Mon | Nov 30, 2020

J’can males speak of their challenges in tertiary education

Published:Sunday | October 4, 2020 | 12:13 AM

Book review: Males and Tertiary Education in Jamaica by Herbert Gayle and Peisha Bryan

Reviewer: Karen Carpenter

The graphic on the book cover, a silhouette of a young male overlaid with stark, bold lettering that reads ‘MALES’, is as intriguing as the data it presents about the reality of young men’s lives in Jamaica and their attitudes to and challenges in achieving tertiary education. Indeed, the authors present a data-driven tale of how young men arrive at some of their educational decisions in a cultural space that has favoured their entry into the workforce rather than the portals of higher education.

The respondents whose collective stories are represented throughout the book include some 186 males and 76 females in the 18-39 age band. The respondents are further categorised as non-qualifiers, those who did not qualify for tertiary education; bypassers, those who decided to skip tertiary education even if they qualified; and delayers, those who waited until they were able to re-enter the education system after joining the workforce.

It is an insightful look into the multiple and layered realities facing Jamaican youth as they try to succeed in the era of modern technology. It points to the fact that bypassing tertiary education is not always a failure; that not qualifying can mean different economic realities for males and females; and that delaying post-secondary schooling can actually lead to greater life success, particularly for females who have a goal. The bypassers (both male and female) are an interesting and important group to study, as well as those missing qualifiers, who actually achieved tertiary education. I have no doubt that the offspring of the bypassers will take up tertiary education as those bypassers achieve more economic success.


What stand out for me, though, are the pull factors for males in the current cultural and psycho-social environment that pit them against the structures of education, the responsibilities for extended family over their lifespan, and the meagre emotional-social resources available to young males in the Jamaican cultural environment.

When it comes to their higher-education prospects, the data support what we have known for some time about boys in the education system and is so clearly illustrated in Males and Tertiary Education in Jamaica: that boys are expected to graduate from being ‘schoolers’ to providers as soon as it is viable. The males and females in this study speak for themselves about the cultural impact of the messages for masculinity being reinforced by the peer groups, the family, and wider society, in conflict with the education system, which structurally encourages behaviours that are cultural markers for femaleness. No doubt, I will find myself returning to those gendered insights that had me nodding my head in agreement in the first reading.

ISBN: 978-976-640-729-2 (paper)

Publisher: The University of the West Indies Press

Available at the UWI Press, the UWI Bookshop, and Amazon

Rating: Highly recommended

- Karen Carpenter is head lecturer, Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Mona Campus Unit; director, Caribbean Sexuality Research Group; and psychologist/clinical sexologist.