Closing the Gender Gap in Education
Last year I was privileged to listen to Malala Yousafzai’s father (Ziauddin Yousafzai) speak and I was really moved by what he said. Here was a young girl who was born in 1997 and has done remarkable things on a global scale to benefit female education.
I have worked in a boys only school for the last sixteen years, but have two girls, obviously my planning is not that good...
I am also fortunate to be able to meet with the local schools in our area to discuss what we are doing in ICT. We have a couple of single sex schools around us and the boys love interacting with the girls’ schools around us. In the computer class we created a board game that had a bias towards becoming an entrepreneur. Once completed we visited the girls’ schools and we then played the board games that the students had created. The completed project can be found http://www.wsparrow.co.za/entrep/index.html
There is a girl’s school in our area that is really dynamic and they are offering advanced courses in science, mathematics and computer science and they even have after hour clubs for each of these, but this is not the norm. The teachers are passionate, inspiring and every lesson is filled with real life teaching and learning which is aimed at the 21st Century student. The teachers are sharing the work that they do with other schools and communities.
I need to mention that there is no curriculum for ICT in the primary school, not even standards, which gives us the flexibility to create our own content. In one respect this is great, but on a negative side this means that in some schools there is no teaching of ICT skills at all.
I believe we are served a double blow in South Africa, firstly we have to deal with very high levels of poverty, as well as having such diverse schools. We range from having rural schools with no electricity, very little infrastructure to schools that have everything.
Being in a boy’s primary school I am concerned about the academic gender gap.
A strange phenomenon in South Africa is that there are more boys than girls in primary school, but this gets reversed in high school and tertiary institutions. Where do all the boys go? I believe partly that the answer to this question is the way that schools are designed. Most schools are setup in a traditional way, rows in classes, the teacher at the one end of the classroom, etc. I believe that this learning environment is more structured to favour girls than boys. Our entire staff attended a workshop entitled “Teaching Superman to Fly” and it was about how boy’s minds are wired differently to girls. Using the information, we have adapted and put many structures and ideas in place to make the school a more boy friendly place for learning to take place.
I do not think that there is an easy, quick solution, but we have to start taking the initiative for the benefit of our students.