Boys are topping the charts when it comes to disliking school. At the age of seven almost one in four boys dislikes school. A recent study conducted by the Institute of Education, University of London, surveyed more than 14,000 young boys in the UK. Of the boys surveyed those born between 2000 and 2002 demonstrated a dislike for primary school. Twenty four percent of boys claimed they do not enjoy primary school compared to 10% of girls. Boys were also more likely to express that they were unhappy at school.
The Millennium Cohort Study is the first of the nationwide cohort studies that has included samples from high density ethnic minorities, including large numbers of disadvantaged families. The study has been tracking children through their early childhood years and hopes to continue their research into their adulthood, with previous surveys of the cohort (group) conducted when the children were nine months, three and five years of age.
The study covers a range of diverse topics including; parenting, childcare, school choice, child behaviour and cognitive development, child and parental health issues, parents' employment and education, income, housing, and neighbourhood. The children who participated in the survey were asked to fill in a self completion questionnaire based on their feelings, hobbies, friends and schooling.
Whilst statistics demonstrate that the children’s maths and literacy skills in general have fallen across the board in recent years. It seems girls are still out numbering boys in schoolwork, reading, listening skills, communication and writing. Some boys are not capable of reading simple words or expressing opinions about the major events or ideas in texts. However, boys do achieve better and appear to enjoy working with numbers and learning about science.
Male behaviour wasn’t of the highest standard and boys were far more likely to be tired at school as opposed to girls their own age. “This is important, as tired children are unlikely to concentrate, and are, therefore, less likely to learn,” said the researchers.
The most recent study revealed that less than half of the boys enjoy reading, compared with nearly two-thirds of girls. Reading and writing skills are heavily enforced at kindergarten today.
Diana Johnson, the UK schools minister, said, "We are ensuring additional support will be available for those who don't hit the expected level, including one-to-one tuition and increased support for children with special educational needs.”
"We can again see that girls are outperforming boys, especially in reading and writing. Countries all over the world struggle with this longstanding issue, but we are hopeful that the introduction of schemes such as 'boys into books' and 'reading champions', which encourage boys to read more, will address this," she said.
UK shadow schools minister, Nick Gibb, explained, "This looks like further worrying evidence that standards in primary schools are stalling and that boys are losing out the most. Far too many children fall behind early in their school careers and then find it difficult to catch up. We need a rigorous focus on the basics, with effective synthetic phonics for reading and proper maths teaching, so that all children achieve the keystones to future success."
US Author of ‘Boys Adrift’, Dr. Leonard Sax is founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. In his novel he explores the reasons why boys are less engaged than girls at home and in school.
Sax argues that today’s social and biological factors can be toxic for young boys. Overemphasis on reading and math in kindergarten, long hours spent playing videogames, a heavy reliance on ADHD medication and overlooked endocrine disturbances can be damaging to the young male brain.
Sax also reveals practical solutions and strategies for educating boys. His research suggests that teachers need to be aware of gender difference and capability. “In particular, teachers need to understand the importance of differences in how girls and boys hear, see and respond to different learning styles, as well as differences in autonomic function...” he said.
According to Sax, the education system in Kindergarten needs to be modified in order to successfully cater for young boys needs. Sax explains that over the last 50 years, significant changes have occurred in the kindergarten curriculum. However the shift has only heightened the difference in gender abilities; that being boys’ weaknesses and girls’ strengths.
“Two changes are proposed. First, alterative kindergartens emphasizing group activities and nonverbal skills must be established. Second, boys must be encouraged to enter kindergarten when they turn 5 years old. After 1 year of alternative kindergarten, the boy would enter contemporary kindergarten at age 6. Girls would continue to enter kindergarten at age 5. Most boys would therefore enter first grade at age 7, most girls at age 6. Substantial evidence suggests that such a change would have many benefits, particularly for boys,” he said.
Sax also suggests an alternative curriculum for boys, “From what is known of the abilities of the typical 5-year-old boy, it seems reasonable to posit that the ideal alternative would (a) provide scope for development of the child’s motor and sensory abilities; (b) encourage and guide development of the child’s social and interactive skills; and (c) not dwell on developmentally inappropriate skills, such as reading and writing.”
Shane Ryan of the boys’ education organisation Working With Men, is also in support of ‘gearing’ education to meet the needs of boys. “There is an inherent difference between boys and girls. Boys are fairly active, and we ask them to keep still in a classroom for long periods of time. They also need to be geared up for transition between nursery and primary school more than girls, so their expectation levels are correct when they get there,” he said.
Our role in educating boys requires willingness from every level. UK Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, David Laws recognises the government’s role in working towards improving the situation. "The government should be especially ashamed of the fact that one in four boys has failed to master basic writing skills by this age. Ministers clearly need to target additional resources in this area to reduce class sizes," he said.