Boys will be boys but there are ways to better educate them


Reader Response to “Don’t Marry Career Women” – Boys will be boys but there are ways to better educate them

Boys will be boys but there are ways to better educate them
khankrumthebulg
Regular Contributor
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Shane Desiatnik

Research shows that boys have been underachieving at school compared to girls since the 1980s and the gap has increased with time.

But a $19.4 million Australian Government initiative called Success For Boys aims to change all that in 1600 schools by 2008 – and four schools in the NSW Blue Mountains will be among the first to implement it.

“Zip it!” That’s the first thing University of Western Sydney’s boys education expert Peter West tells teachers at professional development workshops to do more of in their lessons.

“Teachers should talk less at the beginning of lessons and get in there and get boys to do something straight away,” he said.

“Why? Because boys are not as good listeners when it comes to learning.

“They like lessons with a structured action focus because they learn best by seeing and doing.

“It’s not the same for all boys, but they do have preferred learning styles and these need to be incorporated more in lessons.

“It won’t disadvantage the girls. In fact, if boys’ learning and engagement in class is improved, it will only benefit girls.”

Federal member for Macquarie Kerry Bartlett, who taught for 25 years and was chairperson of the House of Representatives Standing Committee overseeing an inquiry into the education of boys in 2002, agrees.

“Some people criticised the Standing Committee’s recommendations because they thought it would have a negative effect on girls, but it was not putting boys up against girls, it was not a competition,” he said.

“The aim was to recommend ways to ensure education is tailored to better suit the differing needs of boys and girls.”

Mr Bartlett said he was staggered by the report’s research that found boys are underachieving in average performance at school at a significant level on almost all indicators.

The Success For Boys initiative was driven by the report’s recommendations and aims to make a real difference in boys education.

Among the schools to secure $10,000 in program funds this year are Katoomba High School, Blue Mountains Grammar School, Our Lady of the Nativity School and St Columba’s High School.

“Success For Boys works on a number of fronts, including teachers’ professional development, producing and sharing successful teaching and assessment strategies to take more advantage of boys’ interests and strengths and developing male mentoring systems,” Mr Bartlett said.

“It’s not that some boys are intrinsically bad, they are just less engaged.

“Underperforming boys need to feel a sense of belonging inside the classroom as much as in the playground.

“Boys tend to like reading books about adventure, prefer writing about the story rather than describing how characters feel and favour a phonics-based approach to learning literacy.”

Peter West stressed the importance of student-teacher relationships for boys.

“Using humour to break things up and appealing to boys’ interests is very important,” he said.

“Girls tend to study subjects and boys study teachers.

“Writing is another key area to work on. Why? Because boys need to be assessed and tend to be poor at descriptives, yet many teachers like putting those sorts of things in tests.

“Assessments are becoming more literacy-based across all key learning areas.”

Katoomba High School boys education co-ordinator Lance Bones said the school will use half of their grant in 2007 to develop a formal male mentoring program and the other half will be used to ease the transition from primary to high school.

Both programs will target boys who are at risk of underperforming or disengaging from school.

“The idea of the mentoring program is to have males as role models within the school community, including teachers and local residents and businesspeople,” Mr Bones said.

“It’s about the three Rs of relationships, relationships and relationships.

“If you don’t have a relationship based on respect with boys, you are hitting against a wall.

“Each boy has a different learning style and you pick up on this over time. When it clicks, everything works.”

Mr Bones said the transition program will see boys having trouble settling into high school life bonding together as a group doing a variety of team problem solving workshops.

“I’ve seen kids at one of these workshops not knowing anyone’s names and coming away half an hour later knowing everyone in the group and having a ball.

“This can help enormously because being in a new environment with six teachers a day instead of one can put some boys under a lot of pressure.”

Mr Bones said this will complement current strategies in the school like gifted and talented programs, literacy modules across all key learning areas and after school sessions offered in subjects like maths, industrial arts, drama and music.

“The school achieved excellent results in numeracy and literacy tests for years seven and eight this year and achieved a huge improvement, so we must be doing something right!”

Source: The Blue Mountains Gazette

WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS

*The difference between boys’ and girls’ average NSW TES (now called UAI) results widened from 0.6 marks in 1981 to 19.4 marks in 1996

*Research indicates the gap between girls’ and boys’ performance at school increased between 1994 and 2000

*About 80 per cent of students suspended or excluded from school are boys and this rate is consistent in each state

*The gender gap in school retention rates remained stable between 11 and 12 per cent from 1991 to 2001

*On average, boys do not perform as well as girls in each aspect of literacy, particularly in expressive modes like writing and speaking

*Only 21 per cent of primary school teachers in Australian schools were male in 2001, down from 26 per cent in 1991

*The senior school curriculum has become more language intensive in all key learning areas and this is likely to be a factor in boys’ declining relative performance

(Source: Report on the Inquiry into the Education of Boys, 2002)

11-16-2006 07:25 PM

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