Do girls and boys really need to be taught separately?
Whilst I did find watching the second episode of Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys really interesting and some of his ideas inspirational, I have to also say that I was a little disappointed because the general premise of the whole programme was based on the ‘difference’ between boys and girls.
Statistically boys don’t lag very far behind the girls when it comes to A Level results and it is well documented that men still get paid more than women.
Clearly in primary school there is a problem engaging boys and I wonder is this because kids are having ideas about gender imposed on them or do they really have different needs?
A recent study reported in the Guardian says that girls as young as four, believe they are smarter than boys. The academics in the study believed that gender stereotyping was a major factor in formulating their beliefs.
It also doesn’t help that primary school education is dominated by female teachers and that many people believe that the work set has a female bias, as indicated in this article in BBC News Education & Family. Getting more male teachers, seems a good starting point but maybe they're put off by lower salaries.
Whilst I applaud Gareth for trying to engage these disinterested kids, I have to ask, what were the girls doing whilst the boys played in the woods?
Are boys and girls really so different? Wouldn’t the whole class have benefited from outdoor activities and competition? Perhaps if they had worked together in the World Cup reading teams, perhaps the imposed gender differences on the children could have been dissipated, rather than enforced.
Surely we need to move away from such cultural determinism and find teaching methods that encourage all children to engage with books and literacy. Books are for everyone not just ‘girls’ or ‘boys’.
One of the other elements of the programme I found most interesting were his efforts to engage the parents, clearly, it is their input that can make the biggest difference of all.
Teachers can do all they can in school but if parents allow their children’s love affair with computer games to prevent them from doing their homework, then there is not much the educators can do.
A recent survey reported on BBC News said that kids were spending six hours a day in front of screens, half of this time was in front of a computer or a games console. Perhaps we as parents need to be re-educated on how to engage our children and not to use the television, games and computers as virtual babysitters?
Whilst Gareth only had a short period of time to improve the children’s academic performance he certainly showed that our teachers have their work cut out.
They sadly do not have the freedom that the Gareth was given to try and engage and cajole our kids into understanding the importance of literacy.
Claire Winter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.
Listen to the Woman's Hour podcast - Raising Boys about how to get boys back on track.