BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Friday July 29, 2011 – St. Kitts and Nevis will introduce single-sex education for students from Grades Three to Six in primary schools come September.
Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said it would begin at three of the larger primary schools in the country.
He expressed concern about what he termed a gender imbalance at the University of the West Indies (UWI), which has been traced to the primary schools.
“The number of females at this important institution now outnumbers the males by a ratio of more than two to one. This imbalance, clearly, is not one that magically emerges when our young people arrive at UWI. It is a trend that has been developing throughout the region over time. It is a trend that can be seen right there in the Federation and it is a trend, the signs of which are emerging early,” Dr. Douglas said.
He said that in an attempt to better understand this phenomenon, the Ministry of Education has been carefully analyzing the statistical data on male and students from the earliest grades onward and a particular pattern has emerged.
“What we have found is that up until Grade Three, the academic performance of boys and girls is indistinguishable, one from the other. At Grade Three, however, a clearly discernable divergence develops. The performance of the girls remains strong, while the performance of the boys begins to lag…This divergence remains in Grade Four, it remains apparent in Grade Five, and it remains in Grade Six. This is not something that we want. This is not something that any society should want. We want both our boys and our girls to have the kind of curiosity, and pluck, and enthusiasm that is needed to fuel their successful course through elementary, secondary, and eventually university itself,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said in light of this, and based on the Ministry’s extensive review of the similar patterns elsewhere and the literature that has grown out of this, there is a suggestion that young boys in the Grades Three to Six perform better, academically, in all-male learning environments.
Dr. Douglas said studies in the United Kingdom, Jamaica, the United States, and Canada seem to bear this out.
“It is our responsibility to help both the boys and the girls of St. Kitts and Nevis realize their God-given potential. And we intend to do whatever is necessary in an attempt to stimulate the curiosity and boost the academic confidence of all of our children – whether male or female,” said the Prime Minister, pointing out that single sex primary school education was, at one time, quite common in the Federation.
“Let me make clear we are not saying that we are returning to single sex primary schools. All primary schools will continue to have both male and female pupils. And, indeed, in Grades One and Two, they will continue to learn, side by side, in the same class rooms. It is beginning in Grade Three, then, and continuing to Grade Six, in these three selected schools, that the girls will learn in classrooms with other girls and the boys will learn in classrooms with other boys,” said Dr. Douglas.
“The point of this shift is that if there is any chance that single sex classrooms increase boy’s concentration, and their willingness to strive and persevere between Grades Three and Six, we want to do give them that chance. We do know one thing: Single sex instruction cannot hurt. And the literature suggests that, elsewhere, it has helped. We will be carefully monitoring and analyzing the performance of students involved in these three test schools from Grade Three all the way up to Six,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He added that the results seen in the months and years ahead will be of great value in ensuring that “as we strive to ensure that those factors most conducive to the indistinguishable performance between our boys and our girls are very much in place”.