Taking the Boy Crisis in Education Seriously

Taking the Boy Crisis in Education Seriously: How School Choice Can Boost Achievement Among Boys and Girls

By Krista Kafer

Position Paper No. 604 ■ April 2007


The New Gender Gap

Business Week, May 26, 2003

From kindergarten to grad school, boys are becoming the second sex

Lawrence High is the usual fortress of manila-brick blandness and boxy 1960s architecture. At lunch, the metalheads saunter out to the smokers' park, while the AP types get pizzas at Marinara's, where they talk about -- what else? -- other people. The hallways are filled with lip-glossed divas in designer clothes and packs of girls in midriff-baring track tops. The guys run the gamut, too: skate punks, rich boys in Armani, and saggy-panted crews with their Eminem swaggers. In other words, they look pretty much as you'd expect.

But when the leaders of the Class of 2003 assemble in the Long Island high school's fluorescent-lit meeting rooms, most of these boys are nowhere to be seen. The senior class president? A girl. The vice-president? Girl. Head of student government? Girl. Captain of the math team, chief of the yearbook, and editor of the newspaper? Girls.

It's not that the girls of the Class of 2003 aren't willing to give the guys a chance. Last year, the juniors elected a boy as class president. But after taking office, he swiftly instructed his all-female slate that they were his cabinet and that he was going to be calling all the shots. The girls looked around and realized they had the votes, says Tufts University-bound Casey Vaughn, an Intel finalist and one of the alpha femmes of the graduating class. "So they impeached him and took over."

The female lock on power at Lawrence is emblematic of a stunning gender reversal in American education. From kindergarten to graduate school, boys are fast becoming the second sex. "Girls are on a tear through the educational system," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington. "In the past 30 years, nearly every inch of educational progress has gone to them."

Just a century ago, the president of Harvard University, Charles W. Eliot, refused to admit women because he feared they would waste the precious resources of his school. Today, across the country, it seems as if girls have built a kind of scholastic Roman Empire alongside boys' languishing Greece. Although Lawrence High has its share of boy superstars -- like this year's valedictorian -- the gender takeover at some schools is nearly complete. "Every time I turn around, if something good is happening, there's a female in charge," says Terrill O. Stammler, principal of Rising Sun High School in Rising Sun, Md. Boys are missing from nearly every leadership position, academic honors slot, and student-activity post at the school. Even Rising Sun's girls' sports teams do better than the boys'.

At one exclusive private day school in the Midwest, administrators have even gone so far as to mandate that all awards and student-government positions be divvied equally between the sexes. "It's not just that boys are falling behind girls," says William S. Pollock, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It's that boys themselves are falling behind their own functioning and doing worse than they did before."

It may still be a man's world. But it is no longer, in any way, a boy's. From his first days in school, an average boy is already developmentally two years behind the girls in reading and writing. Yet he's often expected to learn the same things in the same way in the same amount of time. While every nerve in his body tells him to run, he has to sit still and listen for almost eight hours a day. Biologically, he needs about four recesses a day, but he's lucky if he gets one, since some lawsuit-leery schools have banned them altogether. Hug a girl, and he could be labeled a "toucher" and swiftly suspended -- a result of what some say is an increasingly anti-boy culture that pathologizes their behavior.

If he falls behind, he's apt to be shipped off to special ed, where he'll find that more than 70% of his classmates are also boys. Squirm, clown, or interrupt, and he is four times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That often leads to being forced to take Ritalin or risk being expelled, sent to special ed, or having parents accused of negligence. One study of public schools in Fairfax County, Va., found that more than 20% of upper-middle-class white boys were taking Ritalin-like drugs by fifth grade.

Once a boy makes it to freshman year of high school, he's at greater risk of falling even further behind in grades, extracurricular activities, and advanced placement. Not even science and math remain his bastions. And while the girls are busy working on sweeping the honor roll at graduation, a boy is more likely to be bulking up in the weight room to enhance his steroid-fed Adonis complex, playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on his PlayStation2, or downloading rapper 50 Cent on his iPod. All the while, he's 30% more likely to drop out, 85% more likely to commit murder, and four to six times more likely to kill himself, with boy suicides tripling since 1970. "We get a bad rap," says Steven Covington, a sophomore at Ottumwa High School in Ottumwa, Iowa. "Society says we can't be trusted."

As for college -- well, let's just say this: At least it's easier for the guys who get there to find a date. For 350 years, men outnumbered women on college campuses. Now, in every state, every income bracket, every racial and ethnic group, and most industrialized Western nations, women reign, earning an average 57% of all BAs and 58% of all master's degrees in the U.S. alone. There are 133 girls getting BAs for every 100 guys -- a number that's projected to grow to 142 women per 100 men by 2010, according to the U.S. Education Dept. If current trends continue, demographers say, there will be 156 women per 100 men earning degrees by 2020.

Overall, more boys and girls are in college than a generation ago. But when adjusted for population growth, the percentage of boys entering college, master's programs, and most doctoral programs -- except for PhDs in fields like engineering and computer science -- has mostly stalled out, whereas for women it has continued to rise across the board. The trend is most pronounced among Hispanics, African Americans, and those from low-income families.

The female-to-male ratio is already 60-40 at the University of North Carolina, Boston University, and New York University. To keep their gender ratios 50-50, many Ivy League and other elite schools are secretly employing a kind of stealth affirmative action for boys. "Girls present better qualifications in the application process -- better grades, tougher classes, and more thought in their essays," says Michael S. McPherson, president of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., where 57% of enrollees are women. "Boys get off to a slower start."

The trouble isn't limited to school. Once a young man is out of the house, he's more likely than his sister to boomerang back home and sponge off his mom and dad. It all adds up to the fact that before he reaches adulthood, a young man is more likely than he was 30 years ago to end up in the new and growing class of underachiever -- what the British call the "sink group."

For a decade, British educators have waged successful classroom programs to ameliorate "laddism" (boys turning off to school) by focusing on teaching techniques that re-engage them. But in the U.S., boys' fall from alpha to omega status doesn't even have a name, let alone the public's attention. "No one wants to speak out on behalf of boys," says Andrew Sum, director of the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies. As a social-policy or educational issue, "it's near nonexistent."

On the one hand, the education grab by girls is amazing news, which could make the 21st the first female century. Already, women are rapidly closing the M.D. and PhD gap and are on the verge of making up the majority of law students, according to the American Bar Assn. MBA programs, with just 29% females, remain among the few old-boy domains.

Still, it's hardly as if the world has been equalized: Ninety percent of the world's billionaires are men. Among the super rich, only one woman, Gap Inc. co-founder Doris F. Fisher, made, rather than inherited, her wealth. Men continue to dominate in the highest-paying jobs in such leading-edge industries as engineering, investment banking, and high tech -- the sectors that still power the economy and build the biggest fortunes. And women still face sizable obstacles in the pay gap, the glass ceiling, and the still-Sisyphean struggle to juggle work and child-rearing.

But attaining a decisive educational edge may finally enable females to narrow the earnings gap, punch through more of the glass ceiling, and gain an equal hand in rewriting the rules of corporations, government, and society. "Girls are better able to deliver in terms of what modern society requires of people -- paying attention, abiding by rules, being verbally competent, and dealing with interpersonal relationships in offices," says James Garbarino, a professor of human development at Cornell University and author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

Righting boys' problems needn't end up leading to reversals for girls. But some feminists say the danger in exploring what's happening to boys would be to mistakenly see any expansion of opportunities for women as inherently disadvantageous to boys. "It isn't a zero-sum game," says Susan M. Bailey, executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women. Adds Macalester's McPherson: "It would be dangerous to even out the gender ratio by treating women worse. I don't think we've reached a point in this country where we are fully providing equal opportunities to women."

Still, if the creeping pattern of male disengagement and economic dependency continues, more men could end up becoming losers in a global economy that values mental powers over might -- not to mention the loss of their talent and potential. The growing educational and economic imbalances could also create societal upheavals, altering family finances, social policies, and work-family practices. Men are already dropping out of the labor force, walking out on fatherhood, and disconnecting from civic life in greater numbers. Since 1964, for example, the voting rate in Presidential elections among men has fallen from 72% to 53% -- twice the rate of decline among women, according to Pell's Mortenson. In a turnaround from the 1960s, more women now vote than men.

Boys' slide also threatens to erode male earnings, spark labor shortages for skilled workers, and create the same kind of marriage squeeze among white women that already exists for blacks. Among African Americans, 30% of 40- to 44-year-old women have never married, owing in part to the lack of men with the same academic credentials and earning potential. Currently, the never-married rate is 9% for white women of the same age. "Women are going to pull further and further ahead of men, and at some point, when they want to form families, they are going to look around and say, 'Where are the guys?"' says Mortenson.

Corporations should worry, too. During the boom, the most acute labor shortages occurred among educated workers -- a problem companies often solved by hiring immigrants. When the economy reenergizes, a skills shortage in the U.S. could undermine employers' productivity and growth.

Better-educated men are also, on average, a much happier lot. They are more likely to marry, stick by their children, and pay more in taxes. From the ages of 18 to 65, the average male college grad earns $2.5 million over his lifetime, 90% more than his high school counterpart. That's up from 40% more in 1979, the peak year for U.S. manufacturing. The average college diploma holder also contributes four times more in net taxes over his career than a high school grad, according to Northeastern's Sum. Meanwhile, the typical high school dropout will usually get $40,000 more from the government than he pays in, a net drain on society.

Certainly, many boys continue to conquer scholastic summits, especially boys from high-income families with educated parents. Overall, boys continue to do better on standardized tests such as the scholastic aptitude test, though more low-income girls than low-income boys take it, thus depressing girls' scores. Many educators also believe that standardized testing's multiple-choice format favors boys because girls tend to think in broader, more complex terms. But that advantage is eroding as many colleges now weigh grades -- where girls excel -- more heavily than test scores.

