Boys lagging behind girls in education warns UNESCO report
Boys are more likely than girls to repeat primary grades in 130 out of 142 countries, with data indicating their poorer progression through school, according to a new Global Education report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The report titled ‘Leave no child behind: Global report on boys’ disengagement from education’ pointed out that no less than 132 million boys of primary and secondary school age are out of school.
“Boys are more likely than girls to repeat primary grades in 130 out of 142 countries, with data indicating their poorer progression through school. In 57 countries, with data on learning poverty, 10-year-old boys fare worse than girls in mastering reading skills and adolescent boys continue to fall behind girls at the secondary level.
“While girls are more likely than boys to never attend school, boys in many countries are at higher risk of failing to advance and complete their education. As it stands, 132 million boys are currently out of school,” the report stated.
“Poverty and the need to work, for instance, can lead boys to drop out. Gendered norms and expectations can also affect their desire to learn. In particular, certain subjects can run counter to traditional expressions of masculinity, making them unpopular with boys. Harsh discipline, corporal punishment and other forms of violence at school also negatively impact boys’ academic achievement, while increasing absenteeism and dropouts.
“In many countries, boys are at greater risk than girls of repeating grades, failing to complete different education levels and having poorer learning outcomes in school. Where previously boys’ disadvantage seemed most notable in high- or upper-middle-income contexts at the beginning of the millennium, this has shifted and now includes several low- and lower-middle-income countries,” it said. The report noted that secondary education is where boys’ disadvantage is most prevalent.
“Despite boys’ clear disengagement from and disadvantage in education in certain contexts, there are few programmes and initiatives addressing this phenomenon holistically, with system-level, gender-specific policies even more rare. Scarce policy attention has been given to gender disparities in education that disadvantage boys. Existing policies are predominantly in high-income countries. Few low- or middle-income countries have specific policies to improve boys’ enrolment,” it said.
Some of the recommendations made in the report are to promote equitable access to education and prevent children from dropping out of school, reform traditional practices or adapt their timing, such as initiation ceremonies, which take boys and young men out of the building on lessons from extensive work identifying and addressing barriers to girls’ education, making learning gender-transformative, safe and inclusive for all students, and creating gender-transformative and inclusive learning environments that address the needs of all students.