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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Boy trouble

Boys are struggling in school around the world, not just in the United States, points out

Kay Hymowitz in City Journal.

Boys have lower grades than girls throughout their primary and secondary school years. They have more behavior problems. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder; to wind up in special-education classes; and to be held back, be suspended, or drop out. Hence, they’re less likely to graduate from high school.
. . . Boys’ lagging school outcomes show up everywhere, from the enlightened Nordics to the hidebound Gulf States. . . . Boys get lower grades and attend university less often than girls across the developed world — and increasingly in developing countries, too: one 2019 survey cited studies confirming a gap in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malaysia, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, and Oman, among other places.

Girls outperform boys in reading around the world, international surveys show.

Girls benefit from stronger self-regulatory skills, such as the ability to sit still and pay attention, writes Hymowitz. Superior self-control helps them all the way through school. "Once again, it’s not just American boys; the OECD discovered a self-regulation gap in girls’ favor in 36 countries."

In math, boys are more likely to earn very high and very low scores. "During the 1980s, girls narrowed the historical math gap at the highest levels from a ratio of 13 to 1 to roughly 2.8 to 1; since 1990, that ratio has stayed more or less stable," writes Hymowitz. But girls "outperform boys on state accountability tests" and "earn higher grades in math class — not just in the United States but in a cross-section of 30 countries."

It's clear that "boys mature more slowly than girls and are thus less suited to early academic training," she writes. One option is delaying school entry for younger or less mature boys and providing more time for recess for elementary school.

She also questions whether pushing first-grade curricula into kindergarten was a mistake. I worry about that too.

Researchers comparing kindergartens in 1998 and 2010 found that teachers in our century “have far higher academic expectations for children both prior to kindergarten entry and during the kindergarten year.” Children unready for worksheets and prolonged desk work at five get a dispiriting, perhaps damaging, glimpse of the next 12 years of their lives. In the many American schools failing to teach phonics, those same children may find themselves struggling to read in the early grades and beyond.
And those children will mostly be boys.

Kindergarten was invented in 1837 by a German educational theorist who wanted children too young for schoolwork to learn through"creative, imaginative and spontaneous play." The day "was supposed to start with songs and then continue with play."

Now we've got pre-kindergarten to get kids ready for the rigors of kindergarten, which is at least as challenging as first grade used to be.

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