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First forum on Boys' Learning in QEC33 a success

Published:Saturday | June 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The audience in the jam-packed Lucea Town Hall pay rapt attention to Dr Hixwell Douglas as he delivers his expert address on boys' learning. - Photo by Chris Bodden
Guest speaker Dr Hixwell Douglas, acting chief education officer - Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education, makes a point during his address at the inaugural forum on boys' learning in QEC33 in the Ministry of Education's Region 4. - Photo by Chris Bodden

Chris Bodden, Gleaner Writer

The conversation on boys' significant underachievement in schools over the years continues to be on the front burner. In furtherance to an initiative to improve boys' learning, a forum was held at the Lucea Town Hall in Hanover on May 27. The forum is the third prong of a three part-plan of Quality Education Circle 33 (QEC33) in Region 4, MOE.

The QEC33 represents a cluster of schools in and around the Lucea area of Hanover western.

The forum was convened by territorial education officer, Winfield Murray. In attendance were stakeholders, which included teachers, principals, the police and fire department, as well as boys from the Green Island and Rusea's high schools.

Guest Speaker, Dr Hixwell Douglas, acting chief education officer - Special Education Unit in the Ministry of Education, in his address said, "boys are wired differently, and they learn differently, and require a hands-on approach".

"Teaching boys effectively is like a dance, while someone leads and another follows; the process is a partnership, a partnership that is united in a common purpose", said Douglas. "It means, therefore, that principals, teachers, board chairs, resource persons from the community will have to understand that it must be a united force. Many of our teachers complain about the difficulty with teaching boys rather than endeavouring to harness the energy," said Douglas.

He went on to say that, "Ninety-five per cent of our children diagnosed as hyperactive are boys, they can't sit still. Boys make up over 70 per cent of students classified as having special needs, that is, they have a disability or they are gifted or underperforming. Boys make up 80-90 per cent of disciplinary referrals that the guidance counsellor will do for intervention. Boys make up at least two-thirds of children on medication, whether it's prescribed legally or illegally," he said. Douglas went on to say that with all these statistics, it is easy to see that boys in Jamaica are in serious crisis.

He hailed Winfield Murray and Region 4, under which QEC33 falls, for taking the initiative to put meaningful measures in place to arrest the decline in boys' learning and to return it to acceptable standards.

Respectful approach

"We need to understand the boys first and foremost, and we have to reflect on a number of things, we have to think as school principals, administrators and community-resource people about how we can improve the outcomes of our boys. We have to start the reflective process or else we are going to be in big trouble," continued Douglas.

"Boys have shorter attention spans and are easily bored; they need activities. How can we increase the successes of our boys in reading and writing when we know they can't sit still, and reading and writing are boring, things that don't use their energy, this is when we realise we are in trouble."

"We have to engage them in activity," he stressed. "Boys have less-developed verbal and literacy skills, few social and collaborative skills, so they have to be taught these. Poor oral skills, poor listening skills and poor organisational; that's why they throw things down anywhere."

They need more space to learn, they like to be a part of the action and move around as they learn," pointed out Douglas. "Boys love to sing/deejay and dance, but we are not using that," he lamented.

He went on to speak about teachers' need to use respectful, yet assertive approaches in the classroom and school. The need to avoid confrontation and getting into negative arguments with the boys, yet conveying high expectations for our boys is critical. "The masculinity of our boys is something we treasure a lot, and when that is violated, then it creates a lot of problems," pointed out Douglas.

"Graphics is the key to our learning; we like to touch, that's why they gravitate to computers and so on. Boys will use the cell phone and when they are stuck, that is when they decide to read the manual, but masculinity must be respected," he reiterated.

Also present at the forum were Hilary Foster, regional director - MOE Region 4; Commander Kevin Francis, Community Safety & Security Unit-JCF and the mayor's representative, who all brought greetings.