Reversal of coeducation to improve male academic performance floated By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
October 23, 2002

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The re-introduction of segregated schools for male and female students has been suggested as a means of improving the academic performance of male students, says Minister in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security Bibi Shadick.

Speaking at the opening session of a special meeting of the Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) ministers with responsibility for children's issues at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Shadick said that Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean need to address the issue of male under-achievement as some US colleges have begun to resort to affirmative action in favour of males to maintain a balanced intake.

Noting the seriousness of the problem as it relates to the United States, based on a CBS television Sixty Minutes programme last Sunday, Shadick said that the female population in secondary schools and colleges comprised 75% of the enrolment. To maintain an average of male to female student enrolment, colleges were resorting to affirmative action in favour of young men.

Based on the television programme, she said that boys were feeling threatened in the classroom. In one school where the boys were separated from the girls, Shadick said the boys claimed that they did more work without girls around since they do not have to feel bad if they answer questions incorrectly and the girls answer correctly. Most schools here adopted coeducation in 1976.

Asking that the issue be dealt with at the meeting, Shadick said that in the US emphasis was placed on sports for men and gaining scholarships through athletics or sports. While she could not speak for the rest of the Caribbean, she noted in Guyana there is no great emphasis on gaining athletics scholarships.

The children roaming the streets, she noted, were mostly boys. She feels that the drop-in centre for children has not been very successful as the boys tend to feel that they need to be on the road where they could earn money.

Shadick noted that children and adolescents remain a very important section in our society. The global report since 1990 which has addressed the situation of children admits that sustained intervention is needed if the rights of children are to be respected and promoted.

She said that when Guyana signed on to the Convention on the Rights of the Child more than a decade ago, the country probably at the time did not envisage that that would have become the most widely ratified of international instruments, forming the basis of national and regional plans of action for children.

Through the national plan of action for children, the key priority concerns for children and women are family, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and literacy, children at risk including the homeless and disabled, and the legal and constitutional rights of the child.

In brief remarks Assistant Secretary-General Edward Greene noted that the issues were a follow-up to the United Nations Special Session on children's issues held in New York earlier this year.

Greene noted that the main purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the region to examine the regional framework for the implementation of children's rights and human development in the region. The recommendation coming out of the special meeting will be incorporated in the wider COHSOD agenda. The recommendations, he said, would inform the work programme of the COHSOD directorate making it more sensitive to the priorities of the region's children.

A UNICEF-supported document outlining the overall context for children in the region served as a discussion paper for the meeting. Eight ministers representing CARICOM member states attended the meeting chaired by Dominican Minister with responsibilities for children's issues, Herbert Sabaroche.

In brief remarks, Panama-based Deputy Director for the Americas and the Caribbean Alfredo Missair noted the need for political will on the part of regional governments to comply with the commitments made since the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In particular, Missair noted that integrated early childhood education in some Caribbean countries has become a sustainable success story and needs to be recognised and commended.