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More elite boys' schools needed - Research shows move necessary to balance male-to-female ratio at university level

Published:Monday | December 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

As women continue to outnumber men at the University of the West Indies (UWI), one researcher has proposed that more elite all-boys secondary schools be built to address the problem.

Anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle has completed research that highlights that females outnumber males at the secondary level, a trend that is further reflected in the male-to-female ratio at the UWI.

This, he says, has nothing to do with demographics, given that birth rates for boys are higher, but rather points to a structural problem within the education system that disadvantages boys.

"The problem starts in the secondary schools. We only have seven all-boys schools as opposed to 15 all-girls schools," Gayle told The Gleaner.

The 2013 report from the statistics unit at the Ministry of Education indicates that 2012 enrolment for girls in all-girls high schools stood at 18,508, while for boys, it was 10,954.

According to Gayle, the data indicate that there are more spaces for girls in elite schools. He further contends that it is students from these schools that generally matriculate to the UWI and explains why the university attracts more female students.

"If you are born a male, the probability of you going to university is lowered by virtue of the fact that the students who are most likely to enter university are going to come from a traditional school where the space for girls significantly exceeds the space for boys," he said.

 

PROBLEM WITHIN HIGH SCHOOLS

 

Gayle, who collaborated on a UWI-commissioned study to look how the university can improve enrolment of male students, pointed out that the research found that the problem did not lie with the university but within the high schools.

"If you take the elite coed-schools, they have more girls than boys ... . If the top students are girls, because there are more spaces for girls, then the UWI course structure must look like the turnout. A lot of us who worked on this research started out by blaming UWI ... but when we saw the data for who comes out and we did the studies in the secondary schools and we saw the outcome, we realised that it was a two-way street. UWI needs a better , and with that it would be expected to be more male oriented than it is now," he added.

Gayle also pointed out that the research indicates that the structures of education have not favoured boys. He argued "... Even without the massive number of males that drop out, we already have more space in the top schools for girls, and that means we are structurally suggesting that the space at the bottom of the education system is for boys."

For Gayle, addressing the problem of male education at the tertiary level must begin with correcting the imbalance of the genders within elite secondary schools, particularly, single-sex high schools. To this end, he has recommended that the Ministry of Education build additional all-boys high school.

"We need to, in the next five years, build at least two more single-sex elite male schools; that is a must. You cannot have 15 all-girls schools and seven all-boys schools, because it is these schools that make up the core of your elite schools," he said.