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Research and Publications
Research Development Projects
Research Projects

Exploring the context of Education

Development Projects



Exploring the context of Education


A Study of Gender Differences in Academic Achievement at the Secondary Level

Principal Researcher: Professor Hyacinth Evans
Second Researcher: Dr. Rose Johnson
Research Assistants 14 research assistants
Sponsor/Cooperating Agency The Netherlands Government, the World Bank, and the Ministry of Education and Culture, Jamaica

Period 1996–1998

Project Description

Against the background of Jamaican boys’ low level of academic achievement and the decreasing number of males pursuing education at the tertiary level, this study was commissioned to examine the problem, determine the ways in which the school as an institution contributed to the problem, and recommend interventions by the ministry. Based on a sample of over 3,700 students from all types of secondary schools, the study had two aspects: a survey in which students responded to questionnaires, and a qualitative investigation into school processes and student sentiments.

There were gender differences in outcomes, including academic achievement (with girls more likely to do better), choice of CXC and GCE A-level subjects, and choice of jobs and careers. The type of school was related to these outcomes. There were also differences in girls’ and boys’ experiences in school. These included exposure to negative school practices such as corporal punishment and verbal abuse, and placement in streams, with boys more likely than girls to be exposed to negative practices or to be placed in lower streams. The type of school also had an effect on these outcomes. For example, girls in single-sex schools were least likely to be exposed to corporal punishment than boys or girls in other schools. There were also significant gender differences in some student background characteristics. Boys were more frequently absent from school, and less likely to do reading (school related or otherwise) outside of school hours. And though the majority of boys and girls regarded education as useful and important for life chances, a higher percentage of girls than boys felt this way.

The qualitative aspect of the study showed major differences in boys’ and girls’ participation in academic activities in the classroom, with girls participating more in general—they focused on academic work, answered questions posed by the teacher, and completed their homework. Boys were more likely to be out of their seat, and talking among themselves, but this was seen more frequently in some types of school than others. Both boys and girls were aware of these differences in behaviour and in the teachers’ perception of boys and girls. In most cases, the school structured gender separation and differences through their organization of academic and social activities.


· Evans, Hyacinth. 1998. Gender and achievement in education in Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica: Planning Institute of Jamaica, 113 pp.

1998. Gender differences in participation, opportunity to learn and achievement at the secondary level in Jamaica. Final report presented to the Netherlands Government. 184 pp.

1999. Gender differences in education in Jamaica. Paris: UNESCO, 53 pp.

Papers Presented at Conferences

  • Evans, Hyacinth. 1998. Gender differences in education in Jamaica. World Congress of Comparative Education Societies Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, July 10–18.
  • 1999. How teachers and students construct gender inequality in secondary schools in Jamaica. Fifth Biennial Conference of the Faculty of Arts and Education, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, April 7–9.
  • 1999. How teachers and students construct gender and achievement in the secondary school in Jamaica. Comparative and International Education Society annual conference, Toronto, Canada, April 14–18.
  • 1999. Streaming and its effects on boys and girls in secondary schools in Jamaica. Comparative and International Education Society annual conference, Toronto, Canada, April 14–18.
  • 2000. Issues in the education of girls in Jamaica. Symposium on Girls’ Education, Washington, DC, May 17–18.
  • 2001. Issues in gender and gender equality in the Caribbean. Regional Inter-governmental Committee of the Major Project, 7th meeting, Cochabamba, Bolivia, March 5–7.

· Evans, Hyacinth. 1999. Streaming and its effects on boys and girls in secondary schools in Jamaica. Journal of Education and Development in the Caribbean 3 (1): 45–60.

1999. The construction of gender and achievement in secondary schools in Jamaica. Caribbean Journal of Education 21 (1&2): 3–24.

Evans, Hyacinth (with Rosemarie Johnson). 2001. Identity and academic achievement in single sex and coed schools in Jamaica. Education and Society 19 (2): 55–68.

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