We Should be Concerned for our Boys
April 25 2012 by John Stewart, Headmaster
Boy! A Global Phenomenon
A global phenomenon is going largely unnoticed here and overseas. What is happening to our boys' achievements in academia?
The New York Daily News argues that the so-called ‘war on women’ does not exist - women are actually doing pretty well - and the real losers in the current political debate in America are boys. In the race for gender votes, politicians are promoting women’s issues and neglecting the opposite sex, starting with boys’ education. In actual fact, women outnumber men in tertiary education and workforce participation - and their real problem in time to come with be finding a man to marry with a similar level of education!
Ali Carr-Shelman writes that the educational reforms being implemented in Oregon are disadvantaging boys in particular - although they are bad for all active kids. The reforms being implemented are tests like our NAPLAN, and teachers are pressured (by parents and their schools) to teach for good results in the tests. As a result what happens is this: the teacher says ‘Please, sit down, be quiet, do what you are told, follow the rules, manage your time, focus, (be a girl…).’
Internet newspaper The Huffington Post writes that boys are failing in an educational system stacked against them. According to American education experts, “Children are forced to use literacy skills much earlier than in the past, and boys develop these skills later than girls. … When it comes to writing, the gender divide is even greater. Our hyper-focus on standardized test scores is worsening, not ameliorating, the academic struggles of boys, and subsequently increasing the numbers of boys who turn off to school and eventually drop out. Boys learn by doing and by moving their bodies through space. The more emphasis is placed on the development of early reading skills, and the less emphasis is placed on a healthy amount of movement and experiential learning, the more disadvantageous our schools will be for males.”
Give Boys a Fair Go!
It is my belief boys are out of synch with the culture of schools today. This isn't about mysogyny; it is about our sons' learning. It is about equity in education.
I commend our government on its focus on education and the Gonski Report, but I also caution that any additional funding needs to be carefully considered and measured. It isn't about pouring money into schools; it is more important we pore over what we are doing in schools to support clear and present areas of weakness. And one that is globally identified: boys' education. Our focus needs to be research-based and supportive.
Read the latest research “Improving Boys’ Achievement in Early Childhood and Primary Education,” published by Oxford University Press in 2012, and it is clear Tudor House is based on sound research. The authors discuss in one chapter how "they synthesize international research about the difficulties boys experience in school and strategies to remedy the situation. The chapter grows out of research and curricula around raising and educating healthy boys that they'’ve been doing since 2000. In brief, they argue that the lack of success young boys are experiencing is a gender equity issue, and it calls for some of the strategies that have worked to address gender equity in girls’ education. As a first step, they recommend restoring early education to its roots: making time for play, social-emotional development and exploration."
Here in Australia, we are four weeks away from NAPLAN - our high-stake test of literacy and numeracy. But before we all agree we need quantifiable measures of success for our own 'log books of life' (the digitised data will be stored and tracked for all our children - for all their lives) please consider international concerns, as the above authors write...
"We found that in countries around the world, but especially the United States, even kindergarteners are spending an increasing amount of time being taught or tested in literacy and math. This mandated curriculum leaves little time for child-initiated learning or unstructured play and contributes to a rise in aggression and anxiety in young children. And, importantly, they don’t have the opportunity to develop critical social-emotional skills. Diminishing opportunities for play and prosocial learning are especially disastrous for boys. It sets boys up for increased likelihood of violence, lower academic achievement and eventually disproportionately high drop-out rates. Furthermore, there is a growing trend in co-education to segregate to educate."
Co-ed is Not Better For Boys
Much research says boys are failing in co-educational schooling and a high school in Idaho is now offering all-male and all-female classrooms in addition to the traditional mixed-gender approach. The curriculum and expectations are the same, but the instruction is geared to meet the different learning styles and brain development of boys and girls. And results are amazing for both genders.
- Girls are ‘presumed’ to be better at literacy and so this ‘expectation’ becomes self-fulfilling – especially in co-education classes.
- Primary schools are more likely to be feminised – a politically charged statement but one that is repeated again and again in research from around the globe.
- Maleness is not “affective” – boys are told to be “little men” and “toughen up” rather than allow them to explore and express their more sensitive sides.
- In the early years a boy’s maturity is commonly aligned to a year below girls’ of the same age
- Boys are more likely to be deemed ‘behaviour problems’, and much more likely to be considered as having ADHD
- Boys are not good at engaging for lengthy periods
- Boys are movers and ‘doers’ – rather than sitters and listeners
- Girls are more rehearsed in the appropriateness of answering questions, and so are more likely to be asked for answers
- Boys in co-education classes are more acutely aware of not being made to look foolish in a class with girls
- The crucial years for addressing the slide is in the Infants years. This is where a boys-only education has the edge
A single-sex boys education in primary school gives greater scope and opportunity by specializing on how boys learn. Consider the reality – why are governments around the world investing so much money on raising standards in how we teach boys? In general terms, boys ‘learn’ better in boys’ schools because of the specialised focus.
The real worry is this – are co-educational schools structured in ways that ensure quality education is supporting boys' learning needs? Look at the research and you would have serious doubts.
- Feminised primary and infant departments
- The narrowing of the curriculum to basic skills
- Boys are falling behind in literacy
- Girls are improving in maths and science – which means boys falling behind in those subjects, too
- Behaviour issues in primary schools are 80-90% boy-centric
As is highlighted in Japan, single-sex schools are decreasing and co-education schools increasing in number based NOT on educational merit but on a business model for greater enrolments. The article reveals "boys schools still rank high in terms of the number of successful applicants to top-notch universities, highlighting an advantage of single-sex education".
These articles and concerns will be sustained until we address the issues. This isn't sexism, it is about addressing what hinders our sons' progress. It is about equity in education.
- Headmaster's Blog
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- Passion, determination, practice and talent
- What do our Children Need for the Future?
- Discipline is to learn
- Playful Engaged Learning
- Good sport is more than winning
- Living our Values - Respect, Responsibility, Relationships
- Leadership - service for others
- Homework - that hoary chestnut
- Confidence is the Key to Success
- Why Learning should be Wonder-full!
- Why Worry?
About Mr John Stewart
For ten years, Mr Stewart taught in the United Kingdom at famous schools, such as Hill House International School in Knightsbridge, London; and St John's College School, Cambridge... Read more
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