Still, it's not as if girls don't face a slew of vexing issues, which are often harder to detect because girls are likelier to internalize low self-esteem through depression or the desire to starve themselves into perfection. And while boys may act out with their fists, girls, given their superior verbal skills, often do so with their mouths in the form of vicious gossip and female bullying. "They yell and cuss," says 15-year-old Keith Gates, an Ottumwa student. "But we always get in trouble. They never do."

Before educators, corporations, and policymakers can narrow the new gender gap, they will have to understand its myriad causes. Everything from absentee parenting to the lack of male teachers to corporate takeovers of lunch rooms with sugar-and-fat-filled food, which can make kids hyperactive and distractable, plays a role. So can TV violence, which hundreds of studies -- including recent ones by Stanford University and the University of Michigan -- have linked to aggressive behavior in kids. Some believe boys are responding to cultural signals -- downsized dads cast adrift in the New Economy, a dumb-and-dumber dude culture that demeans academic achievement, and the glamorization of all things gangster that makes school seem so uncool. What can compare with the allure of a gun-wielding, model-dating hip hopper? Boys, who mature more slowly than girls, are also often less able to delay gratification or take a long-range view.

Schools have inadvertently played a big role, too, losing sight of boys -- taking for granted that they were doing well, even though data began to show the opposite. Some educators believed it was a blip that would change or feared takebacks on girls' gains. Others were just in denial. Indeed, many administrators saw boys, rather than the way schools were treating them, as the problem.

Thirty years ago, educational experts launched what's known as the "Girl Project." The movement's noble objective was to help girls wipe out their weaknesses in math and science, build self-esteem, and give them the undisputed message: The opportunities are yours; take them. Schools focused on making the classroom more girl-friendly by including teaching styles that catered to them. Girls were also powerfully influenced by the women's movement, as well as by Title IX and the Gender & Equity Act, all of which created a legal environment in which discrimination against girls -- from classrooms to the sports field -- carried heavy penalties. Once the chains were off, girls soared.

Yet even as boys' educational development was flat-lining in the 1990s -- with boys dropping out in greater numbers and failing to bridge the gap in reading and writing -- the spotlight remained firmly fixed on girls. Part of the reason was that the issue had become politically charged and girls had powerful advocates. The American Association of University Women, for example, published research cementing into pedagogy the idea that girls had deep problems with self-esteem in school as a result of teachers' patterns, which included calling on girls less and lavishing attention on boys. Newspapers and TV newsmagazines lapped up the news, decrying a new confidence crisis among American girls. Universities and research centers sponsored scores of teacher symposiums centered on girls. "All the focus was on girls, all the grant monies, all the university programs -- to get girls interested in science and math," says Steve Hanson, principal of Ottumwa High School in Iowa. "There wasn't a similar thing for reading and writing for boys."

Some boy champions go so far as to contend that schools have become boy-bashing laboratories. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, says the AAUW report, coupled with zero-tolerance sexual harassment laws, have hijacked schools by overly feminizing classrooms and attempting to engineer androgyny.

The "earliness" push, in which schools are pressured to show kids achieving the same standards by the same age or risk losing funding, is also far more damaging to boys, according to Lilian G. Katz, co-director of ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Even the nerves on boys' fingers develop later than girls', making it difficult to hold a pencil and push out perfect cursive. These developmental differences often unfairly sideline boys as slow or dumb, planting a distaste for school as early as the first grade.

Instead of catering to boys' learning styles, Pollock and others argue, many schools are force-fitting them into an unnatural mold. The reigning sit-still-and-listen paradigm isn't ideal for either sex. But it's one girls often tolerate better than boys. Girls have more intricate sensory capacities and biosocial aptitudes to decipher exactly what the teacher wants, whereas boys tend to be more anti-authoritarian, competitive, and risk-taking. They often don't bother with such details as writing their names in the exact place instructed by the teacher.

Experts say educators also haven't done nearly enough to keep up with the recent findings in brain research about developmental differences. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of teachers are not trained in this," says Michael Gurian, author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently. "They were taught 20 years ago that gender is just a social function."

In fact, brain research over the past decade has revealed how differently boys' and girls' brains can function. Early on, boys are usually superior spatial thinkers and possess the ability to see things in three dimensions. They are often drawn to play that involves intense movement and an element of make-believe violence. Instead of straitjacketing boys by attempting to restructure this behavior out of them, it would be better to teach them how to harness this energy effectively and healthily, Pollock says.

As it stands, the result is that too many boys are diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or its companion, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The U.S. -- mostly its boys -- now consumes 80% of the world's supply of methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin). That use has increased 500% over the past decade, leading some to call it the new K-12 management tool. There are school districts where 20% to 25% of the boys are on the drug, says Paul R. Wolpe, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the senior fellow at the school's Center for Bioethics: "Ritalin is a response to an artificial social context that we've created for children."

Instead of recommending medication -- something four states have recently banned school administrators from doing -- experts say educators should focus on helping boys feel less like misfits. Experts are designing new developmentally appropriate, child-initiated learning that concentrates on problem-solving, not just test-taking. This approach benefits both sexes but especially boys, given that they tend to learn best through action, not just talk. Activities are geared toward the child's interest level and temperament. Boys, for example, can learn math through counting pinecones, biology through mucking around in a pond. They can read Harry Potter instead of Little House on the Prairie, and write about aliens attacking a hospital rather than about how to care for people in the hospital. If they get antsy, they can leave a teacher's lecture and go to an activity center replete with computers and manipulable objects that support the lesson plan.

Paying attention to boys' emotional lives also delivers dividends. Over the course of her longitudinal research project in Washington (D.C.) schools, University of Northern Florida researcher Rebecca Marcon found that boys who attend kindergartens that focus on social and emotional skills -- as opposed to only academic learning -- perform better, across the board, by the time they reach junior high.

Indeed, brain research shows that boys are actually more empathic, expressive, and emotive at birth than girls. But Pollock says the boy code, which bathes them in a culture of stoicism and reticence, often socializes those aptitudes out of them by the second grade. "We now have executives paying $10,000 a week to learn emotional intelligence," says Pollock. "These are actually the skills boys are born with."

The gender gap also has roots in the expectation gap. In the 1970s, boys were far more likely to anticipate getting a college degree -- with girls firmly entrenched in the cheerleader role. Today, girls' expectations are ballooning, while boys' are plummeting. There's even a sense, including among the most privileged families, that today's boys are a sort of payback generation -- the one that has to compensate for the advantages given to males in the past. In fact, the new equality is often perceived as a loss by many boys who expected to be on top. "My friends in high school, they just didn't see the value of college, they just didn't care enough," says New York University sophomore Joe Clabby. Only half his friends from his high school group in New Jersey went on to college.

They will face a far different world than their dads did. Without college diplomas, it will be harder for them to find good-paying jobs. And more and more, the positions available to them will be in industries long thought of as female. The services sector, where women make up 60% of employees, has ballooned by 260% since the 1970s. During the same period, manufacturing, where men hold 70% of jobs, has shrunk by 14%.

These men will also be more likely to marry women who outearn them. Even in this jobless recovery, women's wages have continued to grow, with the pay gap the smallest on record, while men's earnings haven't managed to keep up with the low rate of inflation. Given that the recession hit male-centric industries such as technology and manufacturing the hardest, native-born men experienced more than twice as much job loss as native-born women between 2000 and 2002.

Some feminists who fought hard for girl equality in schools in the early 1980s and '90s say this: So what if girls have gotten 10, 20 years of attention -- does that make up for centuries of subjugation? Moreover, what's wrong with women gliding into first place, especially if they deserve it? "Just because girls aren't shooting 7-Eleven clerks doesn't mean they should be ignored," says Cornell's Garbarino. "Once you stop oppressing girls, it stands to reason they will thrive up to their potential."

Moreover, girls say much of their drive stems from parents and teachers pushing them to get a college degree because they have to be better to be equal -- to make the same money and get the same respect as a guy. "Girls are more willing to take the initiative...they're not afraid to do the work," says Tara Prout, the Georgetown-bound senior class president at Lawrence High. "A lot of boys in my school are looking for credit to get into college to look good, but they don't really want to do the grunt work."

A new world has opened up for girls, but unless a symmetrical effort is made to help boys find their footing, it may turn out that it's a lonely place to be. After all, it takes more than one gender to have a gender revolution.

By Michelle Conlin

La scuola delle femmine

Corriere della Salute, abril 2004

Gli adolescenti maschi hanno in percentuale meno successo negli studi rispetto alle coetanee. Tra i motivi, le caratteristiche del nostro sistema d'instruzione. Di Gustavo Pietropolli Charmet, docente di psicologia dinamica, psicoterapeuta dell'adolescenza.

La percentuale di maschi che anno ripetuto un anno scolastico è del 36%, quella delle femmine del 22%. La percentuale delle femmine che hanno avuto un percorso formativo accidentato è del 39%, quella dei maschi è del 51%.
Si tratta di un dato che merita di essere compreso nelle sue cause, al fine di garantire pari opportunità scolastiche ad ambedue le adolescenze, quella maschile e quella femminile.

Un elemento importante è la femminilizzazione del corpo docente. Nel '90 le insegnanti rappresentavano circa il 65%; nel '99 la percentuale è salita a più del 70%. E'possibile ipotizzare che gli adolescenti maschi, soprattutto all'età del biennio delle superiori, siano meno adatti delle coetanee a utilizzare uno stile femminile di apprendimento e modelli di valutazione che possono apparire troppo dipendenti dal parere soggettivo del docente e poco collegati alla competizione virile con i coetanei.

