Gender gap in education sector still a major concern - UWI lecturer
Lecturer in educational policy, planning, and leadership at the University of the West Indies (UWI)-based School of Education, Dr Canute Thompson, has raised concerns about the gender gap which persists in the education sector.
Thompson, who was responding to data from the Ministry of Education which indicate that females make up 79 per cent of all teachers in the education system, said that "the lowering of the esteem with which males in society hold the teaching profession and the continued inability to attract the brightest men and women to the teaching profession" are some of the consequences which flow from the persistent gender gap in the classroom.
While acknowledging that males would be more attracted to the areas of mathematics and science, Thompson did not agree that the chronic shortage of teachers for those subject areas can be attributed to the fact that females dominate the profession.
"I am not aware of any evidence that would lead to that question being answered in the affirmative, but doubt that this is the case," he said in response to queries from The Gleaner.
The concept of the feminisation of the teaching profession and the marginalisation of males in the education system has been an ongoing academic discussion, first conceptualised by Professor Errol Miller in 1986.
While Thompson does not agree that males are marginalised, he has called for targeted funding to support research and training in areas that are more attractive to boys, such as electronics, auto mechanics, civil engineering and agriculture.
"This should involve the strengthening of the STEM academies concept," he said.
He further proposed an increase in the number of academies of excellence with some exclusively for boys, the revitalisation of male boarding schools and the mandatory military and skills training for all boys who leave school and do not have the academic or economic requirements and resources to go on to tertiary institutions.
"It should be noted that at student enrolment at the early-childhood and primary levels, we see boys edging out girls by a narrow margin, accounting for 51 per cent of the 22,873 students at the early-childhood level ... and as students proceed up the other levels, the number of boys shrinks. This means that measures to cater for them are needed," he added.
In regard to school leadership, the certified leadership coach pointed out that the role of principals is pivotal in the quality of the performance of schools, but said he was not aware of any research that shows that the gender of the principal is a critical determinant in the performance of schools.
"At best, we have a mixed reality. There are some schools that are doing extremely well and that are headed by females and others not so well that are headed by females, and the same is true for schools headed by males. It would, however, make for an interesting study to see whether gender is in fact a significant factor in the performance of schools," Thompson said.
The 2015 Annual Statistical Review of the Education Section, published by the Ministry of Education, indicates that females comprise 67 per cent of principals in infant, primary and secondary schools.