Saturday, September 15, 2012

Boys! The Lost Gender??

Tackling the 'lost boys' in education system... The recent preliminary report contained in the National Education Blueprint stated that 'girls consistently outperform boys at every level; the gap in performance already evident at UPSR level and increases over a student's lifetime up to university level, where female comprise approximately 70% of the cohort." And this seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.... girls have overtaken boys. Boys are languishing...

It used to be that boys were deemed to better in logical subjects (Maths, Science) and girls were better in languages and mugging subjects. Boys were thought to be smarter... The tables are turned now. And I think we shouldn't be surprised.

School as we know it today are not meant for boys. Too much sitting down, too much memorising... there seems to be something in their genetic make-up that seems to clash with current systems. Emphasis of grades have caused education to swing completely to achieving A(s). And we're doing it the way we think should be... spending more time doing the exercises, doing so much that one can just go on auto and spew out answers.

And boys generally aren't good at that. Boys learn differently from girls, I've observed. They need to be engaged. Not that girls don't need to be but their gentler nature means that they are more likely to accept things unquestioningly, sometimes even foolishly I feel. And so in a system where the ability to learn by rote is prized more than anything, the boys become the lost gender. And I think it's going to get worse if we don't do something about it.

Bored boys retaliate... bored girls follow instructions. As a result the latter will still do better. When one retaliates and the result is often detrimental to the grade's well-being. And so the boys get left behind. The curve has gotten rather steep these days and catching up becomes a problem.

During my time, the boys somehow would always catch up by the time we got to Form 4. It was easier then. A little realisation, a dash of hard work... everyone more or less got back on the same footing. It's impossible these days. Everyone is just way too ahead. Tuition has ensured that! The way we drill our kids leave the boys not much chance of catching up... and it's downright boring too.

Imagine learning History, and all the kids do is just memorise bunch of facts about some event which has no meaning to them. Many would just rebel and chuck the subject away. But try giving this same group of boys Temple Run or Dota or any of the popular computer games, they come alive, show great dexterity in and concentration in trying to conquer the game, in besting their personal scores and the result is instant. Yet when you sit down with most of them and ask them which is more important, nearly all will give the right answer that studying to pass History is important. However, many will still chuck it away. That's what boys would do. It's an inbuilt mechanism. Personally, I think Science and Maths appeal to boys because they can see the results of their efforts quite immediately. Boys have no patience for endeavours which bring them rambling down a long winding path most of the time. They are after all the descendants of the hunter gatherer... one can't be chasing his hunt whole day! They need to see quick results if the family is not to go hungry. Hence, engaging them to love learning is important to overcome this problem later on... But some boys adapt to such rote learning too, though there are fewer of them.

Computer games engages. History does not. Mind you it's not that the latter can't engage. The inability to engage stems from the failure of the delivery system. But engage the boys in History, and you'll find that they'll do just as well too... when you give them meaning. That's why boys do well actually in the fields that are supposed to be traditionally women's domains too - hairdressing, cooking, and do just as well if not better. Boys are not dumber. The system is not balanced. Today's schools are more suited for girls.

By the MOE's own admission; in the same preliminary blueprint, "a 2011 research study found that only 50% of lessons are being delivered in an effective manner. This means that lessons did not sufficiently engage students, and followed a more passive, lecture format of content delivery. These lessons focussed on achieving surface-level content understanding, instead of higher-order thinking skills." And guess what, it's estimated 60% of current teachers will still be teaching in 2- years' time. It'll be difficult to change the system. The problem is no longer just a thorn in the flesh. It's gone into the bloodstream and by the looks of things, signs of septicaemia are beginning to show.

Too few men in the teaching profession. Too few role models for boys to see. Education these days is mostly women's domain. How can it appeal to the boys? There are far and few men for them to follow. Kids watch by observing. And what we've been providing are mainly females in the teaching profession. Education has become very unmanly; and made even more so when you have poor male role models. Lost boys.... there'll be more of them. Used to be just 60% a decade ago. It's now 70%. All of us should be worried about this imbalance.

1 comment:

SM Ting said...

my boy got interested in the world wars through computer games and he started to google to check it out.

he learns more through the internet than in class...he knows Greek mythology figures through such games too....

why don't we just play games in class? M sure our students will do better.


Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...