Anche la centralità della parola e del linguaggio orale nella trasmissione del sapere scolastico potrebbe favorire le femmine rispetto ai maschi, più orientati nell'adolescenza ad imparare attraverso azioni e operazioni concrete.
La scuola italiana, inoltre, a differenza di molti altri Paesi, è centrata sulla importanza del gruppo classe. Al suo interno gli studenti non si sentono più costretti a dissimulare i sentimenti, ma possono utilizzarlo come palcoscenico sul quale esprimere l'informalità del sé adolescenziale e le sue esigenze relazionali. Sono i maschi quelli esposti al rischio d'infrangere la disciplina a favore della comunicazione spiritosa e dello scherno irridente agli adulti.

La cultura adolescenziale attuale interpreta l'esperienza scolastica come occasione di scambio affettivo, come ambito in cui sottoscrivere vincoli di gruppo e anche questa esigenza è più avvertita dai maschi che dalle femmine, più orientate all'intimità riflessiva del piccolo gruppo di amiche.

Molti adolescenti maschi, inoltre, tollerano male la mortificazione narcisistica che la scuola legittimamente infligge. Le valutazioni negative di inizio anno demotivano profondamente ad identificarsi col ruolo di studente, istigando a privilegiare il ruolo affettivo di adolescente che trova a scuola occasioni propizie per immergersi nelle relazioni con i coetanei, condividendo gli apprendimenti sociali che nascono dal libero confronto fra diverse esperienze.

L'école doit-elle protéger les garçons?

Le Monde, 30-11-2006

Les garçons, espèce à protéger ! Ce titre du Monde de l'éducation de janvier - nouvelle formule - peut choquer dans ce monde qui prône l'égalité des sexes et son corollaire, la mixité de l'éducation. De quoi faut-il donc protéger ces adolescents si machistes ? D'eux-mêmes ? De la compétition avec les filles ? D'un environnement qui offre peu de chances de s'épanouir aux plus défavorisés ? Ou même d'une institution qui, après avoir instauré la mixité, s'est voilé les yeux sur ses conséquences parfois négatives ? Point ne sert d'ergoter, le problème est là. Pour la rédactrice en chef, Brigitte Perucca, " alors que les filles continuent de s'orienter massivement vers des filières sans avenir, qu'elles se dénient le droit à postuler à des carrières scientifiques malgré des résultats scolaires très encourageants, qu'elles sont victimes de violences sexistes graves, il y a sans doute quelque provocation à clamer qu'il faut sauver les garçons. C'est précisément parce que la construction des identités sexuelles semble emprunter, chez les adolescents, un chemin désespérant, parsemé de violences, que nous lançons ce mot d'ordre. Les garçons, ceux des milieux défavorisés, ceux dont l'expression favorite passe par le corps parce que leur parole est trop pauvre, ceux-là mêmes sont en péril et mettent en péril du même coup une cohabitation filles-garçons de toute façon difficile. (...) La mixité, qui nous semble aujourd'hui une évidence et que personne ne songe à remettre en question, pose des problèmes aux adultes ".


La mixité a-t-elle été pensée ou n'a-t-elle été qu'une façade ? Selon la circulaire de 1957, " la crise de croissance de l'enseignement secondaire nous projette dans une expérience (de la mixité) que nous ne conduisons pas au nom de principes (par ailleurs fort discutés) mais pour servir les familles au plus proche de leur domicile ". Ce qui expliquerait l'absence de sensibilisation des enseignants à la mixité, ou que ces mêmes enseignants, " s'ils sont motivés dans l'ensemble sur les questions d'égalité entre garçons et filles à l'école, ne se rendent pas toujours compte qu'ils véhiculent des stéréotypes " dans une société où la femme est trop souvent présentée comme une marchandise. La situation est d'autant plus grave que l'on s'éloigne des beaux quartiers, comme en témoignent les agressions - souvent sexuelles - contre des lycéennes. Les garçons réussissent moins bien au bac, " sont plus susceptibles que les représentantes du sexe féminin d'appartenir à la catégorie des élèves faibles " (rapport de l'OCDE). Pour le sociologue Hugues Lagrange, " les garçons les plus jeunes qui ont un mauvais cursus scolaire et ne reçoivent pas là de gratifications doivent chercher d'autres stratégies de déviation et de contrôle de leurs pulsions sexuelles. Or, précisément, ce sont eux qui sont le moins bien armés pour s'engager dans des relations symétriques, fondées sur une acceptation des filles comme égales ".

Les " doués " perdraient-ils leurs moyens face aux " travailleuses " ? Chercheraient-ils hors de l'école un autre univers où ils pourraient s'exprimer, en marge ou contre la société ? D'autant que, selon Macha Séry et Christian Bonrepaux, dans " Voyage au bout de l'ennui ", " découragement, inappétence, manque de motivation, passivité, chahut, transgression : l'ennui scolaire prend des formes multiples et conduit les jeunes à l'échec. Les lycéens ne se satisfont plus d'un enseignement classique qu'ils jugent rébarbatif ". " L'enseignant doit savoir se vendre. L'ennui naît de la répétition. Et ce ne sont pas les mauvais élèves qui s'ennuient, mais les plus imaginatifs.

Aux enseignants de trouver la manière de les intéresser. "Pour sauver la mixité, l'égalité des sexes, faut-il instaurer une discrimination positive à l'américaine afin d'aider les garçons à ne pas perdre pied à l'école ? " L'école républicaine en sortira renforcée ", estime Maryline Baumard.

Tasa de abandonos prematuros de los estudios en España

La tasa de abandonos prematuros de los estudios en España es de 34,8 para los hombres y de 22,2 para las mujeres. (Sistema Estatal de Indicadores de la Educación 2004)


Back to basics for successful boys

"The reason for this is clear: boys do have a different way of working from girls", The New Zealand Herald, Friday April 29, 2005

John Morris

The Minister of Education has recently set up a think tank to investigate the reasons why boys are not achieving as well as girls in the secondary school system.

It is not before time. In 2000 I wrote a piece for the Herald outlining the growing disparity in achievement between the genders.

In the interim the situation has become worse, largely because of the introduction of NCEA. The resultant increase in on-course assessment has been well proven to favour the way that girls work and further militate against boys achieving to their potential.

In Australia, Britain and the United States there has been voluminous work done on this issue and the minister has wisely suggested that a review of the available literature would be one of this think tank's tasks.

I am delighted that the ministry is also doing some research on this topic. In the past, intensive independent research has not been a strong point of the ministry or New Zealand Qualifications Authority. If it had been I am sure NCEA would have a vastly different look about it than it does today.

One key part of the research for the four principals chosen for the think tank (two of whom lead South Island boys' schools) should be to talk to other heads of boys' schools around the country, particularly those schools that have a proven record of academic success in external exams.

These people, more than most, know how boys work and what works with boys.
Boys' schools are uniquely placed in this regard because, unencumbered, they are able to operate best practice for boys.

They do not necessarily have to consider political correctness and pedagogical orthodoxies, because they can focus exclusively on what is best for boys alone.
There have long been arguments about whether boys do better in single-sex schools than in co-educational schools.

From my experience teaching for 31 years, 20 of those in boys' schools ranging from decile 3 to 10, I believe strongly that boys in boys' schools outperform boys in co-educational schools.

A glance at the 2003 University Bursary league tables will give an indication of this. While boys' schools account for fewer than 10 per cent of the country's schools in total, five of the top 20 performing schools in Bursary last year were single-sex boys' schools - 25 per cent.

This is not an aberration. The academic success of boys' schools can be traced back throughout the history of Bursary exams.

The reason for this is clear: boys do have a different way of working from girls. This requires an approach to teaching and learning that is different from today's accepted orthodoxy.

Boys' schools that recognise these differences are able to implement strategies and programmes that suit the way boys learn and therefore enhance boys' prospects of academic success.

There are undoubtedly many things that impact on the academic success of boys but experience would suggest there are 10 non-negotiable traits that need to be implemented to ensure they reach their academic potential.

They are, in no particular order:

* Structured teaching and clear organisation.
* Discipline and order with few distractions.
* Clear targets set and met.
* Competition.
* Work that is meaningful and challenging.
* Material is presented in a way that is as relevant as possible to boys' lives.
* Homework is focused and brief, marked and returned promptly.
* Activities are purposeful and lead to a result.
* There is a reliable ladder of progress, and explicit rewards are provided to channel boys' competitiveness.
* Teachers actually teach; direct instruction, rather than the child-centred voyages of discovery so much loved and espoused by the doctrinaire teachers' colleges, has been proved the most successful approach with boys.

It could be argued these traits are also significant in the academic success of girls, and I would not disagree. However, I believe boys temperamentally depend much more than girls on these principles of traditional education and without them struggle to reach their potential and compete.

In its research planning into boys' underachievement I suggest the think tank does not get too esoteric but rather concentrates on the basics, much like the successful teachers in successful boys' schools who continue to stress the basics and reap the rewards of academic success for their boys.

In boys' schools the 10 traits listed arguably constitute best practice and allow boys to develop their own thoughts and views and to become independent learners.

There are of course those who, brought up on the child-centred pedagogy, doubt that independent learners can develop from such an approach.

I firmly disagree. I am constantly excited to see boys grow, mature and become young men confident of their own views and thoughts.

I was delighted to see that when the Education Office reviewers last visited Auckland Grammar School they recognised this fact and noted that the positive school tone and high standards of teaching had produced confident, independent learners (ERO Report 2001).

For years boys' (and girls') schools have successfully helped students to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and worth, while accommodating differences in learning styles and creating a climate of disciplined achievement.

In large part this is because teachers in boys' schools are able to embrace the distinctive tempo, sequence and style of learning specific to boys.

Of course most boys in New Zealand attend co-educational schools and such specialisation is much more difficult. But if we genuinely care about the academic progress of boys generally, then some of the methods used in successful boys' schools must be looked at and perhaps tested in a co-ed environment.

* John Morris is headmaster of Auckland Grammar School.

