I’ve just read this? http://www.economist.com/news/international/21645759-boys-are-being-outclassed-girls-both-school-and-university-and-thegap Which makes interesting reading. It does raise the question for me though – is this really a problem? The generalisations they are making about the sexes (which the article admits are generalisations) are that on the whole girls are hard-working ambitious and studious whereas boys are lazy, aggressive and in awe of a cult of masculinity which states that being academic is effeminate (to put it mildly).
These are generalisations though. Many boys aren’t into a macho culture (or are so socially inept they are oblivious to the fact that there is one – author disclosure: that was the category I was in), many girls are pretty dreadful.
The implicit undercurrent in the article is that this is a problem in education that we need to fix. Boys are underachieving compared to girls, but that is when you take them as a whole. I’d be very interested in seeing a study in which the divisor isn’t boy/girl but asshole/non-asshole (explanation: I’d think someone who buys into macho [or macha] stereotypes is behaving pretty horrendously and so therefore fulfil this definition).
The gender gap could be actually just because a bigger percentage of boys are assholes than girls. If we try this new divisor we might see no gender gap at all. Just that the system is, quite reasonably, making it more difficult for people to get on because they’re complete knobheads, which they possibly deserve, and rewarding the good kids because that’s what they deserve.
Continuing this line of reasoning, therefore, we don’t look at different ways within the system to appeal to the knobheads out there, we actually try and make social changes to reduce the number of knobheads in the education system – combat the culture of masculinity that says being studious is effeminate (or even that actually effeminacy is not such a bad thing).
Having said that, attempting a range of different learning approaches is (intrinsically and self-evidently) A Good Thing, so in the attempts to appeal to the less able, or less interested students, we’d be making education better for everyone. A lot of children are disaffected because they are bored, which is also a very rational and intelligent response. That’s down to us. But maybe the gender divide in education is down to them.