The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has released a new report examining the factors contributing to boys’ underperformance in education across the Commonwealth, and how previous interventions could be improved upon to boost attendance and academic results.
Since the early 1980s, some Commonwealth countries, primarily from Africa, the Caribbean and the East Asia and Pacific Region, have noticed a phenomenon of male academic underperformance, noting that boys’ achievement levels were relatively lower than those for girls.
Statistical patterns have since been analysed by COL in order to understand the reasons and possible solutions for this gender disparity in learning.
Statistics within the report, titled `Boys’ Underperformance in Education: Revisiting the issue in the Commonwealth’, indicate that education remains inaccessible to a significant percentage of children.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the school life expectancy for female students has risen from 7.0 years in 2002 to 8.8 years in 2013, whilst for male students it increased from 8.5 to 9.9 years.
This is still far behind the average school life expectancy of pupils in Central and Eastern Europe, which increased from 12.8 to 15.5 years 2002-2013.
Whilst the majority of those denied access are girls, COL has stressed the importance of addressing opportunities and facilities for boys as well.
Factors that significantly contribute to boys’ underperformance include their socio-economic cultural background, gender socialisation and macho-masculine identity, gendered schooling processes and expectations, accessibility to male role models, and measurement and practice of academic performance.
Reflecting on successful interventions previously initiated, the report recommended the continued implementation of those that move academic practices away from reinforcing authoritative practices and engage both boys and girls instead.
Providing the physical, emotional and aspirational space and relevant tools to tackle larger anti-social behaviours regarding sexism, racism, homophobia and communalism also led to more positive outcomes for both boys and girls, the report found.
Furthermore, interventions on institutional, familial and social support had facilitated effective changes to children’s’ educational emancipation and transformation.
Further recommendations within the report focus on schools and teachers, policy and technology-related solutions, home and community.
Open and distance learning was highlighted as a particularly effective option for engaging and supporting young learners.
One complexity which the report stresses is that boys’ underperformance is regionally variable, meaning that the context behind each problem must be individually analysed and a unique solution offered, depending on where in the Commonwealth action is required.
The report covers nine case studies from Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Kenya, Belize, Granada, The Bahamas, Mauritius, Zambia and Rwanda.
COL President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar said: “For some Commonwealth Member States in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, boys’ academic underperformance and high dropout rates are a matter of concern.
“The Commonwealth of Learning’s Strategic Plan 2015–2021 accordingly places particular emphasis on addressing this issue.”
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