“Education is the Passport to the Future”

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” Malcolm X. It can be said that education helps us increase knowledge to actively achieve and meet challenges that can produce changes in which are productive for attaining business innovations, political and economic objectives. In sociological terms education is usually seen as the process of acquiring certain skills or knowledge within an institution designed for that purpose.

According (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004), it involves the acquisition of knowledge and the learning of skills. The Caribbean region continues to battle with persistent gender inequalities both the functionalists and the Marxist views has conflicting ideas on the issue. Firstly, the Caribbean region still continues to battle with persistent gender inequalities in education. It is said that the colonial regime still left its barriers in the Caribbean society as it established an educational system that was not only irrelevant to the needs of the area but was elitist and sexist in its ideology and practice and functioned to maintain class and gender barriers (Lowenthal, 1972: 118-123). Functionist perceive the role of education and gender by maintaining social control like any other social institution school prepares persons for the industrial society or in other words ‘real world’ by learning academic and technical skills so that they can adapt to future positions within society and the work force. (Bowles and Gintis 1976).

Theorist such as Emile Durkheim believed that education transmit society’s norms and values by providing a link between individuals & society creating a united and fair social solidarity. Secondly, Talcott Parsons (1961) functionalist view of education states that after primary socialization within the family, the school takes over as the focal socializing agency which acts as a bridge between the family and society which prepares children both male and female for their adult role. Both Durkheim and Parsons agreed that the school is an important contributing factor to society and the industrial society is increasingly based on achievement universalistic, they also believe that both low achievers and high achievers will see the school system as fair no matter their background, race or sex since they both have an equal chance to achieve equality and success. Thirdly, Marxist theorist perspectives on education is viewed as an instrument of elite domination. They formulate sharp points about inequalities that exist in the educational system which are based upon the view that groups within existing societies have fundamentally different interests. They argue that some people will benefit from it more than others, education reproduces the inequalities and social relations of production of capitalist society.

Sociologists like Bowles and Gintis(1976), argue that education is indirectly beneficial to capitalism by legalising inequality and the major role of education is to fuel the labour force. Bowles and Gintis did agree with some points on the funcationtist theories behalf that school teaches right from wrong, self-discipline and develop self-control, but they insisted that some still have much better opportunities than others and the idea that everyone in society is on an equal playing field to success is a myth. Furthermore, education is known as a medium to encourage social mobility. It is used as a social ladder to improve one’s social situation. There are many challenges however that limits one’s ability to improve their social standing especially as it relates to local and regional context. After the challenging post emancipation and post-independence era in the Caribbean where education were limited to the lower class especially for blacks, even up to the period of independence in the 1960s and to this date where the educational institution across the region still remained highly elitist and sexist , according to (Bacchus ,1990) the people who experience the most discrimination when it comes to education are women, yet with all the downfalls it is evident that women are the ones who are increasingly attending secondary schools and universities with impressive grades.

Also, Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) results shows that females are more likely to attend the examination (60% girls, 40% boys) and girls across the english speaking Caribbean achieve better CXC results in English, history ,home economics and social studies while boys perform better in mathematics , geography and business studies (Leo Rhyme, 1989).Even at the early primary school level females dominate ,In Barbados girls show higher reading achievement and higher scores on English and mathematics examinations (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1990) and in Trinidad girls show a lower drop-out rate and lower repeater rate (Trinidad CSO, 1988), and girls score higher than boys on the Common Entrance Examination (World Bank, 1993).Based on Drayton, K. (1995) analysis girls performing better than boys isn’t only evident in Trinidad and Barbados but across the English speaking Caribbean. Moreover, its seen that female teachers outnumber male teachers in most Caribbean schools, yet in the top education administrative positions are usually occupied by males. Taylor (1997), who carried out research from departmental reports at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine campus, during the school years between 1974 and 1988, found that males are also dominant in administration. Males occupied almost all deanships and headships in most faculties and departments. In Jamaica, there is also a higher male representation among heads, lecturers, senior lecturers and heads of faculties in the University of the West Indies and other institutions at the University level” (USAID, 2005, p. 27). In addition, according to the Handbook of Jamaica, 1972, the Ministry of Education were dominated by males . In 1974, the sex composition of these higher level positions were: Chief and Principal Education Officers 9 all males, Senior Education Officer ten males three females, Education Officer twenty-five males and nine females. Of the education officers many women had university degrees compared to the males. So why hasn’t women’s success in education led them to more leadership positions in the work world?.

Unfortunately, this may continue indefinitely unless women demand that their education be taken into account and not their sex with social stereotype that women is nothing more than care givers of the family. Women in the Caribbean must prove that they can dominate an occupational area administratively as well as numerically. In conclusion, it is no doubt that education has a significant impact on all our lives as the functionist perceives school as the institution that help develop self-control whereas the maxist theories views it as a bias and that the only the major role of education is to fuel the labour force. The Maxist views are constantly played out in the Caribbean society as it is no secret that Gender inequality is a very real and ubiquitous problem. It is reflected virtually in every aspects of Caribbean life and continues to be a barrier to the development of the region. The region as a whole must recognize that gender inequality is a problem, by taking the functionist perspectives as the family is the first institution and working our way to the maxist views to fixing the issue in the schools. Only by acting on this knowledge and broadening our minds as individuals will our dream of a fair society ever so become a reality for the future generation.

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