dually skilled. You can't make the assumption that having put a teacher through teachers' college, they can teach both sexes. We have to figure out the different skills that exist and make certain changes," McLeod insisted.

"In fairness, I give kudos to the Ministry [of Education] because they have been trying to find new methodologies to teach and constantly do research in ensuring that they can provide the necessary tools and equipment," he declared.