Wanted - more men in the classroom
Cynthia P. Cooke, Contributor
That the male students in high school are not performing as well as their female counterparts is a fact. That is not debatable. This we must discuss and carry on the discussion until we find a solution. I do not believe the slower development of male students affect their performance significantly. If this were so, the curriculum used in boys' schools, would have to be modified to accommodate this. I have not heard any request of that nature. I believe it is what happens to them during the high-school period that is responsible for their performance. Away from the fact that they are now changing from boys to men, and have to deal with the accompanying challenges, they are raised mostly by women. The challenge for the school is to recognise this and make a deliberate effort to address the problem.
Every year that we analyse the results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination at my school, we find no significant difference in the performance of girls as against boys. When I am asked the reason for this, my response is, "if I knew, I would bottle it and sell it." This is because we have done several things and we continue to try others. This did not happen overnight and it is a continuous struggle.
Positions of authority
First, you have to start with the recruitment of teachers. When we had a female music teacher, mostly girls attended after-school music activities. As soon as we got a male teacher, the number of boys increased tremendously. This was a sign to me in my learning stage. Boys must see men in roles that they would like to be in when they become adults. No subject should be labelled female or male by students. The number of male teachers must be close to the number of female ones. Posts such as dean of discipline should be occupied by a male. The students need to see men in positions of authority, or else you become just another female nagging them. The young, male teacher needs to be monitored more than the young female teacher. The male teacher who is usually tardy in recording grades, preparing and monitoring papers for the examination process, needs to be counselled on the importance of these seemingly trivial exercises, in the same way you would counsel him on the importance of spending time with his children and not just providing the 'maintenance money'. All this must be done while educating female members of staff to understand the importance of the male in the classroom and why they should not 'nag' them out of the profession.
Second, the male students must feel special and worthwhile, especially in the co-educational classroom. They must be constantly praised for even minor achievements, because we must understand that the male ego needs this. We must allow boys to do what boys do and don't make everything that they do naturally an offence. Don't tell them not to play before your class because they are going to be sweaty and smell. Don't 'mash up' their little cricket game after school because their playing will inconvenience you. Allow them to reason with you and express themselves and feel that their opinion is important, without mentioning their weaknesses and shortcomings which are male related. Try not to nag them. They get enough of that at home from their mother. All this must be done at the same time we are telling the female students to play a part in encouraging the male student. Let them understand that it is in their interest to have men who they would want to marry.
These are some of the things that we have tried. I am sure if you ask the male students if they think the girls do better than the boys, especially at the senior level, most would tell you no.
I see where Mico is encouraging male students to attend. This is definitely a step in the right direction. In addition, I think there should be a course at teachers' colleges, 'Dealing with the male student in the co-educational classroom'. Education is a serious business. It must be discussed seriously.
Cynthia P. Cooke is the principal of Camperdown High School.