Note: You can watch our discussion with the researcher (Shari-Lee Carter) in the YouTube video (directly below) or you can scroll down to read the researcher’s summary [including methodology & main findings].
The achievement rates of Jamaican boys have over the years been debated in several academic circles. With growing access to information, Jamaica’s mission to adhere to the Millennium Development Goals, and the impending participation in the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA), this matter has also become a topic of interest for many Jamaicans outside of the academic community.
Literature suggests a myriad of factors that could account for the apparent low achievement rates of boys. However, it doesn’t seem to have extensive analyses on teachers’ perceptions and how the practices and policies of their schools may influence the rates of boys’ achievements. With the unique position of interacting with a multitude of students daily, teachers are perhaps best equipped to analyse and provide insight into the performances of students, especially boys.
As agents of education, their absence in this discourse is an unfortunate exclusion of a section of the population that has some valid points to offer. It is against this backdrop that this research sought teachers’ opinions on boys’ underachievements and its possible allusion to boys’ marginalisation (the act of being excluded or alienated).
From the findings, one can conclude that teachers believe that the underachievement of boys in the Jamaican educational system is an issue that needs to be addressed. They believe that :
=> “the majority of the curriculum’s content…does not appeal to boys and their masculinity”. There is credible literature to support this claim, but one may conclude that the teachers’ belief about the concept of “masculinity” may ironically, be restricting the rate of achievement of boys.
=> Majority of the students who are disciplined for dress code violations and extremely violent behaviors are boys. If the school abides by their policy as it relates to discipline (out of school suspension, expulsion in extreme cases), it will follow that these students would lose valuable teaching/learning contact time, severely limiting boys achievement rates.
=> The same principle as above applies for extracurricular activities. Some of the boys who participate are already underachievers who are sometimes absent from lessons because of interschool competitions etc.
The findings also alluded to the controversial issue of the marginalisation of boys in schools. The facts suggest that even though boys have the opportunity to receive an education, the education received may be exclusionary and limit them from opportunities that make them achieve. The implications of this are far-reaching and perhaps threaten the economic sustainability of the Jamaican society, mainly if the education system is the probable agent of marginalisation.
It should be noted that this research is in no way intended to diminish the achievements of girls. Teachers were therefore asked how they believed the issue of boys’ underachievements might be redressed without it being detrimental to girls’ achievements. Majority of the teachers believed that single-gendered classrooms were one way to fix the issue at hand. Some also believed that the curriculum should be updated to include topics that are relevant and appealed to every gender.
Since this study’s findings may be perceived as specific to the institution in which the research was carried out, more elaborate research is needed in order to contribute to the course of finding comprehensive solutions to this arguably age-old issue – boys’ underachievement.
About the author: Shari-Lee Carter has taught in the Jamaican education system and is currently teaching English as a Second Language at the elementary to tertiary level in Japan. She is also a student at the University of Leceister pursuing a Master of Arts degree in International Education with a specification in Innovation and Reform.
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