Boys are falling behind in school—performing poorly, some even dropping out—but it’s not all the fault of boys themselves, according to a new report by OECD, a French think tank. Here’s a nugget from The Economist on the OECD findings:
Perhaps because they can be so insufferable, teenage boys are often marked down. The OECD found that boys did much better in its anonymised tests than in teacher assessments. The gap with girls in reading was a third smaller, and the gap in maths—where boys were already ahead—opened up further. In another finding that suggests a lack of even-handedness among teachers, boys are more likely than girls to be forced to repeat a year, even when they are of equal ability.What is behind this discrimination? One possibility is that teachers mark up students who are polite, eager and stay out of fights, all attributes that are more common among girls.
There are, of course, other factors. The Economist notes that boys see “doing well in school” as uncool, and read for pleasure less often than girls do. But this too is a failure of the modern educational system, in that it ought to engage and challenge boys as well as it does girls. Instead, the current system prioritizes traits that girls are more likely to exhibit than boys are. It’s no wonder that parents are losing faith in the school system. In America, the rise of homeschooling across different racial and cultural groups suggests parents are casting a vote of no-confidence in the system’s ability to serve children well—and, perhaps, boys especially (see a recent Vox article on homeschooling). Homeschooling could allow, for example, parents to integrate more vocational work or physical activity into primary education. Boys need an educational system that engages them, and creating that will require thinking outside the blue box.