The Advent of the Richer Sex

The Ministry of Education expresses serious concerns over the poor academic performance of boys in comparison to girls.

The issue has been debated in more advanced countries, the US and Britain in particular. A few references to works that have been published on this subject might help.

It seems that experts increasingly agree on the fact that co-ed schools are detrimental to boys, and they advocate separate schools for boys and girls. This is not an issue in Mauritius. So other factors might explain why boys are increasingly low achievers. In the US boys are surpassed by girls from primary school to university. Several reasons are put forward to account for this phenomenon which has become a major concern and is heralding significant changes in society and gender roles. Amongst others are the educational system itself, its organisation, biology, the excess of feminism or simply girls’ success.

The Trouble with Boys by American journalist Peg Tyre delves into the subject and discusses all the different aspects of the widening gap in school performance. Between 1980 and 2001, the percentage of boys who said they did not like school rose by 71%. Thirty years ago 58% of graduate students in universities were boys, today they account for 44%.

The Minds of Boys by Michael Gurian is another book which has been useful to teachers to help them adapt the rhythm of teaching and methods to boys. What is blamed is the focus of the educational system on measuring success in terms of quantity. The system does not take biological differences into account, notably boys’ development and psychology, according to Dr Bruce Perry, a neurologist in Houston.

Sauvons les garçons! by Jean Louis Auduc in France gives impressive data on the decline in boys’ achievement. 70% of pupils, aged 13-14, who attend enhancement classes are boys. In one generation, 43% of boys fail the baccalaureate, whereas only 29% of a generation of girls do so. 21% of a generation of boys reach BA level compared to 32% of girls.

Positive discrimination in favour of men has been discreetly put in place in private universities in the US, Hanna Rosin wrote in her book, The End of Men. In France, the number of girls who receive admissions in schools for magistrates was 55% in 1980, and today the figure has gone up to more than 80%. A quota for male students is being considered. 57% of new doctors are women. In South Korea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has officially set up a quota to favour men.

In Great Britain, the spectacular rise of women at all levels is said to be a most significant social revolution. 58% of BA, BSc graduates are women, so are 56% of students in medical schools. In 2012, an American research team reported that young women are more ambitious to embrace high-income careers than young men.

In today’s knowledge economy, good jobs go to highly qualified diploma holders. Women are better equipped to take the lead at all levels and earn higher salaries, American journalist Liza Mundy explains in her book The Richer Sex. In a near future it is mostly women who will be the family breadwinners, and their less qualified or unqualified husbands are likely to be more dependent on their spouses in order to enjoy good living conditions. It looks likely that this trend will inevitably appear in other countries as well in one more generation.

* Published in print edition on 21 March 2014

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