[TVNZ, New Zealand, Oct 11, 2008]
The education system is failing to hold on to boys, with latest figures showing they are leaving school early at almost twice the rate of girls.
A biannual report on the national school roll shows nearly 20% of boys enrolled at Year 11 last year did not go on to Year 12 this year.
The Ministry of Education's July school roll return, released this week, shows that of the 30,659 Year 11 girls enrolled in 2007, 3811 did not return to school this year.
The loss of boys was 6346 of the 32,173 enrolled between those two school year groups.
Between Years 12 and 13, the loss of girls was 5894 of the 27,102 enrolled the previous year, and the boys' loss was 6650 out of 25,809.
Education Minister Chris Carter said the number of students leaving school before 18 was too high.
"We want it to be like in the US, where graduation from high school is a big deal like, `I've done it, I've graduated from high school and I've got NCEA level two'," he said.
Labour and National are both making marginalised youth an election issue and are offering policies to deal with it.
Labour wants to keep all children connected with a school up to the age of 18.
National's youth guarantee promises to fund a free education outside school for teenagers who want to leave.
Labour's schools-plus policy sets an education and training age at 17 in 2011, which will be lifted to 18 in 2014.
Early leaving exemptions for 15-year-olds, which have attracted as many as 7% of enrolled 15-year-olds, will be scrapped completely.
The Post-Primary Teacher's Association (PPTA) has protested against the early leaving exemption policy, claiming it will stack schools with students who do not want to be there.
However, Mr Carter said the schooling system would offer "a whole lot of alternatives" in the hope they will catch the interest of those who would otherwise give up on school.