Report wrong on under-achieving boys, says PPTA

Teachers said a government report on why boys are under-achieving girls in school released today is flawed in its most basic premise.

The report, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, found boys were under-achieving, particularly in reading and writing, and its authors said schools needed to be more "boy friendly" in order to allow boys to achieve.

But Post Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff said the investigation of the issue was based on an assumption that boys and girls were two homogenous and mutually exclusive groups when they were not.

He said gender inequities in educational achievement were due more to socio-economic circumstances than gender itself.

"To examine the educational achievement record of boys in isolation simply does not provide an accurate picture of the problem, nor will it provide any helpful answers.

"The more we talk about the issue of achievement inequities in terms of boys versus girls the more it's likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.

The report is the result of four years work by a reference group set up by the ministry in response to concerns about boys' under-achievement.

The discrepancy between the performance of boys and girls was greatest in reading and writing, and the gaps remained throughout schooling.

Because those skills were so important, the relative under-performance of boys was concerning, the report said.

The report was not all bad news. It found that many boys were succeeding in school, with no marked decline in their results over the past five years.

They were, however, over-represented in statistics on early problems in reading, disengagement with school, and lower qualifications.

Reading must be taught better in primary schools, and must continue until boys were reading at their chronological age, said reference group member Ian Baldwin, the head of Southland Boys' High School.

"There will be some who never will, but at the moment we have far too many (who are not)," he told Radio New Zealand.

Waitaki Boys High School principal Paul Baker, also a member of the reference group, said schools would be urged to become "boy friendly", but this did not need to happen at the expense of girls.

"Boys are more needy than girls in the educational context because, for various reasons, their motivation levels are often lower," he said.

"That doesn't mean to say that the end result can't be just as good, but you often have to go about it a different way."

Schools are going to be encouraged to set up action plans to help boys be excited by learning and achieve their full potential.

A website is to be launched in July which will provide advice and resources to help schools implement effective programmes and show teachers what is working with boys in some schools.

- NZPA

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