An Agenda for the Ministry of Education

Dear Readers:

Agendas are useful tools that can help us to remain focused on our plans. Without agendas, we could easily become distracted with extraneous issues and fail to achieve our goals. If agendas are followed, then the path is clearer and although there may be challenges in addressing various intermediate items, the knowledge that such items are only temporary can be comforting.

There is confidence when following an agenda, especially for leaders facing opposition from those who are being led. An agenda can assist them as they persevere upon the agreed path through the expected and unexpected challenges towards the expected results.

Before leading persons into the “promised land”, it is prudent for leaders to seek consensus on the agenda from the community of followers and to explain the expected results. It is more challenging to do so during the temporary disappointments of failed expectations that may be experienced along the journey. History is littered with disillusioned participants of failed exploits who had no knowledge of their leader’s agenda.

Sometimes it is necessary to revise or completely abandon an agenda when new information makes agenda items or the entire agenda irrelevant. This takes courage since the leader risks ridicule. However, revisiting an agenda is obligatory if the agenda that was designed for the community’s benefit is later found to be incompatible with the community’s positive development.

All government ministries should have agendas. One item on the Ministry of Education’s agenda is secondary school co-education. Over 25 years of co-education in Barbados’ secondary schools has shown that it is incompatible for learning for the majority of our students. However, there is an unwillingness by the Ministry of Education to revisit their agenda.

The physiological differences between boy’s and girl’s brains are stark. Due to limited connecting fibres between boys’ left and right brain hemispheres, they find it challenging to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. During the puberty years, boys have a novel experience of finding girls fascinating and when given the choice to impress a girl or to pay attention to classroom studies, boys will tend to try to impress the girl. Girls are able to concentrate on conversing with boys and studying at the same time, as a result of the significantly greater number of connections between their left and right brain hemispheres.

Boys also mature emotionally, mentally, and physically later than girls, therefore teaching and grading boys and girls at the same age level is blatantly unfair to boys. A relatively simple cost effective solution is to place secondary school boys and girls in separate classrooms. The knowledge of the physiological differences between boys and girls, and the relatively poor performance of most of our boys has not resulted in a change to the Ministry’s agenda. However, the charge that our boys should simply try harder and learn to get along demonstrates an appalling level of ignorance.

A common strategy used by persons who are intent on maintaining their agenda, despite obvious critical flaws, is to proclaim the complexity of the issues and to call for additional studies to justify no action. This is typically coupled with a dismissive arrogance towards commonsense solutions, which are generally regarded as simplistic. History has shown that most effective solutions are actually quite simplistic and commonsense.

There is evidence of the general destructive nature of secondary school co-education on boys’ aptitude, yet the evidence does not result in a change in the Ministry’s agenda. It is very difficult to justify pursuing the failed policy of co-education with its largely negative consequences for learning and its obvious disadvantages to boys. It is also challenging to understand how the Cabinet of Barbados can continue to sanction such a failed system.

For the past 25 years we have been forced to follow an agenda. One item on this agenda is the perpetuation of a system of co-education, which has shown to be generally incompatible with learning and disadvantageous to boys. The Ministry of Education has resisted revising their agenda, despite their own admission that approximately 70% to 75% of our secondary school students leave school without a single examination certificate. This suggests that secondary school co-education is a critical part of an agenda that we are forced to follow. Perhaps it is time for the Ministry of Education to explain this agenda.


Grenville Phillips II


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