An Examination of Gender Differences among Teachers in Jamaican Schools

By Wilkins, Julia; Gamble, Robert J. | Multicultural Education, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

An Examination of Gender Differences among Teachers in Jamaican Schools


Wilkins, Julia, Gamble, Robert J., Multicultural Education


In this article, we will discuss the history of education in Jamaica and then examine why there is a distinct absence of male teachers in the younger grades, a pattern found to be inherent in the Western system of education.

History of Education in Jamaica

There was no formal education in Jamaica during the slavery period (16001838) for natives or slaves. Foreign missionaries ran church schools on some plantations, however education consisted of little more than teaching the virtue of submission and the moral superiority of whites.

After the abolition of slavery in 1838, the British laid the groundwork for a formal system of education, and in 1885 began to build public primary schools. Education was seen as a major tool for the integration of ea-slaves into colonial society and was considered necessary for a peaceful and contented lower class (Morrison & Milner, 1995).

In primary schools, the children of exslaves were taught to respect the superiority ofthe English and local white elite. They learned that similar lifestyles could be attained, at least in part, by success in the educational system, which would provide them with occupational skills and the ability to speak and act "properly."

At the same time, men were taught that as descendants of black farmers, they were best suited to agricultural work, and that only a few exceptional people could succeed in the educational system and advance occupationally. As women were less likely to be self sufficient through agricultural work, alternative options available through education seemed more attainable to them (Brock & Cammish, 1997).

By the end of the 19th century the secondary school system began to expand. Due to the decreasing numbers of British people in Jamaica, a need arose to fill certain intermediate occupational positions with native Jamaicans. Personnel were also required for newly instituted welfare programs. This stimulated the expansion of the secondary school system and the creation of government scholarships for university education abroad.

However, for the bulk of the population, opportunities for occupational mobility through education were still very limited. As late as 1929, secondary school education was still only available to about one school child in 50. Access to public secondary education depended upon parents' abilityto pay fees or upon the children's ability to earn scholarships (Morrison & Milner,1995).

The major means of advancement for children from lower-class families was through the teaching profession. It was possible to qualify for primary school teaching positions by serving as a pupil teacher, or monitor, in a local school and eventually passing teacher certificate examinations. Even though this was an option open to all Jamaicans, it tended to be women who opted for this route for advancement. Although this system provided a degree of mobility for women of the lower class, it lowered the standards of primary schools and further reduced chances for children who attended them to win scholarships to secondary school. Itwas not until 1977 that it was possible to earn a bachelor's degree in early childhood education in Jamaica (Davies, 1997).

Today, opportunities for women are still restricted outside the teaching profession. Women are informally excluded from technical occupations that require a technical high school education, and often, as in engineering, university training. Most women desiring upward mobility aim instead to become teachers, secretaries, clerks, and nurses.

Structure ofthe School System

Children start school atthe age ofthree and attend an infant school until the age of five or sig. They then go on to primary school until the age of 11. There are also "all-age" schools that children enter at the age of six or seven and attend until the age of 17.

Children in primary school take a common entrance exam at the end of grade 7 to determine whether they will go on to a high school or secondary school. …

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