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Boys think English is ‘for sissies’

Jamaica faces a crisis as boys reject the English language. Boys associate doing well in English tests with being well-behaved and therefore ‘girlish’. Jamaican national newspaper the Gleaner reported in September that a recent British Council survey of eight schools and two teacher training colleges found that proficiency in English reading and writing were viewed as a ‘mark of effeminacy’, contributing to the decline in students’ performance in English assessments.

Only 65 per cent of students passed the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate in English this year – 1.4 per cent down on last year. Just under three quarters of girls passed, but only 55 per cent of boys. Jamaican boys are seeking ‘refuge’ in patois, the island’s English-based Creole language with West African and Irish influences. Young males (and much of the country’s population) speak this in preference to the country’s official language, Jamaican Standard English.