Experiment in single-sex classes

Equity online (WEEA Equity Resource Center), Thu, 23 Apr 1998

The following article was written by an Australian family therapist and author of "Raising boys" which was last year's best-seller here in Australia. I thought it would be of interest in the present context.

The Cotswold experiment

Steve Biddulph relates a very positive story of how a British secondary school's novel approach to education has helped solve the problem of learning, behaviour, and boys. He asks why similar models can't be established in Australia and calls for a non-ideological approach to education that benefits both girls and boys.
The two great debates which have been racking the education world lately may just have been solved by a creative experiment in an English secondary school. The school separated girls and boys for one subject only - English - and found dramatic improvements in boys' results, and behaviour. And the girls did better, too! All over the world, two closely linked questions have been putting education in the headlines. The first is the perennial debate about single sex schools vs. co-education. The second is the alarming decline in boys' attainment and participation at school, which has been noted in almost all industrial countries.
Parents and educators everywhere note that boys both have trouble, and cause trouble, at school. How to help boys learn and behave better in schools has become the number one educational challenge worldwide. Parents of girls are solving the problem by flocking to enrol their daughters in girls' schools. But where can the boys run to?While few in education would decry the progress made with girls' attainment and opportunities in the last 20 years, the fact is it's not working for boys.

Boys' TER scores, literacy rates, and retention rates are falling. Teachers point out that boys are often unmotivated, lack confidence, see learning as unmasculine, and are depressed and demoralized about their future. Bart Simpson-like, the boys fill the remedial classes, and the detention lists.


To meet this challenge, The Cotswold School, a co-educational secondary school in Leicestershire, England, undertook an experiment of dazzling simplicity. The school assigned boys and girls in fourth year of secondary school to separate English classes. They then tinkered with the curriculum - the choice of texts, poetry, and discussion materials was tailored to boys' interests in the boys' classes, and girls interests in the girls' classes. In addition, class sizes were reduced to about 21 per class, and some intensive writing and reading support was instituted for the boys.

According to national statistics for the UK, only 9% of 14-year-old boys nationwide get grades in the range of A to C for English. English is not a subject which boys either like or do well in. The result of the Cotswold experiment was dramatic and convincing. After two years in the new gender- segregated classes, 34% of boys scored in the A-C range in their final GSCE exams. The school had increased the number of boys in the high scoring range by almost 400 per cent.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the girls did significantly better too. The school recorded scores in the A-C range for 75% of girls, compared with 46% the previous year.

The experiment was the brainchild of Marian Cox, head of the English department at the school, and is part of a wider study of student groupings for the study of English, which will end in 1998. Already, the gender separation effects have caused considerable excitement around the U.K. Cox told the London Times newspaper last month that the benefits went far beyond just English scores: "Behaviour, concentration, and reading levels all improved significantly. I believe if we can catch them even younger than 14, before they give up books for TV and computer, and the anti-heroic role models are entrenched - we would have even better chances of success." When I interviewed Marian Cox recently, she explained that boys at the school found they could relax and express themselves more without girls present, and girls reported the same. She felt that separation "just for English" was a good alternative to the extreme of single sex schools, or completely separate curricula for boys and girls as practiced in some English schools.

Cox noted that, "The most frequent observation from visitors to these classes was that the atmosphere was more calm and settled". Boys were responding to more support in reading - given time to read the books in the classroom, they were learning to enjoy reading, often for the first time. "Some of these boys had never read a complete book before, apart from an adventure game or instruction manual. But they found they enjoyed it." Several boys in the study were now planning to study English at higher levels.


In Australian education there is considerable turmoil over gender. Advocates of girls' education are divided. Many are pleased with the successes of efforts to raise girls' horizons, and while they see the need for more of this, they are concerned about boys' needs too.Those who work in schools tend to hold this view more strongly - the difficulty of boys is just so evident. Teachers point out that unless boys are helped, they will continue to be a problem to girls, too - disrupting classes, monopolizing teacher time, bullying each other and girls in the playground, and so on.However a separate, more hard-core group, based in the ideological world of the universities and training colleges, feel that boys must never be given special help, that girls' disadvantages are so entrenched that they must receive all the resource cake for the foreseeable future. This group is horrified by even the idea of boys' special programs, and in NSW at least, have been effective in preventing them from taking place.

Dr. Victoria Foster, the author of the NSW gender strategy, and NSW Labor MP Meredith Burgman, have both argued that school MUST favour girls to make up for the inequalities that girls face in the outside world. In effect, they are saying we should handicap boys in school, to make up for the sexism "out there". These policies and attitudes do impinge on boys and schools - many parents, and boys themselves, have told me they feel this acutely. Parents are beginning to protest, to the point where Warren Johnson, Executive Officer of the NSW Parents and Friends Association, has proposed a special conference to bring boys' education experts together to try and counter the unfairness of the State's gender equity policy as it stands.

The problem with much of this debate is that it is needless. What the Cotswold experiment shows is that everyone can benefit if we tailor programs to each "special needs" group in schools. Boys, girls, low income groups, migrant and ethnic groups, and so on, all present different challenges. We don't need to create "bad guys" and we don't need to treat children as the soft targets for ideological "gender wars".

The Cotswold experiment does three important things. First, it acknowledges that boys generally have a slower development of language skills.
Second, it takes account of the dynamic by which boys, feeling verbally outclassed by the girls in expressive subjects, often become hoonish and macho as a defence mechanism, spoiling the class for themselves and for the girls. Third, by specifically targeting English, it tackles the key life skills of self-expression, self-awareness and communication - the very things men traditionally lack. These are the skills that make boys into better fathers, partners, and workmates - which most girls and women long for.

In Australia, with suicide now accounting for one in 34 male deaths, any program reducing boys' isolation would be a godsend. (In fact, there's a good case to be put for English classes qualifying for funding from the mental health budget.) Segregated classes and curricula are not risk free. There is always a danger of reintroducing stereotypes - MacBeth for the boys, Romeo and Juliet for the girls. Peter Vogel, editor of Certified Male magazine, pointed out recently his own experiences in a boys' school, where "every boy was supposed to be macho, like sport, war, and competition. If you didn't, then you didn't feel good". As usual, this comes down to the skill and maturity of the teacher - being able to encourage a wide range of ways of being a boy, or a girl.


The Cotswold results are encouraging - when separated, the girls and boys seemed able to relax and drop the old roles. This gives teachers a chance to draw out more of the real child, without the role playing that passes for lots of school behaviour. Once experiencing this richness of being, boys are less likely to return to being the gruff, cool automatons that so exasperates their parents by the early teens! Boys in these programs actually became more expressive, creative, linguistically skilled - in short more human, and more equipped for life. Girls continued as they have through the last decade, to become more assertive, analytical, and exuberant. In short, everybody wins.

Peter Vogel


Estudiar es para los débiles

Traducción de Artículo “HP- De Tijd”, 3 de febrero 2006. Holanda

Fleur Jurgens

Hace unos días quemaron la bicicleta de mi hija menor en el patio de recreo de su colegio “blanco de enseñanza media” (N del T: escuela a la que asisten niños de raza blanca). “Papá, me lo hicieron unos chicos malos”, me dijo mi hija de cinco años. “¿Por qué crees que te lo hicieron chicos y no chicas?” preguntó el políticamente correcto sociólogo y periodista en asuntos científicos Koos Neuvel (1958). Su hija se encogió de hombros. “Las chicas no hacen esas cosas. Son más simpáticas que los chicos”.

Y naturalmente tenía razón, su padre no dudó en ningún momento de ello. No porque se hubiera descubierto quiénes fueron los autores, sino porque Neuvel conoce suficientemente bien las estadísticas sobre violencia pública y agresiones como para tener una seguridad del 99% de que lo hicieron chicos.

En las estadísticas se comprueba el peligro de que los fracasados de la sociedad sean los chicos, si no se toman medidas. Corren el peligro de abandonar la escuela sin conseguir un diploma, convertirse en parados y acabar en el circuito criminal. Las chicas, por el contrario, obtienen desde hace años mejores, y más rápidamente, buenos resultados en la enseñanza. Incluso desde 1997 están sobre-representadas en la enseñanza superior, según dice el Emancipatiemonitor 2004, publicado por la Oficina de la Planificación Cultural (SCP).

Neuvel decidió estudiar a fondo a qué se debe ese llamado “problema de los chicos”. Después de dos años y muchas noches de trabajo apareció su libro: Por qué los chicos no son chicas; lo que hay que saber cuando se educa a chicos. La conclusión del libro es poco esperanzadora para padres honrados, porque parece que podrán hacer muy poco por sus hijos si éstos han empezado ya a seguir el mal camino.

“Los chicos son típicos animales de grupo, que luchan en el grupo para adquirir un status”, dice Neuvel “Y en algunos de esos grupos está todo permitido, incluso el delito”. El que en casa es tenido por joya, en la calle con sus amigos puede convertirse en un monstruo. “Y eso no se lo puede impedir ningún padre, aunque haya seguido un curso de formación de educación (N. del T.: está ahora de moda en la prensa hablar de formar a los padres sobre cómo deben educar a sus hijos para evitar la violencia). El influjo de los padres cae en el vacío frente al de sus compañeros de edad”.

Neuvel creció en los años setenta, cuando estaba en boga el dogma feminista de que los padres pueden ´socializar´ a sus hijos. Los roles de los sexos se originarían porque los padres educaban a los chicos como chicos y a las chicas como chicas. Esa era la idea dominante. Así resultaba de bon ton en los años setenta y ochenta hacer jugar a las chicas con cochecitos y a los chicos con muñecas, con la esperanza de que los sexos llegaran a igualarse entre sí, y así poder las chicas recuperar su persistente retraso. Chicos y chicas no disfrutaban sólo de idéntico grado de dignidad sino que en adelante tendrían que ser también ‘iguales’.

