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Retired educator says co-ed system hurting boys

A retired secondary school principal is warning that unless Barbados goes back to at least single-sex classes, countless more Barbadian males will be “lost”. Desmond Browne, who has been named among nine Barbadians in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, described co-education as a scourge to Barbados’ males.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, he said it would be better for all involved if there were separate schools or classes for boys and girls, and questioned why there could not be a school to take in boys who scored a raw score of between 75 and 100 per cent in the Common Entrance Exam and another specifically for girls who fell into that category.

“I’m a believer in single-sex education. I don’t support co-education; I never have. Though I went to a co-ed school, over time I have come to support single-sex [education] because I think it is better. All the research on human development and human maturation suggests that boys and girls learn at different rates and different styles, and therefore when they are brought together I think it is boys who are disadvantaged,” said Browne who was principal at the Lodge School and then the St Leonard’s Boys’ School before retiring in 2008.

“I would like to see not necessarily every school as single sex [but] it should be an option. Provide an option where people can say they can send their son, if they want to, to get quality education,” Browne added.

He pointed to private single-sex schools in the [United] States, England and Australia, as well as Catholic schools, as institutions where students do extremely well.

Browne suggested that Barbados was ignoring the research that proved the usefulness of single-sex education.

“There is nothing wrong with comparing a top quality secondary single-sex boys with the girls and seeing what they achieve over time,” he said. “Foundation [School] tried it with single-sex classes to compare, but it was abandoned over time. That was never continued; so the debate continues. There is a cloud over co-education.”

The educator of more than 40 years said that with co-education boys do not feel free to be “boys”.

Instead, he said, because they were distracted by the females they wanted to be “cool and handsome”.

“. . . But boys at that stage should be sweaty and rugged,” he insisted.

“Even girls who may want to get involved in activity don’t want to do it in the presence of boys . . . . Nobody wants to be seen; they don’t want to expose themselves. So it inhibits certain aspects of school life, and then there are other things that boys will do on their own, by themselves, that they won’t do [with girls].”

“There are studies that show that drama, for example, is best done when boys are by themselves. In the past, boys put on Shakespeare plays and did the part of girls. I don’t think you will do that in a co-education. The intermixing of genders is so easy now, but I am talking about the athletics and academic performances. I think that those things are better done when the boys are by themselves.”

Browne also suggested that disciplining boys was also a major issue in co-ed schools. Noting his experience as principal of The Lodge School, he said he found that “co-education called for a mellowing of the different forms of punishment that one can give [and] the language of the classroom sometimes differs”.

“It interferes with discipline because boys always say that they are being unfaired,” Browne said.

There have been mixed views about whether Barbados should continue with co-education. But last December, while delivering a keynote address at St Leonard’s Boys’ School, Minister of Education Ronald Jones said the jury was still out on the effect which co-education has on the future of male students.

Please see also Page 12 within the 17/06/2014 digital ePaper edition at


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