GRAD RATES: Boys continue to fall behind girls
Statistics show male students continue to lag behind females when it comes to graduating from high school — and Terry Sullivan said government needs to put more money and resources into addressing the issue.
“Everyone knows it’s an issue,” said Sullivan, superintendent for the Kamloops-Thompson school district and head of the provincial body of school superintendents.
“It’s something everybody talks about. It needs some leadership provincially and nationally.”
The most recent completion study showed 81 per cent of boys will leave Grade 12 with a Dogwood certificate, compared to 86.6 per cent of girls — and the trend is reflected in similar statistics throughout the province.
Scott Sutherland, a spokesman with the provincial Ministry of Education, agreed with Sullivan that the lower completion rate is well-known and documented
Sullivan said the school district has employed some tactics in addressing the issue and the fact boys learn differently than girls.
It is also reflected in the foundation-skills assessment tests and in Grade 12 English exams, Sutherland added.
He noted that, despite the lower percentage for completion, “B.C. boys are doing very well” and pointed to the government’s education plan as a document that, while acknowledging successes, “is all about improving performance.”
Sullivan noted male students are “over-represented in special needs, in dropouts and in discipline situations” as well.
He said the education system needs to make changes to its methodology to be more boy-friendly in everything from understanding they have difficulty sitting for long periods of time to rethinking the books chosen for them to read.
Sullivan said the Kamloops-Thompson school district has tried some innovations to address teaching boys, including separating boys and girls in math and English classes in some schools.
“We’ve seen some positive results,” he said, noting he is not advocating a return to completely segregated schools for many reasons, including the need for socialization.
Increasing the number of male teachers would also help, he said, noting the percentage of men at the front of a classroom is small.
“We have some great teachers,” Sullivan said, “but, any mother of boys knows what I’m talking about.”
One of the steps the school district took was to have a conference a few years ago to talk about the gender issue. Sullivan said it was scheduled for a Sunday night — during a raging snowstorm.
“The Henry Grube Centre [location] was packed and most of the people there were mothers. So, that tells you something,” he said.
Sutherland said the government has made some specific moves to address the issue in education, including the creation of two new positions — one to address aboriginal achievement and one looking at reading.
The government has put $10 million into supporting reading for children in kindergarten to Grade 3, Sutherland said, and has addressed the reality many boys stream into trades through its Industry Training Authority and Secondary School Apprenticeship Program.
Those programs are not exclusive to boys, Sutherland added, noting there is a “huge push” to see more women move into trades education.
Sullivan has seen successes come from the initiatives his district has started.
“And we can try different things in our little corner, but it needs leadership beyond here.”