March 6, 2013
In recent times, there has been growing concerns among policy makers about the scholastic performance of males within the education system. From the primary to the tertiary level, it is being observed that males continue to lag behind their female counterparts in terms of academic performance. It is a phenomenon that has been the subject of public discourse and one to which several studies have been dedicated to. This issue is not unique to Jamaica as throughout the Western education system, males are achieving at a slower and lower rate than females. The underachievement of the male specie has caught the attention of those at the highest level, because of the negative consequences that flow from this status quo. The reasons given for the poor performance has been many. However the three main factors attributable to the underachievement of the males in schools are: the absence of male role models in the home and school, socioeconomic status and gender socialization.
Underachievement can be defined as a child failing to attain a predicted level of achievement or does not do as well as expected. (Webster, 2013) The high rate of absenteeism of paternal figures both in the homes and at schools has been suggested as a factor contributing to the underachievement of males. In every family each member is assigned a role, which he/she must play to ensure that the family effectively carries out its purpose. (Reid, 2011). In Jamaica, there’s is a large percentage of single parent households headed mostly by mothers. The low rate of matriculation of males into the tertiary and teachers college translate into very few male teachers in the classroom. Sociologists have argued about the correlation between the development of males and the presence of male role models during this process. It is argued that boys need paternal role models who they can observe, imitate and identify with, as they develop their identities (Hutchings, 2008). In the case of the single parent families headed by mothers, where the mother has to work to sustain the family, this reduces the contact time she may have to bond with her son. The absence of the father figure in the home and at school, opens the door for impressionable young males to be influenced by what is happening around them. Whether this is through the influence of music or by their peers, there is a dearth of positive messages which can contribute to the lives of males. The cumulative effect is that young males become disillusioned about the priorities of life and view education more as a liability rather than as an asset.
Educators and social scientists have argued persuasively that there is a link between the formation of a masculine identity and educational performance. (Clarke, 2011). It is for this reason why it is believed that the presence of male role models in the classrooms can lead to an improvement in academic achievement and a reduction in anti-learning and antisocial behaviour. However, as mentioned before, very few males are matriculating to colleges to become teachers and as such, the classrooms are inundated by female teachers. The lack of male representatives at home and at school means that young males are missing out on that critical component of their development. Research has shown that children of involved fathers are more likely to enjoy school, have positive attitudes toward school, participate in extracurricular activities, and graduate. They are also less likely to fail a grade, have poor attendance, be suspended or expelled, or have behaviour problems at school. (Allen & Daly, 2007)
Gender socialization is the process by which people learn to behave in a certain way, as dictated by societal beliefs, values, attitudes and examples. (UNICEF, Gender Socialization, 2007) Gender socialization occurs through such diverse means as parental attitudes, schools, how peers interact with each other, and mass media. In Jamaica, particularly in...
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