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The Learning Partnership: Engaging Boys For Success A Focus On Vulnerable Communities

This Canadian study conducted in 2014 in Toronto examines the gender gap in education between boys and girls and gives useful suggestions to address and reduce the gender gap issues in communities nationally and internationally with recommendations to schools, boards of education, communities and government.

The Learning Partnership

 

Introduction

Research shows that boys tend to achieve a poorer academic performance in reading and writing than girls at school nationally and internationally. Boys are also less likely than girls to finish high school (Year 12) education, or go on to university. (ABS 2006)

Education is an important contributor to health and well-being. A good education can determine job opportunities and level of income, which in turn determines housing, transport and social participation among other positive benefits

Dr Peter West, author and social commentator, researcher on boys’ learning and casual academic in the Faculty of Education, University of Technology, Sydney, as well as the author of the recently launched website BOYS' Education states that teachers at schools must find ways to successfully engage boys in learning. The article How to Get Boys Learning lists a few key suggestions for teachers in the classrooms:

  • Abandon teacher talk as the main mode of instruction and introduce variation in the learning.
  • Allow boys to explore, experiment and argue.
  • Teach through real objects, excursions, artefacts, etc.
  • Active and practical learning is very important for all learners.
  • Praise often and give boys challenges, if it is too safe it gets boring, and bored boys lose interest.

Overview

The Engaging Boys For Success study was conducted during the school year 2012-13 in Toronto in the Thorncliffe Park community with the participation of 3 school boards in Canada, and is an extension of a pilot project that focused on Afghan boys' lower performance at school and higher drop-out rates in secondary school compared to Afghan girls.

Aims of This Project

This project aims to identify successful practices and making recommendations that reduce the gender achievement gaps especially among boys who face unique challenges like poverty, cultural issues, language and prior school experiences in their home countries, as well as engaging parents and the community more effectively.

In this study each of the three school boards had a core advisory group that included school, board and community representatives. Through a discovery exercise, surveys and focus groups they then used the information collected to develop a vision statement, an action plan and a set of guiding principles to inform the community and school's work.

Why Is There A Gender Gap Between Boys And Girls?

This study reveals that the largest differences in grades between boys and girls were language courses and the smallest for math and science, with an increase in the gap from elementary school to middle school and a decrease in the gap from secondary school to university. According to author Michael Gurian, author of the book "The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind In School And In Life" states that boys are more likely than girls to:

  • get the majority of grades D and F in most schools,
  • create discipline problems,
  • be diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities, and to be medicated.
  • to become the majority of the high school dropouts and to be less likely to go to college.

There are various theories about why there is a gender gap, and a few suggestions are that:

  • Girls tend to study; focusing on the learning, whereas boys emphasise the end result with less regard to the process of learning.
  • Our society forces children to use literacy skills earlier than in the past, and boys develop these skills later than girls.
  • Michael Gurian states that boys are disadvantaged because they learn by doing and by moving, and schools focus less on that.
  • Cultural and social norms may explain gender differences as parents may assume that boys are better at math and science, so parents encourage girls to work harder in those subjects.

Some of the key suggestions for improvement in the participating schools were:

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  • Increasing experiential hands-on learning in units and lessons, offering encouragement and incentives and showing an interest in the boys.
  • Increased daily physical activity, movement games and yoga.

Emotional, Social and Spiritual Support

  • Teaching social skills to students: how to speak, act, self-regulate and make good choices.
  • Provide boys with leadership opportunities within the school, and responsibilities in the classroom and the school to build self-esteem.
  • Engage fathers and father-figures in their boys education and provide opportunities for them to learn and be together.

Parent Engagement

  • Provide transportation and/or situate events close to families, for those with transportation or distance issues.
  • Making the agenda accessible to parents whose first language is not English.
  • Offer workshops for parents on the educational system, parenting skills, literacy, settlement needs etc.

Resources Available

 

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