I believe our schools today were predominantly shaped by women and therefore serve girls better than they serve boys.
Now, immediately I know that I may have raised the hackles of a fair proportion of those who read this blog on a regular basis. However, the world over there’s a lot of data that suggests, somewhere, schools are failing boys. In many developed countries now over 50% of the universities’ intake for undergraduate studies is girls (maybe women educators want to believe that this somehow evens out anomalies of the past. However, we live today, not in the past.
In China there has been serious consideration of solving gender disparity issues by having boys start school a year later than girls (so that they go through the whole system being one year older than their female peers). Figures for exclusions and expulsions from schools are massively skewed towards boys. In short, school is set up so in favour of the girls that people are having to search around for ways to even things out a bit. However, I’d rather see a more open an honest debate about what’s wrong, about why schools are switching boys off and what might be done to change school cultures to ensure that ‘fostering all potential’ really becomes more than a pipedream for schools.
As a result, I was delighted to come across two articles addressing this issue – one published just last month and one from April this year.
Looking at the first article by Michael Kimmel in Huffington Post I think he makes a key point – succeeding in school is not seen as masculine or cool for boys. His simple response is that we need to challenge those voices that are convincing our sons that opting out, wasting time are way cooler than learning and succeeding. Whilst i agree that this is part of the solution, it’s only part.
I believe there are many other aspects we have to look at regarding how school is organised, how children are expected to spend their time and the balances regarding control and discipline that permeate the culture of most schools. We also need to look at the communication and dialogue between teachers and pupils of different genders. Too often the expectations of educators are setting the agenda that is then followed by both boys and girls.
The second article shares a lot more data, especially from the US. I believe that in Indian schools (in India and overseas) things are at least as bad, if not worse. Whilst the writer for the Atlantic article quite rightly highlights the gender nazism that condemns those who dare to highlight differences in the ways male and female minds work, most teachers and educators will acknowledge that the differences exist.
Who figures out what is ‘just enough’ to do to pass the exams that determine promotion prospects in schools and who gets so disillusioned with school that they can’t find the motivation to do even that? Who responds by buckling under when the system demands repetitive, endless rote learning and who rebels against it? Who bursts out like coiled springs when the teachers ‘leave the field’ and head for the staffroom after a few hours of suppression in the classroom? Who reacts most negatively to not getting to actually DO experiments in science labs (as opposed to watching a teacher demonstration)?
We need to be open about these issues and we need to start addressing them.