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Building more elite boys' schools not a viable solution - Smith

Published:Wednesday | December 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ruel Reid

A suggestion, made by anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle, calling for more elite boys' schools to be built, has largely been met with disapproval from persons within the education sector.

The Gleaner reached out to several persons to gauge their views on the Gayle's recommendation, which came out of a study he conducted to look at the issue of gender parity at the University of the West Indies.

Dr Maurice Smith, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, pointed out that the financial constraints of the Government makes the suggestion infeasible.

"The suggestion is certainly not viable from the perspective of available financial resources to do so from the public purse. However, the Government welcomes support in this regard from private sources," he said, in an email response.

Vice-Principal at Munro College, Alcia Morgan Bromfield, said building additional single-sex schools for males will not effectively close the gap between the number of males and females matriculating to university.

According to Morgan Bromfield, "If the idea of building additional elite boys' schools is to create parity between the number for single-sex schools for girls and those for boys, then that idea can be accepted, but I don't see where it would solve the education crisis we currently face with the precipitous slide in boys' academic achievement nor the higher educational pursuits of our boys."

Pointing to the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations rankings, she argued that the seven elite all-boys schools which currently exist still lag behind the elite all-girls and co-ed schools.

"Increasing the number of all-male institutions is not the answer to the fact that more of our males are not becoming enrolled in tertiary institutions," she said.

President of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA), Wesley Boynes, went a step further and questioned the study from which Gayle drew his suggestion.




"I suspect that this study is incomplete in some ways, since it does not indicate how many of the boys from the country's so-called elite boys' schools are being successful at university. If this aspect is not considered, we may well be magnifying a serious problem by building more boys' schools instead of focusing on what I believe is the bigger challenge of emphatically defining and building manhood in the lives of our young Jamaican males," he said.

For Boynes, building additional boys schools as a solution to address gender parity at the university level is the wrong approach. He believes the focus should be on a values-based education for boys, which addresses questions of manhood and morals.

Boynes further argued that most boys will not have an opportunity to attend an elite school.

"Generally speaking, the state of manhood in any nation is usually an accurate reflection of the social and moral state of the society. In other words, we have a bigger problem that is being reflected in many areas including the number of boys at university," he added.

Ruel Reid, principal of Jamaica College was one of the few who supported the suggestion for the building of additional schools for boys.

"The building of more boys' schools (with boarding facilities too) will certainly help, as it will be improving the unacceptable levels of positive father influence and provide better social support for so many of our marginalised males," he said.