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High school choices, single-sex or mixed?

Published:Monday | March 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

It is that time of year when GSAT is in the air ... Correction. GSAT is always in the air. So it is that time of year when the frenzy of preparation for the grade-six children is reaching its peak and, naturally, the children in the lower grades are catching the overspill.

Naturally, the choice of high school is as hot a GSAT-related topic as extra lessons and subject areas. After all, going to a high school in Jamaica is not simply going to another step in the (hopefully) lifelong process of education. Nope. Status, that all-important, yet intangible, thing that consumes much of our lives (c'mon, when houses can be advertised as 'executive' it says a lot about our collective psyche) is wrapped up in the high school a child ends up going to.

High-school choices

Our children are a couple of years away from the GSAT stage, yet they are already considering their high-school choices. Now, this is a novelty to me, this matter of a kid having much of a choice in the high school they go to. In my 'looooong' ago days, parents chose where most of the children I knew went to, in those turbulent years of acne, pals and hair sprouting from some brand new places.

But it is the children who are now piping up about the school they wish to attend. For one of them, sports is a must. 'Ain't' no way she is going to a school that does not have a track team, a football team that girls can actually play on and some racquet sports, thrown in for good measure. That's also a factor for the other one, but I suspect that the stage - as in drama - is a factor as well.

And for both, the all-girls or mixed gender issue is up for debate.

I am not sure where I stand on the matter (assuming that I do eventually get in a word that actually counts in this high-school choice debate). I do want them to avoid the coarser boys in this society as long a possible - and that does not have anything to do with financial or social standing, for as the late Prof Rex quipped "a bhutto in a Benz is still a bhutto". The parent bhuttos, who have expanded their choice of car brand, breed little 'bhuttolettes', and the cycle continues.

But going to an all-girls school is no guarantee that the more refined approach to life will be standard. Lest we forget, the deejays who sling the most risqué lyrics about women are the ones who the women, at the front of the stage, claw and fight to touch.


So, there is no clear choice. I am comforted, though, by a couple of things. One is that I believe, even in the most disgusting circumstances, there is a space reserved for those who obviously 'come offa better table'. It happens in schools and communities, where the good folk bond together and exist in a space apart from the 'cruffs', even if they are in the same physical environs.

I am confident that any high school our children go to (save the most notorious, and they will get better grades than those who settle, unfortunately, in such institutions) they will find that space. It will not matter if it is a single-sex or co-educational school.

There is, of course, the matter of boys and girls that will crop up sooner or later, no matter what high school they go to. That bridge we shall build when we need to cross it.