Pero naturalmente esto no podía cambiar la naturaleza de los ‘animalitos’. Los cochecitos de las niñas fueron a parar debajo de las mantitas y las muñecas de los niños acabaron desarmadas y convertidas en vehículos peludos con un solo ojo. Neuvel, que tiene dos hijas, notó, como tantos padres, de que no había modo alguno de luchar contra las inclinaciones congénitas de las criaturas. “Los chicos y las chicas vienen al mundo con distintas inclinaciones de conducta”, da por supuesto Neuvel. “Y una consecuencia directa de eso es el actual atraso de los chicos”.

La idea de que los chicos provienen de ‘Marte’ y las chicas de ‘Venus’ no es algo nuevo. ¿No lo sabíamos ya por el best seller de John Gray y por todos esos libros populares sobre el abismo h/m que le siguieron, o por la vieja sabiduría sana de una tía anciana?

Pero sin embargo resulta difícil que los científicos despierten del sueño feminista de los últimos decenios y admitir que es una ilusión eso de que las diferencias de los sexos se debe a la educación recibida. A Neuvel le costó mucho encontrar entre las investigaciones recientes obras de partidarios de la así llamada idea de la naturaleza.

Buscó inspiración en el libro de la sicóloga americana Judith Rich Harris La equivocada educación, que pone el acento en la diferencia de los genes de chicos y chicas y su conducta de grupo totalmente diferente. El que “todavía haya una fuerte repugnancia por la biologización de las diferencias de los sexos”, explica que Neuvel se topase con esa falta de mención en la literatura. Los científicos durante años se han resistido a admitir esa determinación genética del hombre, que no sólo va asociada a ideas negativas como las teorías nazis, sino que echaba a rodar la agenda política de la segunda ola feminista. Neuvel: “Las feministas no querían que durante la educación a las mujeres se las obligase a seguir un determinado patrón de conducta. Pero si las diferencias sexuales entre chicos y chicas no son causadas por (la educación de) los padres, quiere decir que están determinadas por la naturaleza. Las predisposiciones son inmutables”.

Además quizás pueda la biología llegar a confirmar los roles tradicionales de hombres y mujeres: que la mujeres den a luz y deban quedarse en casa para cuidar de los niños porque están “mejor” predispuestas para hacerlo, mientras que los hombres con su “instinto cazador” deben salir fuera a trabajar. Esta teoría pasó de moda, pero Neuvel no ve inconveniente alguno para poner un fuerte acento en la determinación genética de la gente. “El que en los últimos decenios se haya demostrado que las mujeres sean capaces de trabajar bien, no quiere decir que se puedan eliminar todas las diferencias biológicas. El que las mujeres trabajen más puede ser quizá también por el hecho de que resultan ser muy útiles en nuestra sociedad de servicios”.

En la investigación científica disponible descubrió Neuvel todavía otro factor que en la formación de los sexos se subestima a menudo: la conducta de grupo. Eso explica por qué las diferencias entre chicos y chicas sean mayores que entre las mujeres y los hombres adultos.

La conducta entre los chicos resulta ser distinta de la de entre las chicas. Neuvel dice en su libro que entre los chicos la influencia del grupo es más fuerte que entre las chicas. Eso es consecuencia de que las chicas tienden a jugar entre ellas con lazos más íntimos y en grupos pequeños de dos o tres. Los chicos prefieren jugar en grupos más numerosos y jerarquizados, en los que el rango y el poder cuenta mucho. Ya con dos años de edad tratan de establecer ‘quién es el jefe’ entre ellos. Y para que haya una estabilidad jerárquica es importante tener una identidad fuerte. Neuvel: “Los chicos forman su identidad de grupo enfrentándose contra otros grupos de jóvenes, contra adultos, pero también contra chicas”.

Dentro de un grupo de chicos se mira fuertemente que todos estén de acuerdo, dice Neuvel. ‘Los juegos de niñas’ rebajan el rango en la jerarquía interna. Las chicas entre si pueden por naturaleza comportarse de modos más diferentes que los chicos entre si, porque sus grupos están basados en la igualdad y por eso son más estables. Por eso se pueden permitir más fácilmente actuar como chicos, por ejemplo jugando al fútbol con chicos, sin que se rían de ellas sus compañeras”.

La diferencia de funcionamiento entre los grupos de chicos y de chicas es, según Neuvel, crucial para entender de dónde viene el ‘problema de los chicos’. Los chicos son marcadamente buscadores de emociones arriesgadas. Cuando faltan tensiones que puedan hacer aumentar su rango dentro del grupo, se aburren y eso puede llevarlos a la criminalidad. Según muchos pedagogos el aumento de la criminalidad entre los jóvenes se debe a la ‘superexcitación’ y al estrés, pero Neuvel lo atribuye más al aburrimiento como causa principal. “No tienen nada que hacer. En el colegio no ven ningún aliciente. Merodean por las calles en busca de tensión y emoción por medio de la agresión, del robo y del encolerizar a los vecinos. Si insultan a alguien de ser ‘judío’ u ‘homo’, tienen garantizada la trifulca, lo cual les sirve para mantener su rango en el grupo”.

El mayor culpable no es, para Neuvel, la educación, sino la enseñanza teórica, que cada vez conecta menos con las necesidades de los jóvenes, especialmente entre los de clase social baja. Neuvel comenta excitado: “Es una vergüenza que en la sociedad holandesa abandonen el colegio prematuramente tantos chicos. Esto tendría que evitarse totalmente”.

Pero las cifras no mienten. Aproximadamente un tercio de los chicos y algo más de un quinto de las chicas se va del colegio sin un diploma de havo o de vwo (N.T.: dos grados de bachillerato) o de una formación básica profesional como el mbo, dice el SCP. De los alumnos alóctonos abandonan la escuela nada menos que la mitad sin una “calificación básica”. El porcentaje de marroquíes que abandona la escuela prematuramente es incluso del 55%.

Sobre todo los jóvenes con baja inteligencia no pueden encontrar su puesto en la enseñanza profesional. “A muchos de esos jóvenes les gusta trabajar con sus manos. Pero la posibilidad de hacer cosas prácticas en la enseñanza profesional baja, ha disminuido fuertemente en la última década”.

Por la concepción socialdemocrática de la ‘educación del pueblo’ y de la ‘elevación de la clase obrera’ se llenó el vmbo (una combinación de las antiguas escuelas profesionales de artesanía con el bachillerato más bajo) de “asignaturas de formación general”, a fin de que así pudiera la clase social baja ponerse en contacto con la cultura superior,

Este ideal igualitario ha tenido, como se comprueba ahora, un resultado funesto. El énfasis sobre las disciplinas teoréticas tuvo como consecuencia que precisamente los chicos de medios pobres con escasas posibilidades abandonaran en masa las escuelas.

Junto a eso por la teorización de la enseñanza y por la studiehuis (N.T.: un nuevo método que pretende que los chicos se organicen a sí mismos y solo utilicen al maestro como consultor) –que según Neuvel pide a los chicos que hagan cosas de chicas, como hacer tareas libres y trabajos personales– se asocian estos métodos a ‘conducta de chicas’: sacar buenos resultados en el colegio se ha convertido en algo exclusivo para chicas ‘buenecitas’.

La presión del grupo entre los chicos ha reforzado esta ‘imagen femenina’ del colegio. Visto que los chicos ante todo no quieren ser chicas, según Neuvel, en la escuela secundaria se ha convertido, como signo de ser hombre de una pieza, el estudiar lo menos posible para lo exámenes. “Siendo perezoso y tomando el pelo a los maestros un chico puede convertirse en héroe ante sus compañeros”.

¿Pero no ha sido siempre una inclinación de los chicos el resistirse al colegio? Ciertamente, dice Neuvel, pero el asco al colegio se ha hecho más fuerte desde que las niñas comenzaron a tener más éxito en el colegio. “Los chicos consideran ahora el estudiar a fondo y obtener notas altas algo para típos ‘flojos’”

Ha llegado la hora de reintroducir cuanto antes los colegios para chicos, piensa Neuvel. Un colegio de niños podría devolver a los chicos la estima ante los otros porque estudian bien. Una escuela tal conseguiría mantener en ella sobre todo a los chicos provenientes de clases sociales bajas y tendría, por lo tanto un influjo favorable en las prestaciones que se den el estudio y en la conducta. Y eso se notaría enseguida en las cifras de criminalidad, espera Neuvel.

En una escuela diferenciada se puede al menos ofrecer a los chicos una enseñanza que se acomode a ellos. Neuvel nos enumera algunas ideas acomodadas a los chicos: “dejar que los chicos se muevan más en las horas de clase, porque los chicos tienen un temperamento nervioso y no se pueden pasar largos ratos sentados quietos. Se les puede enseñar a hacer experimentos, por ejemplo, llevándoles a parques para que investiguen en la naturaleza, porque los chicos tienen una fuerte predisposición a hacer experimentos. Se les encargar problemas que tengan una solución concreta. Encargos libres como escribir una redacción no son apropiados para los chicos porque a ellos les gusta saber en que puesto están calificados. Haz que lleven un ‘uniforme del colegio’: esto aumenta sus lazos de unión con el colegio y atempera la insurrección natural de los jóvenes. Y el profesor se debe hacer llamar ‘Don’ , porque a los chicos no les gustan los tratos informales, como a las mujeres. Prefieren tener el rango de adultos y que así se les trate”.

En un colegio de este tipo dejarán en el tiempo más corto posible de hacerse el ‘macho’, vaticina Neuvel en base a unos estudios realizados en Australia, Inglaterra y América. “En cuanto que no tengan que rivalizar con chicas mostrarán una mayor variedad en su conducta que cuando tienen que actuar en colegios mixtos. Cada vez se comportarán con menos estereotipos”. Así resulta que los chicos en sus propios colegios mejorarán mucho en aquellas asignaturas tradicionalmente de las mujeres como lengua, literatura, arte e historia. “Sin el influjo de las chicas todas las asignaturas se convertirán en asignaturas de chicos”.

