Click here to print page

It is 'Boys in Education Week'

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

STAKEHOLDERS in the education sector will this week hunker down to focus on the issues facing boys in the education system and hammer out solutions, during the inaugural 'Boys in Education Week', which began yesterday and will continue until Friday.

The British Council Jamaica office, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Generating Genius launched the event at the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue offices in Kingston, yesterday.

The British Council is a cultural relations organisation that works to promote knowledge sharing and understanding between the Jamaica and the UK and the rest of the Caribbean, but addressing issues that are important to the territories.

The British Council's director for Jamaica and the Caribbean Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick explained that the events being carried out under the theme 'Supporting a Nation of Champion Boys' will also serve to launch the findings of the council's trilateral research report.

She noted that, though preliminary, the research is far-reaching, with scope for growth, and noted that the feedback from the education sector and academics is critical.

“Boys in Education Week is our inaugural approach to working with our partners in education around particular issues affecting not only boys but the wider education (sector). It's quite important for us to position this week within the scope of our work in education, which primarily focuses on core skills (soft skills, leadership, etc). We have been working with the Ministry of Education for almost three years now looking at how we can support their work on core skills in education system,” Jacobs-Bonnick said.

She said activities for the week will examine how schools can support boys in education; support their inclusion and work towards closing the school to work transition gap, which can be problematic not just for our young men, but young people in general. The fora will also look at the wider gender equity agenda. “From work we have done, holistic education can contribute to supporting a more equitable gender balance within the society,” she remarked.

Project manager in education for the council, Kadeon Richards noted the parent-teacher seminar to be held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Thursday. “We are inviting colleagues from US, Jamaica and the UK to have a discussion about boys. How do we engage our boys, how do we raise our boys, what can parent and teachers do to support our boys together,” she said.

What by all indications should be an exciting junior 'hackathon' has also been scheduled. Caribbean media officer for the Council, Kiwayne Jacobs, explained that this activity, in fact, has nothing to do with computer hacking, but will be introduce a group of students to coding. “Coding is grounded in problem-solving and problem-solving is also an issue that employers say they have with employees, the ability to solve problems,” he elaborated, pointing out that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and other applications are all written with code, which is also the grounding for website and software development .

“We don't only want to say what the issues are with the boys, we also want to demonstrate some of these solutions (and) coding is another avenue as it relates to careers,” he stated. The students will be introduced to coding and then given a problem to solve using computer programming. This session will be held on the final day of 'Boys in Education Week' at the University of Technology, Jamaica in Papine, St Andrew.

Other events include today's launch of the Boys Education Champions Research at the British Council's office on Trafalgar Road in Kingston; and the Boys' Mentorship Workshop tomorrow at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel

Country representative for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Therese Turner-Jones pointed out: “There is an issue with boys dropping out of school too early, and if they are still in school, they go through to graduate but they can't even read and write by the time they are leaving, and that's really criminal,” she said, but argued that the challenges among boys in the education system in Jamaica and the Caribbean is not a regional phenomenon.

“Globally something is not going on right with how boys are being educated to keep them motivated to stay in school the way girls are doing,” she stated. Turner-Jones also said there is an increase in the educational achievement gap between males and female students, pointing out the importance of social welfare programmes, such as the Programme for Advancement Through Heath and Education (PATH), in keeping boys in school.

She said an IDB study on the support given to PATH had revealed that there were improved outcomes for male PATH beneficiaries at the Grade Six Achievement Test level of four per cent over non-beneficiaries. “It may not seem like a big increase in outcomes, but that four per cent edge allows them to get into better secondary schools. So we know that when you make targetted interventions, that it can have the results that you want,” she stressed.

The week will feature participation and dialogue among policymakers, teachers, parents, students, and international experts.