Is learning becoming taboo for Caribbean boys?

Plummer, David (2010) Is learning becoming taboo for Caribbean boys? In: Morrissey, Michael, Bernard, Myrna, and Bundy, Donald, (eds.) Challenging HIV & AIDS: a new role for Caribbean education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Ian Randle Publishers, Paris, France, pp. 174-183.

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Abstract

[Extract] This book promotes the role of education as a key ingredient of the institutional response to the HIV epidemic. It assumes a demand for education and a universality of supply. Yet in recent years, gender dynamics in education in the English-speaking Caribbean have undergone significant shifts. On the one hand, educational access, retention and attainment by girls have improved significantly and should be celebrated as key success stories. On the other hand, retention, completion and attainment by boys appear to be slipping. The question at the centre of these changes is whether the decline for boys is relative (boys only appear to be declining because girls are doing so much better) or real (fewer boys are reaching their potential than was the case in the past). To explore this question preliminary data from a larger qualitative project on Caribbean masculinities were examined. As a result of this work new perspectives have emerged that may help to explain boys' changing educational achievements.

The importance of achieving a gendered identity is impressed upon us from our earliest years. During childhood we are provided with the means of constructing that identity essentially by modelling behaviours that differentiate us from the 'opposite' sex. Importantly, these behaviours and practices are not fixed the paths to achieving 'legitimate' manhood vary widely between cultures and within cultures over time. It is in this context that changing educational achievement appears to present us with an interesting challenge.

In the past, academic excellence was largely, if not entirely a male domain. However, with education increasingly becoming common ground: boys are left with fewer opportunities to establish their gendered identity through education; and academic achievement furnishes those needs less readily. In contrast, fundamental biological differences means that physicality has been preserved as a way of asserting masculine difference, and the 'outdoors' remains boys' territory. In the Caribbean, outdoors physicality seems to have gained pre-eminent importance for developing a boys' identity. While this 'retreat to physicality' may well benefit sporting achievements, there are also important negative consequences. Opportunities to prove one's gender identity through physical dominance are increasingly driven towards hard, physical, risk-taking, hyper-masculine, sometimes antisocial acts including bullying, harassment, crime and violence. Meanwhile, the classroom no longer holds as much value for boys in establishing their masculine identity and it is therefore less attractive to them (a 'flight from academic achievement?'). Indeed boys who do achieve in academic pursuits are at risk of being considered 'suspect' by their peers and of becoming the subject of gender taboos. This includes boys who show a preference for reading, who regularly reported receiving homophobic criticism, perhaps the deepest of all masculine taboos.

Although this chapter does not specifically explore consequences of findings for schools as vehicle for reducing new HIV infections, it is included to stimulate dialogue among readers on gender considerations that what need to be factored in to ensure effectiveness of HIV strategies through formal and non formal education.

Item ID: 25696
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-976-637-353-5
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Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2014 06:48
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130308 Gender, Sexuality and Education @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939904 Gender Aspects of Education @ 100%
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