Neuvel refuta la idea reinante de que los chicos quieren emular a las chicas o que las chicas buenas influyen para corregir a los chicos violentos. Las investigaciones demuestran que las colegios “mixtos” refuerzan precisamente los roles de cada uno por la predisposición que tienen los chicos de querer conformarse con su grupo propio.

Un mecanismo análogo se ve en los colegios multiculturales, escribe Neuvel en su libro. Según los planes de integración, los niños alóctonos de ambientes sociales bajos querrían emular a los “chicos nativos del país que tienen grandes capacidades”. Pero después de varios estudios sobre las escuelas multiculturales resulta que justamente un tal sistema de enseñanza uniforme actúa de un modo precisamente negativo, porque favorece precisamente que se note el influjo del grupo de las distintas etnias.

Los alumnos alóctonos (especialmente los chicos) consiguen mejores resultados en una escuela ‘negra’ (N.T.: se llaman así las escuelas exclusivas para alumnos ‘negros’: surinameses, antillanos, marroquíes, etc) que en una multicultural. Se debe en parte al hecho de que las escuelas ‘negras’ están especializadas en el trabajo con niños que tienen dificultades con el idioma. Pero otra razón, según Neuvel, es que los alumnos alóctonos de una escuela multicultural tienen la tendencia a apartarse de los otros y de –en parte por frustración por su menor dominio de la lengua– agruparse en su propio grupo. Los alumnos nativos del país, que llevan la ventaja de ya haber cursado dos años de estudio de la lengua y de cálculo, los ven los emigrantes como ‘empollones’. Por esa imagen ‘blanca’ la barrera del idioma para los emigrantes aumenta en vez de disminuir.

El problema es que la idea de ‘ir juntos a la escuela’ resulta tan simpática que nadie piensa ponerla seriamente en discusión. “Nadie se pregunta si los alumnos alóctonos verdaderamente sacan ventajas en las escuelas multiculturales”, dice Neuvel. En la escuela ‘blanca’ de su hija se organizó una ‘tarde de discusión para padres’ con el tema: ‘cómo lograr hacer nuestra escuela más multicultural’. “Se trataba naturalmente de mezclar ‘blanco’ y ‘negro’. A ningún padre se le ocurrió hablar de la necesidad de mezclarse con la escuela vecina en la que sólo hay niños de white trash (chusma blanca) como se suele llamar con tono denigrante a la clase baja blanca”.

Después de todas las reformas de enseñanza se ha convertido en un gran tabú distinguir a los alumnos por su sexo, su fe, su color o su clase. Incluso durante bastante tiempo se tenían que negar las diferencias de inteligencia. Como consecuencia de la ‘igualdad de oportunidades’ había que obligar a cada uno a ser igual. Ese ideal de igualdad, que se ha demostrado ser una ilusión total, condujo a una nivelación enorme en la enseñanza, a frustración, fallo escolar y a pérdida de talentos. Y sobre todo son los chicos los que han tenido que pagar el pato.

Koos Neuvel cree que el tiempo ya está maduro para dar un nuevo impulso a la idea de ‘enseñanza a la medida’. “Los chicos son los que más salen ganando si pueden obtener una buena formación, y preferiblemente la más alta posible. Esto hay que estimularlo”.

Además Neuvel aboga por una ‘rehabilitación’ de las escuelas negras. En la práctica demuestran que son las más eficaces para sacar adelante a los niños alóctonos de las clases bajas. A Neuvel no le asusta alabar a las escuelas islamitas, porque son las que hasta ahora han obtenido los mejores resultados entre los jóvenes alóctonos. “A esos colegios van los padres y los chicos motivados. Y eso parece que funciona. Los musulmanes quieren también escuelas para nuestro-tipo-de-gente.”

También estos colegios para chicos parecen que conectan con la vieja y antigua idea holandesa de la ‘emancipación dentro del grupo propio’. “Si se procura llevar al límite la especialización para determinados tipos de alumnos, se ofrece así a esos alumnos muchas mejores posibilidades. Una segregación a corto plazo lleva a una integración social a largo plazo”.

Dejad a los chicos ser chicos y serán ellos mismos los que cierren el abismo de diferencia con las chicas.

Can boys do better?

Mark Hewlett considers the problem of boys being outperformed academically and what can be done to address the issue.

As someone said, `Are boys underachieving or have we just got to face the awful truth that they`re not as bright as girls?` Some might cling to the notion that boys are bright enough to realise that school is a bit of a waste of time and that they`ll win through when the real game (of life and work) starts in earnest. But that notion is wearing thinner by the year. Leaving examination scores aside, are differences real or are we jumping to superficial stereotypical conclusions?

Substantial research undertaken amongst senior staff in schools throughout Wales set out to find out how teachers perceived differences between boys and girls. Their views, and there seems to be no reason to think that Welsh teachers` perceptions are any different from English teachers` were that:

Girls mature earlierapproach their work more seriouslyco-operate more readilyare more ready to pleaseare more dutifulquestion lesshave greater appreciation of others` needs and situationIn contrast boysare expected to be less sensitive than girls and behave accordingly; are suspicious of finer feelings, and of complexity of language; are disadvantaged by emphasis upon course work;
are less reliable, less methodical and less consistent than girls; are more affected by bullying than girls; causing lack of confidence and low self-esteem and leading to underachievement; are more questioning than girls, more sceptical, less inclined to be co-operative; are more susceptible to peer group pressures than are girls; and do not wish to appear to be co-operative and studious; read less than girls; are more active physically; go out more.

The research revealed the opinion that boys were significantly disadvantaged by the preponderance of written work and failure to credit oral work in which they were perceived to be better.Boys became demotivated by the cumulative effects of criticism, `being shouted at`, and failure to succeed and that this had a downward spiralling effect. Boys (perhaps as a result of this) held school in low esteem, felt they had better things to do than homework, rejected subjects they were compelled to take and were inclined to reject school and its values which, in some cases, turned into disaffection. Of the 102 schools surveyed seventy-six expressed concern about boys; only six said they thought boys were doing as well as if not better than girls.

Facing the factsUK research data (from educational social service and health services sources) reveal that:

- in terms of examination performance girls are outperforming boys now at every level in virtually every subject;
- males exhibit inferior innate language skills;
- male inferior achievement has been recorded since the 1940s when quotas had to be introduced relating to the eleven plus to stop grammar schools filling up with girls;
- boys are more antisocial, violent and given to criminal activity; over seventy
-five percent of offences by eleven to seventeen year olds are committed by boys;
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) is four times as common among boys as girls;
- compared with girls boys are five times more likely to commit suicide, four times more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, nine times more likely to be sleeping rough, and will die earlier.

The facts make the picture look even bleaker, and as we become increasingly aware of the change and shifts in the nature of employment there is real concern because the long tail of male underachievement has been masked by availability of unskilled manual labour now arguably disappearing. what does research into the causes of male/female differences tell us? Is there hope and prospect of improvement here? There are two main sets of research fields which can illuminate the question: Physiological and Sociological/Psychological.

Physiological factorshigher testosterone levels in males cause:greater levels of physical aggression, lower sustained concentration levels, a greater need for males to assert themselves and be dominant (and suffer greater frustration if they don`t succeed)males have lower levels of development in those areas of the brain which deal with linguistic intelligences which are closely related to the ability to reflect and engage in higher order intellectual analysis (on a personal level I have some doubt here).males have greater spatial awareness.`Right brain/left brain: he`s better at reversing a car; she`s better at telling someone how to do it`, Hannan, Gmales are more impulsive, speculative and experimental (can be a plus, can be a liability)male foetuses have fewer links between the two halves of the cortex (right and left brain) so in the crucial area of language - possibly other areas - girls are better able to use the power of the whole brain. `Girl talk: it`s all in the genes`, Guardian.

Cultural and societal factors (interacting with physiological factors) School subjects generally favour those with linguistic skills (girls)
- hence the charge of examination courses being girl-friendly.Schools as institutions are better suited to female personality traits
- organisations work better with people who are reflective, tolerant, passive, accepting of frustration, unlikely to challenge aggressively and irrationally.Boys define themselves by what they can do rather than what they understand and doing is increasingly less important than understanding in modern and future society.) `School is not cool`: the laddish culture (aggression; challenge; impulsiveness) is antipathetic to (passive, conformist) school culture.Gender stereotyping in infancy/childhood has an insidiously negative effect; boys motivated to be tough/strong/dominant/ adventurous find themselves in an environment where such qualities are unwanted.

What can we take out of all this which is positive?

1. Boys` underperformance in examinations and assessments in the formal routine of an alien environment using a language which does not come naturally to them places them inevitably at a disadvantage1.
2. It is evident that in certain subjects - maths, science and those requiring spatial awareness, manual dexterity and physical power - boys equal or outperform girls.
3. Boys are seen to be more questioning and inquisitive.
4. In the circumstances of the real world (outside the environment of school) boys perform well. Indeed their inherited innate testeronal drive to succeed, persevere and take risks against the odds are just the characteristics needed for success and survival in the new unknown and challenging circumstances of a changing world. And let us not forget that males have contributed significantly to the creative, cultural environment of the arts: music, dance and the visual arts. Perhaps the problem is of our own making.

Perhaps we should - and not before time - rethink the whole process of learning in terms of what is really needed in society; then perhaps, as a result of their common sense, and determination to succeed boys will come into their own. (Who needs French? Who needs geography, history, literature, quadratic and simultaneous equations? What`s the point - is it that girls are too uncritical, too biddable to question the status quo?) Can we change schools? Can we take education out of school?

Improving boys` performance in schoolsLet us assume that some benefit might be derived from boys performing better in school, in the narrow sense of getting good examination and test results.The following checklist will, I hope, be helpful, though I know that most of you will have addressed the issues already. If you choose to pursue the challenge, it may be worth you asterisking your top ten actions and set out to refocus on them from the start of next term.


