Back to school - why boys don't make the grades and the gap is growing
The increasing and significant gap between gender difference in grades at GCSE could be due to gender differences in aspiration and attitudes and how they respond to parental encouragement rather than the practice of teaching, according to a study by Professor Mark Taylor and Tina Rampino.
The gap between the proportion of UK girls getting A*-C and boys is now at its highest rate since 2003 despite boys getting a slightly higher share of A* grades. British GCSE results published last week showed the 2014 female A*-C pass rate was 73.1% compared to 64.3% for males, a gap of 8.8 percentage points and a small increase on last year.
The ISER study Gender differences in educational aspirations and attitudes looked at the ambitions and approaches to study of 11-15 year olds participating in the British Household Panel Survey.
While girls have more positive aspirations and attitudes than boys, the impacts of gender on children’s attitudes and aspirations vary significantly with parental education level, parental attitudes to education, child’s age and the indirect cost of education.
Boys are more responsive than girls to positive parental characteristics, while educational attitudes and aspirations of boys deteriorate at a younger age than those of girls.
Girls also acknowleged the impact of the recession and increased youth unemployment by working harder. Boys however appear unresponsive to the business cycle. This might reflect misplaced confidence where they believe they will be able to find a job independently from the economic climate. Policies targeting boys with more information on the benefits from investing in education will increase their awareness about the consequences of an unfavourable youth labour market, which may improve their educational attitudes and aspirations and consequently their educational attainment.
Author of the study Tina Rampino said:
“These findings have implications for policies designed to reduce educational attainment differences between boys and girls as they identify factors which exacerbate the educational disadvantage of boys relative to girls.”
“Our evidence highlights the need for early intervention for teenage boys when promoting positive educational attitudes and aspirations. In contrast to girls, the educational attitudes of boys deteriorate after age 12, while their aspirations do not improve with age. These gender specific age patterns may be related to peer effects, and if so intervention programmes introducing tutors with higher education for boys may improve their educational attitudes and aspirations.”
“Moreover our evidence does not support single sex schools, as boys should be able to socialise with girls of the same age and background who on average display more positive educational attitudes and aspirations.”