Separate classes for boys and girls What the People say about...
By Andre Haynes

Stabroek News
October 28, 2002

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Could reversing coeducation solve the problem of male under-achievement? At the opening session of a special meeting of the CARICOM Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) it was argued that Guyana and the Caribbean need to address the issue. The re-introduction of segregated schools for male and female students was floated as a means of improving the academic performance of male students. In light of this we asked the man/woman-in-the-street for their opinions on male academic under-achievement, specifically the causes and whether they believed that reversing coeducation would be a solution to the problem.

Eugenie Lewis - housewife: `They are not doing well because the school standards have broken down but reversing coeducation cannot help the situation. In the old days children would have gone to school with their ribbons, and dressed neatly and the teacher would check their dress and even their teeth to make sure they are not untidy. But these days children go to school and they are 'big men and big women.' They are a different generation. The morals and standards have broken down completely. They have no respect for elders or their parents, maybe they come from a broken home. And some parents have enough money to properly educate their children, but reversing coeducation will not solve the problem. My generation... we went to school with the boys, we played with the boys and the generation came out fine. They need structure in the schools. If a child is supposed to be in school by nine they should be in school by nine. And if they are absent, there should be an inspector who can check their homes to inquire why they are not at school. But these days the teachers don't care because if they even spank the child the parents go into the school in a tear. They need to focus on discipline in the schools to solve the problem because there has been a breakdown.'

A. Squires - retired headmaster: `To my mind the boys are looking at the society as it is and the society is not offering employment simply on qualifications alone. There are other factors. At one time the girls saw themselves as being married in a society and being married to a young man who is earning enough. But today the man can hardly earn enough even if he wants to. I think the society has changed but I believe in coeducation. The boys and the girls can learn together. I don't think reversing that can help improve their performances. You have to reassure them that there is employment in society with good remuneration. The hope of reward sweetens labour.'

Shondell Browne - printer: 'A possible reason is that more boys participate in sports, which takes them away from school. Although both boys and girls take part, you usually find that a lot of boys are participating. Like this time of the year now, they will be taking the students out of the classroom and taking them to take part in sports. I think their performances depend on the students and how much they want to learn. It would depend on the type of student. There are some students who miss notes and when they come back they get them, it's up to you. If they were getting better results before when the schools were segregated maybe it would work now but I don't know about that. I figure the students need something to aim towards. Aiming towards a CXC grade is fine but that does not guarantee a job. If you do sports, you can play cricket or football or basketball and earn some money. But it's very hard now to leave school and find a job. I think they should concentrate on unemployment, although not only for boys.'

Shawn Reynolds - fire-fighter: `There are a lot of reasons responsible for the under-achievement in schools. There are American television programmes. And most young men, their minds are just geared towards getting a lot of young girls to have fun, name brand boots, riding fancy minibuses, hanging out on the street corners. Their minds are not on schoolwork but all those vanity things which disrupt their studying. A few girls can also fall behind because of this but generally the girls are just putting their heads in their books. They are studying in keeping with the changes in the world, women are vying for equal rights and justice. And by putting themselves to education they can achieve their goals. But if they are thinking about putting back segregation in schools I don't think that is a good idea. They [boys] just need to put their heads to education and they will achieve. They're minds are not on education but they need to understand that it's a fundamental part of the world and they need to see that more of them are dropping out of school and ending up on drugs or as criminals. But I don't think segregation is a solution to the problem. Maybe they should try to stop the American programming coming in, the hip hop music, the brand names, and stop the minibuses from playing certain music and playing it loud.'

Jem Burke - cosmetologist: `They are not concentrating on their work and there are a lot of distractions. There's girls, sports, sporting, computer games. There are so many distractions there's no time to study. And boys are idle. My son is. Girls on the other hand tend to catch on to things faster and they also mature faster. If they reverse the system there might be more discipline in the schools and the boys might get more work done. But that would take us a long time to achieve. It's a good idea but a drastic change, but if it has to be done to change the situation that they have now.... The boys are not working hard enough, and not making any attempt to work. They think they don't need to work hard. Look at the girls you find them working and they usually pay more attention. But the parents also need to play a part in their children's education. Teachers can't do everything, and especially when kids leave the school.'

Samantha Jaggernauth - student: `Well, the girls take their education more seriously because they know that when you have education it's much easier to get a job. Boys on the other hand believe that they can do anything and they don't need any education. Like manual labour, they don't need any education for that. I think that reversing coeducation could solve that problem because they would not be distracted by the girls. The girls have a lot to do with it, because the boys see the girls and they get distracted, they want to `hustle' them, they go crazy and they can't do their school work. Out of sight, out of mind. If the girls are not there they can concentrate and do what they have to do.'

Paul Mangar - student: 'I believe that boys do as well as the girls in schools. Everybody works, both boys and girls. Maybe some boys might not do as well because they are involved in extra-curricular activities like sports which could be a distraction. But sometimes they have a knack for a certain sport. I don't know if reversing coeducation could do anything, I think that if anybody sets their mind to achieve certain things they can achieve it. I don't think gender plays any part of it. They shouldn't do it.'

Bhawandhai Etwaroo - teacher: `I think boys are more playful and tend to be distracted rather than the girls. Especially at the age of adolescence, the boys are more active than the girls. But reversing coeducation? I don't think that will be possible. Boys and girls need to interact so that they can develop socially and when they get older, they can benefit from it when it comes to finding a mate for marriage. Separating boys won't make any difference.'

Sunny Persaud - retired public sector employee: `What can I say, boys have more playtime. Instead of studying at home or doing some private lessons they only depend on the schools. Whereas the girls usually stay at home and are studying. This is what the parents allow and they have a lot to do with it. I think they should start paying more attention to the boys and have them attend after school lessons. They are distracted. And since the parents have a lot to do with how well their children do, they need to do a hell of a lot more. If they are considering reversing the coeducation I think they should. They are young people and they have an attraction, and it distracts them from studying and I definitely think they should put that system back in place.'

W. Iniss - security officer: 'Maybe the lack of male teachers is one of the problems. You see that some male teachers have more patience with the male students than the female teachers, who might not pay them a lot of attention as they would the girls. And that is why they are not doing as well. They could make a try with reversing coeducation, because the government needs to pay more attention to it. They are only talking and talking and doing nothing. They can pay more attention to unemployment because the education part is only an attempt to solve the problem.'