1. Identify any things that boys are doing as well as or better than girls, especially in your school.
2. Give every boy a mentor and/or study buddy.


3. Set clear behavioural limits operated consistently throughout the school.
4. Use boys as helpers and ambassadors: give them adult roles.
Classroom Management and Teaching Style
5. Make sure lessons are very carefully structured.
6. Set short term targets so it is clear exactly what has to be done to succeed.
7. Set open/research questions/essays but provide a semi-structured work frame and high minimum requirements.
8. Give plenty of positive feedback, advice and encouragement; mark work carefully and give specific comments about how to improve (of practical value and constitutes a private, one-to-one conversation). Formative assessment is the key.
9. Promote self-esteem; encourage boys: they need more encouragement.
10. Use work sheets that are clear, `sharp`, stimulating, intriguing, and witty/amusing.
11. Make the curriculum more challenging and realistic, less stodgy, encourage speculation and risk.
12. Make lessons as varied and active as possible: movement/ drama/role play/speaking/field work/experiment.
13. Adopt a wide variety of teaching/learning styles, especially those which are kinaesthetic, spatial, conceptual.
14. Provide individual work using ICT.
15. Make sure the library is stocked with boy-friendly reading material.
16. Select male-oriented context and illustration; reading does not just mean fiction; it includes instruction manuals, magazines, football programmes.
17. Use games, eg Scrabble, including the computerised version.

Classroom Organisation

18. Boy-girl pairing.
19. Single sex classes, especially top sets; in Year 9 upwards ensuring equal numbers of boys and girls in top sets.

Role Modelling

20. Invite a continuing rota of male authors, male artists in residence, male dancers, local sportspeople - to assemblies and classes.

Working with Home and Community

21. Work actively with clubs and community.
22. Above all work with home, especially dads.

For further advice contact:Mark Hewlett, CSCS, University of Leicester, Moulton College, Moulton, Northampton, NN3 7RR; tel: 01604 492337; fax: 01604 492524; e-mail: cscs@rmplc.co.uk

Le désengagement et l'échec scolaires d'un trop grand nombre de garçons

Vie Pedagogique, 127, avril-mai 2003


Les filles réussissent mieux que les garçons

Ministère Education Nationale

Dès l'école primaire, les filles obtiennent de meilleurs résultats scolaires que les garçons et elles redoublent moins. Elles ont de meilleures évaluations en C.E.2 en français mais, dès ce très jeune âge, elles ont de moins bonnes évaluations en mathématiques. En 2005, 82,3 % des filles ont obtenu le brevet et seulement 75,6 % des garçons. Elles sont 8,8 % de plus que les garçons à être orientées en seconde générale et technologique. Elles réussissent le baccalauréat à près de 82% contre 77,7 % de garçons. 68,4 % d'une génération de filles sont aujourd'hui titulaires de ce diplôme, soit 11,5 % de plus que les garçons de la même génération

....mais elles n'ont pas les mêmes parcours scolaires.

Quelles que soient leur appartenance sociale ou leur réussite scolaire, les filles optent moins que les garçons pour une 1ère scientifique. Elles s'engagent très rarement dans les sections industrielles. Moins soucieuses que les garçons des débouchés professionnels, elles hésitent encore à s'engager dans les filières sélectives : un quart de filles seulement en classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles scientifiques. Malgré leurs bonnes performances scolaires, les filles ne diversifient pas assez leur choix d'orientation : dans l'enseignement professionnel, 8 filles sur 10 se regroupent dans les 4 spécialités de services (secrétariat, comptabilité, commerce, sanitaire et social) quand les garçons font des choix beaucoup plus variés. Ce constat met en évidence la persistance des préjugés et des stéréotypes dans la société et sans doute aussi dans l'école. L'insertion professionnelle des filles pâtit ensuite de l'étroitesse de ces choix de départ.

Filles et garçons intériorisent encore les stéréotypes

Malgré quelques signes d'évolution favorable, filles et garçons continuent à se conformer d'abord dans leur orientation, puis dans leur choix de métier, à ce qui est reconnu comme leur domaine respectif de compétence dans les schémas socio-professionnels : 80 % de filles en filière littéraire, 95 % dans la série médico-sociale que les garçons délaissent. Dans le domaine de la production, les filières sont quasi exclusivement masculines. A niveau égal dans les disciplines scientifiques, les filles ne s'engagent pas autant que les garçons dans cette voie porteuse d'emplois : 48 % des filles dont les résultats aux évaluations de 6ème en mathématiques les plaçaient dans le quartile supérieur vont en série S, alors que le taux pour les garçons est de 68 %. 64 % des filles qui jugeaient avoir un très bon niveau en mathématiques en fin de collège sont allées en terminales S, contre 78 % de garçons du même profil.

Taux de scolarisation des filles et des garçons à différents âges


El 30% de los alumnos españoles no finaliza la Secundaria Obligatoria

Comunidad Escolar, Año XXIV, número 794, 27 de septiembre de 2006

Mientras el 30% de los alumnos españoles no obtiene la titulación en Secundaria Obligatoria, las mujeres logran el doble de titulaciones que los hombres en Bachillerato y FP de grado medio. Según el último informe de la OCDE, las ratios de los centros españoles se sitúan por debajo de la media, mientras que el número de horas de clases en Primaria y Secundaria es mayor en España.

Madrid. R.C.

A pesar de reconocer que el índice de fracaso escolar en nuestro país se sitúa muy por encima de la media europea, la ministra de Educación y Ciencia, Mercedes Cabrera, se ha mostrado convencida de que con la implantación de la Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE) se reducirán estas elevadas tasas. Según refleja el último informe de la OCDE, el 30% de los alumnos españoles no finaliza la Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), mientras que la media en los países de la OCDE es del 12%. No obstante, la titular de Educación advirtió que estos datos corresponden al año 2003, cuando gobernaba el Partido Popular. En su intervención en el Congreso de los Diputados, subrayó que la memoria económica que acompaña a la LOE prevé una inversión que asciende a 7.000 millones de euros, con lo que se demuestra que el Gobierno otorga prioridad a la reforma educativa. Asimismo, recordó que la LOE da especial relevancia a la detección de dificultades de aprendizaje desde la Educación Infantil y Primaria, además de la atención a la diversidad en Secundaria y el desarrollo de programas de cualificación profesional.

Logros educativos

Este informe de la OCDE se ha estructurado en torno a cuatro capítulos. Del primero de ellos, dedicado a los logros educativos de la población adulta, se desprende que el porcentaje de españoles que ha alcanzado una titulación de educación secundaria superior, correspondiente a Bachillerato, FP de grado medio y otros estudios secundarios ha mejorado con respecto al año anterior, pero sigue siendo inferior al de la OCDE. Del segmento de población entre 25 y 64 años, la tasa de los que lograron una titulación de educación secundaria superior es de 45%, frente al 67% de la OCDE o de la UE. Aunque se ha mejorado en dos puntos con respecto al año anterior, la distancia con respecto a la OCDE es todavía elevada.

Según precisó Alejandro Tiana en la presentación del documento, la tasa de la generación española de 55 a 64 años estaba a 32 puntos de la de la OCDE (21% frente a 53%) y la distancia de la población de 25 a 34 años desciende a 16 puntos. En los treinta años que hay de diferencia entre ambas poblaciones nuestro sistema educativo ha reducido la distancia con la OCDE a la mitad y ha multiplicado por tres el porcentaje de españoles que ha alcanzado una titulación en educación secundaria superior. La proporción de estudiantes que actualmente completan las enseñanzas de Bachillerato o ciclos formativos de grado medio en relación con su grupo de edad se sitúa en España en el 66% frente al 81% de media de la OCDE.


Este documento constata que las jóvenes españolas de 25 a 35 años han permanecido un promedio de 12,5 años en el sistema educativo frente a 11,9 años los varones. Además, la proporción de mujeres entre 25 y 34 años con titulación de Bachillerato o FP de grado medio supera en 17 puntos a la de los varones, mientras que en la OCDE dicha diferencia es de sólo 9 puntos.

Por otra parte, los resultados españoles en educación superior se sitúan en posición destacada entre los países de la OCDE, del 38 frente al 31% respectivamente. Mientras que en educación superior España ha alcanzado porcentajes similares a la media de la OCDE, en secundaria superior Bachillerato y FP de grado medio estamos todavía lejos de esa media.

El secretario general de Educación declaró que la “universidad no es una fábrica de parados”, ya que este informe verifica que el paro entre los varones españoles que sólo tienen estudios primarios (8,7%) es casi el doble que el de los que tienen estudios medios o superiores (4,9% y 5,3% respectivamente). En cuanto a las mujeres, la proporción es similar 17,2% frente a 8,8%, no obstante las cifras de paro son casi el doble que las de ellos.

Sobre un índice 100 equivalente a los ingresos alcanzados por los titulados en educación secundaria superior, los varones licenciados españoles alcanzan un nivel de ingresos de 144, mientras que las personas que no terminaron esta etapa se queda en 84. Por su parte, las mujeres licenciadas logran un nivel de salarios de 156, cifra que duplica el de aquellas que no finalizaron la secundaria superior.


Aunque el gasto educativo ha aumentado de manera continuada en la última década, su crecimiento ha sido durante años inferior al del Producto Interior Bruto (PIB), con el resultado de que el porcentaje de gasto público en educación con respecto al PIB que en 1995 era del 4,6%, en 2003 era sólo del 4,3%, cifras significativamente menores que las correspondientes de la OCDE, 5,3% en 1995 y 5,5% en 2003.

