Toy Soldiers

Lost Generation

As the boy crisis in educations continues unabated, more theories about the potential fallout abound. Data from a survey conducted in Wales found that boys are less likely to continue with their education once they reach the age in which they can legally decide not to attend school:

While girls remain more likely to continue in full-time education after the age of 16, a report from Careers Wales found that boys are increasingly likely to leave the system altogether.

And though the majority of young people continue with their education once they reach the legal age at which they can leave school, a study found that there has been a slight fall in the percentage of young people expected to go from year 13 into higher education.

The survey showed that, as in previous years, a larger proportion of girls than boys chose to continue in full-time education. The difference is most marked in year 11, with over 6% more girls than boys.

Over the last five years, a slight rise has been recorded every year in the percentage of girls and boys choosing this route in year 11 and 12. Year 13 figures have been slightly more erratic, according to Careers Wales, but there has been a definite increase in the last three years.

There also continues to be a higher percentage of boys than girls in the not in education, employment or training (NEET) category in years 11, 12 and 13. The difference is most marked in year 13 with more than 2% more boys in this category. Those in part-time education – 16 hours or less per week – were previously included in the NEET category, but this year are recorded separately.

It also showed that the percentage of boys entering the labour market, either work-based training or employment, continues to be higher than the number of girls across the three cohorts.

Professor David Reynolds offers the following explanation for the gender gap in education:

He said that the poorer performance of boys at school, resulting in many leaving the education system sooner than their female counterparts, is the culmination of girls being given a fairer chance to succeed.

“Boys have suffered as girls have done well,” said Prof Reynolds. “Girls have come through strongly and boys have found it increasingly difficult to compete.

“There are probably other issues at work as well – the growth of an anti-schools sub-culture is something that seems to have hap- pened, particularly among boys exposed to the labour market.”

There is also a problem for boys in the way pupils are assessed now, with continuous assessment suiting girls’ organisational skills and males traditionally doing better in final exams, he says.

The current situation hardly seems to result from the culmination of girls being given a fairer chance to succeed. If the result of girls being given a fair chance is that boys fail, one could argue that the situation is not that girls have been given a fairer chance, but that they have been given an unfair advantage.

As Reynolds acknowledges, the current focus in education is on continuous assessment. The general state of education is girl-centric, and that imbalance places boys in an unfair position. Their methods of learning, their skill sets, and their interests receive little or no attention. Boy are expected to learn as girls do, and when boys fail, it gets thrown in their faces as evidence of the superiority of girls.

When boys do not receive the same opportunities to succeed in education, or when it appears that those running the education system sabotage boys’ chances, it should come as no surprise that boys would turn elsewhere as soon as they could. While Reynolds has a point about economic status impacting some boys’ decisions to continue their education, one cannot fail to acknowledge that working a part-time or full-time labor job provides better incentive than struggling through several years of female-centric schooling. Labor jobs may not lead to great wealth or decent health, but they do provide boys with a place in which their skills will be of use and value.

Reynolds does not think that splitting the sexes into single-sex classes or schools is the answer. He thinks that schools should take a more targeted approach to make education more interesting to boys. That seems like a valid approach, however, these efforts would be done by those who have caused the current problem. It is not enough just to try to engage boys in education. One must change the system so as to better address boys’ needs and methods of learning.

We did it for girls, and we should do it for boys.