With exam results time upon us, a lot of newspaper inches has been given up to the news that girls have pulled ahead of boys in their GCSE results.
Everyone seems very interested to theorise about this phenomenon. Girls are more mature at 16, the coursework (even the new ‘controlled coursework’) caters to how girls learn, some more extreme theories explain that the education system is systematically biased towards boys because teachers are overwhelmingly female.
It’s true that girls do better at school. In my humble opinion, the reasons are simple. Girls are allowed to work hard, do their homework, pay attention, sit still and show interest in class. For a boy to do this would be ‘girly’, ‘gay’ or ‘geeky’. The culture of masculinity bans studiousness. We need to change this culture, not the exams.
In the TES an expert says that even the new coursework caters to girls better than boys and that boys prefer last minute revision. This implies that because girls are achieving higher we need to change the system – make all exams end of course cram sessions or set ‘boy friendly’ reading books for the English exams (like Kestrel for a knave or of Mice and Men perhaps…. Oh, right). The books on the syllabus are classics – important books that deserve to be read, the coursework requirement mimics an important element of work – projects with a deadline, editing, proofreading – these are skills that both boys and girls need.
We need to stop making excuses for boys, we don’t do them any favours. We need to expect them to do the work, to try their best. We need to change the dominant culture that says learning isn’t cool, academic achievement is for girls (and whatever is for girls is naturally inferior) and homework is irrelevant.