Mientras que la proporción del gasto corriente en educación destinado al profesorado de Primaria y Secundaria, en relación con el gasto total en educación, es del 74,6%, frente al 63,6% de la OCDE. En educación terciaria, estas proporciones son respectivamente del 58,5% y 43%.
Los españoles han permanecido menos tiempo en la enseñanza formal que la media de la OCDE, pero las distancias se acortan si se considera la población más joven y desaparecen si se atiende a la esperanza de escolarización de los menores de 5 años. En los últimos veinte años, la permanencia en el sistema educativo ha mejorado en dos años en los hombres y en más de tres en las mujeres. En 2004, la esperanza de escolarización para los menores de 5 años era de 17,2 años y en la OCDE de 17,4.

Organización de centros

En casi todas las edades, el número total de horas de clase obligatorias en Primaria y Secundaria es mayor en España, que en la OCDE. Así como, el número medio de alumnos por clase en centros públicos de Primaria es de 19,3, situándose por debajo de la media de la OCDE que es de 21,5. En Secundaria es de 24 alumnos en España y de 23,8 la media de la OCDE. Por lo que se refiere a los centros privados, la media de alumnos por clase en Primaria es de 24,3, frente a 20,3 en la OCDE, mientras que en Secundaria es de 26,9 frente a 22,8 respectivamente.En Educación Infantil ha pasado de 14,8 en 2003 a 13,9 en 2004, pero en el OCDE ha aumentado de 14,4 al 14,8. La cifra española en Primaria es de 14,3 alumnos por profesor, frente a 16,9% de la OCDE y en Secundaria de 10,8 y de 13,3, respectivamente.

Por su parte, los profesores españoles de Primaria imparten 880 horas de clase al año, mientras que en la OCDE es de 805 de media. Así como, en Secundaria obligatoria las horas lectivas anuales son 581 y en la OCDE es de 704 y en la Secundaria postobligatoria, 564 y 663 respectivamente. No obstante, las horas totales de trabajo y el número de días trabajados al año es similar en España y en los países de la OCDE.

Si bien los salarios iniciales de los profesores españoles son en general un 25% superior a los de sus compañeros de la OCDE, en los primeros años de docencia, la proporción entre el salario máximo que se alcanza en Educación Secundaria y el inicial es de 1,43 en España frente al 1,7 de la OCDE. En nuestro país, un profesor necesita 39 años para alcanzar el salario máximo, mientras que la media de años de la OCDE es de 24. Por último, el poder adquisitivo del salario de los profesores españoles, medido en euros constantes, ha descendido entre 1996 y 2004.

Concern Over Gender Gaps Shifting to Boys

Edweek, March 15, 2006

By Debra Viadero

Kenneth E. Wallace, a suburban Chicago educator, first noticed that boys were lagging behind girls academically when he coached high school wrestling in Indiana in the 1980s.

His district put a “no pass, no play” rule in place. Girls’ participation in sports was barely affected, but Mr. Wallace found himself working in overdrive to tutor the boys on his team so they could still compete.

Years later, when Mr. Wallace became an assistant principal, the contrasts were even more vivid. Who accounted for most of the disciplinary referrals on his desk? The boys. Suspensions? Boys again. Mr. Wallace also saw that boys predominated in special education and among the ranks of dropouts.

“We have this misguided emphasis on trying to remake boys,” said Mr. Wallace, who is doing a doctoral dissertation on the topic. “Rather than change boys, we need to learn to respect and understand who they are.”

Mr. Wallace, now an assistant superintendent in Illinois’ Maine Township High School District 207, is not alone in his concern. After years of efforts aimed at boosting girls’ achievement in science and mathematics, researchers, writers, and educators are now expressing alarm about the plight of boys.

Even boys themselves have jumped into the debate. In December, Doug Anglin, a 17-year-old senior at Milton High School in Milton, Mass., filed a federal civil rights complaint contending that his school discriminates against boys by making it easier for girls to succeed.

In some ways, the gender patterns now generating worries are not new. On National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in reading, for instance, boys at every age tested—9, 13, and 17—have trailed behind girls since at least 1971. The congressionally mandated NAEP also tests nationally representative samples of students in mathematics. On those tests, boys have had a razor-thin lead over girls at all three age levels since 1992.

What’s more, the patterns appear to be universal. On a 2003 reading test given to 15-year-olds around the world, female students outscored males in all but one of the 41 countries tested.

What is newer, though, are trends at the college level in the United States. According to a report published this month by the National Center for Education Statistics, men went from being the majority to the minority of the nation’s undergraduate population between 1970 and 2001.

Over that time, men’s share of undergraduate enrollment shrank from 58 percent to 44 percent. By 2001, the report adds, women earned 60 percent of all associate’s degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees.

Experts say the trend is troubling because high-level skills are more important than ever. “There was a time when there were all kinds of end runs you could do around the educational system, like join the military or join a union and get a manufacturing job,” said Thomas Newkirk, the author of the 2002 book Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture. “Now, if boys fail at school, they’re not going to be competitive.”

Brain Variations Eyed

Judith S. Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska psychology professor who studies academic gender differences, says that advocates for boys have bandied about some misleading statistics lately. Nonetheless, she says, boys’ schooling problems are real.

“Something has changed, and I’m not quite clear what it is,” she said in an interview last week. “But this is an issue that has gone on since Tom Sawyer.”

Long-Term Trends

Average scale scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that girls have long scored higher than boys in reading at ages 9 and 17, although the gap has narrowed at age 9. While boys have consistently outscored girls in mathematics at age 17, girls have narrowed the gap. At age 9, the gender gap in math has been slim in recent decades, although boys now edge out girls.

Boys do seem to have a hard time in school—and their problems worsen as they move from elementary to middle to high school. At age 9, the NAEP data show, boys score an average of 5 points lower than girls in reading. The gap widens to 14 points at age 17.

Experts agree that boys get poorer grades than girls and number disproportionately among special education students, those diagnosed with attention deficit disorders, and disciplinary cases.

Theorists advance a range of possible causes for the statistical imbalances. Their suggestions include: differences between boys and girls in the hard-wiring of the brain; schooling practices that are not “boy friendly”; after-effects of the women’s movement; and the recent emphasis on testing. None of those explanations, though, is definitive.

The biological theory has gained currency because of technology developed in recent decades that allows scientists to peek into live human brains for the first time. With techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, researchers have learned that male and female brains look different, exhibit different patterns of operation, and develop at different rates.

A Scientific American article published last year, for instance, noted that women possess a greater density of neurons in parts of the temporal-lobe cortex associated with language processing and comprehension. Studies have also shown that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs complex thoughts and impulse control, reaches its maximum thickness in girls at age 11—18 months earlier than it does in boys.

Many researchers say neurological differences explain why girls are more verbal than boys, and why boys squirm and fidget in class, or fail to turn their homework in on time.

But Mr. Newkirk cautions against reading too much into the brain studies. “You have studies that show there’s more blood flow or electrical activity in this or that part of the brain,” he said. “To go from that to saying, ‘Therefore, we need to teach this way,’ is too big of a leap.”

A study soon to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Intelligence also highlights developmental differences in processing speed on certain moderately difficult types of tasks on intelligence tests. Processing speed is key to reading and writing fluency and computational math.

Looking at test data on more than 8,000 students at all levels of schooling, Stephen M. Camarata and Richard Woodcock of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., discovered that boys have lower processing speeds than girls beginning in elementary school. The gap widens in middle and high school. In adulthood, male and female scores converge.

“It may be important that teachers know there are these differences in cognitive efficiency in males and females in terms of homework or timed tests,” said Mr. Camarata.

Another new report, released just last week, fingers classroom grading practices for boys’ poor academic performance. William A. Draves and Julie Coates, both of whom are researchers for Learning Resources Network, or LERN, a national nonprofit education group based in River Falls, Wis., surveyed 200 K-12 teachers last year. Eighty-four percent of the teachers said boys were more likely than girls to turn in homework late, or not at all.

Homework Pass?

The authors propose a provocative solution: Eliminate grading penalties for homework.

“Males, more than females, are oriented to new challenges,” Mr. Draves said. Boys will do 10 of the same kinds of math problems to their satisfaction and leave the remaining 10 problems undone. “By continuing to penalize boys, we decrease their educational expectations,” he added.

Other experts are skeptical of that view. “There’s no point in requiring something if there are no consequences,” said Kathy Stevens, who wrote, with Michael Gurian, the 2005 book The Minds of Boys.

Ms. Stevens is also the director of training at the Gurian Institute, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based organization that promotes “boy friendly” teaching techniques. She said those strategies include frequent “brain breaks” for students, making sure homework is meaningful, and sprinkling stress balls around the class that boys can squeeze to stay focused.

Ms. Stevens says the growing emphasis in schools on preparing students for high-stakes standardized tests has made it tougher for boys to succeed. “The worst thing you can do for little boys is make them sit down and be quiet,” she said. “We did that before, too, but we had more recess and physical education. Now, schools are cutting that out in the drive to boost test scores.”

Other educators are taking bolder steps to improve boys’ achievement. The staff at Woodlawn Avenue Elementary School, an 850-student school in DeLand, Fla., just north of Daytona Beach, began putting boys and girls in separate classrooms at the start of the 2004-05 school year.

“Boys are generally positive about the program,” said JoAnne Rodkey, the school’s longtime principal. “Before, they thought the classroom teachers favored girls.” The school also reports that students of both sexes in the single-gender classes are now outscoring their same-age counterparts in mixed classes on state tests.

Ms. Kleinfeld of the University of Alaska and other prominent experts have launched a national network, called the Boys’ Project, to try to figure out why so many boys disengage from school. Her own research, conducted through interviews with high school seniors, is leading her to conclude that teenage boys’ sliding educational aspirations may be an indirect result of the advances young women have made through the women’s movement.

“They [young men] no longer see themselves as the provider of the family, so who and what are they supposed to be?” Ms. Kleinfeld wrote in an e-mail. “Why not enjoy yourself and slide, earning a little money now and then when you need it?”