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Marginalisation of the male

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Cynthia Cooke, Contributor


I believe that most of what is written on these pages reflects the opinion of the writer. However, there is room for facts.

Last Friday, I read the following in an article by Peter Espeut: "Every year more girls are sent to high schools than boys, resulting in vastly more women at university than men, and fewer suitable marriage partners for educated women. Mr Reid: can we fix this problem too?" I have several questions which could help me to understand what was meant by this statement.

I thought that since this appeared to be a statement of fact (every year more girls are sent to high school than boys), I could find proof of this, somewhere in 'Googleland' or the archives of the Ministry of Education. I did not have the inclination to do the research, then I remembered something I frequently say to the parents of my students: "If what they tell you sounds like foolish-ness, then it is foolishness." I decided to reason it out for myself.

Incorrect statement

If we are talking about when we had about 43 high schools that received students through the Common Entrance examinations, I don't think that statement is correct. Yes we had twice the number of all-girls' schools as all-boys' school, which could cause one to assume the above. However, I remember distinctly, discussing with persons from the examinations unit, the problems they had with equity in the placement of girls and boys. They said they had to "go down deep into the barrel" to place some of the boys. It was a policy to make sure there is a balance in the numbers of boys and girls. It resulted in many girls who did very well compared to boys not getting a place. Should that have been fixed?

Currently, all students who sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) are 'sent' to high school. How can we therefore conclude that more girls are sent to high school? What should we fix?

In days gone by, research showed that more girls passed 'O' levels, more boys passed 'A' levels yet more girls go to university. I attempted to find out the reason for this in those days. I was not able to arrive at any definitive conclusion. It most certainly cannot be attributed solely to the fact that "more girls are sent to high school than boys".

Postponing the gsat

The writer also suggests that the GSAT should be done later than age 11, since the boys are not yet developmentally ready and the girls are naturally better. He also wrote that boys catch up by age 17. Should we postpone the GSAT until age 17? Should we keep them in grade 6 until they are ready? Should we let the girls do it at 11 and the boys at an older age? Those who would have their 11-year-old girls in the same class as boys who are much older, raise your hands. Please remember that two years is significant when we are comparing ages of children. Should we have all boys in all-boys' schools and all girls in all-girls' schools?

From my experience, some boys are behind the girls in readiness when they enter first form in a co-educational institution. By the time they get to third form, they catch up to the girls (this is the stage where the girls get silly) and pass them at fourth form. This cannot be the reason that affects the performance of the boys. There are so many other factors which I hope Ruel Reid does not try to fix.

Whenever we think about scrapping a system, we should think it through thoroughly.

Cynthia Cooke is principal of Camperdown High School, Kingston. Feedback may be sent to