The report today by the All Party Parliamentary Literacy Group Boys' Reading Commission and the National Literacy Trust is the first major piece of research work recently in the UK that has seriously looked at the gender reading gap.
In fact, there is hardly any research on the educational gap because academia and the establishment are not interested in men and boys only women and girls. It was therefore refreshing that this report was produced and also that it was led by politicians.The report pulls a lot of the statistics together and shows the journey boys are taking through their educational life so it is a good compendium of the latest statistics.
Some key facts include
- 59% of boys achieved an A* to C in English GCSE compared to 73% of girls
- 76% of respondents said boys in their school did not do as well in reading as girls
- 82% of schools have tried to tackle this issue
The report does give a view about what causes the problem whether it is parental interaction, the school environment and male gender identities.
Three issues stand out.
Firstly, there is the point (Chapter 2, page 12), and the report is brave enough to say it (it should not have to be classed as brave but others are too scared to say it) that the feminised education system is working against boys. Whether that is because there is bias in marking, reading selection, lack of male teachers, national curriculum (exams versus coursework), boys not as interested in 'pleasing the teacher', the differences in reading materials being available and so forth.
All in all that is some list and when you combine them together - it is no wonder that boys are behind. What it clearly shows is the system is stacked against boys - it is institutionally sexist.
A comment on the BBC site from a mother (Catherine Beak) is worth sharing:
I have both a daughter and a son. They are completely and utterly different in what they choose to read. Why do they push boys into reading books, if what they want to read is newspapers or sports magazine
I believe that it doesn't really matter what they read, as long as they do. My son is well above average for his reading and we just get him things that he's interested in.
Chapter three highlights the problems where fathers are not around to read to their children and that can harm boys reading. Perhaps if the family courts and CAFCASS believed in shared parenting then this could be avoided.
The conclusions at the end are an impressive list and are practical way that boys reading can be supported without damaging girls reading.
The subtext is clear though and this is the most shameful and disgraceful part as it shows the institutional sexism with in the system. Sexism by omission.
Basically the report is saying that the the education establishment, the Department for Education, Government more widely and all the other opinion formers have deliberately done nothing to investigate this problem that they have known about and then delivered policies to solve it.
They still have no strategy to solve it. If the genders were reversed, there would be armies of people armed with case full of money and projects to deal with it.
For decades boys reading has been damaged by a system that is not suitable or flexible for them, and as the report says, "while it is an international problem, we do not believe that it is simply biological or inevitable; girls are not more likely to be 'wired' as readers."
This report is an invaluable contribution and I hope its recommendations are taken forward. It has also served to show the institutional sexism within the education system in this country - which has been a blight on generations of boys.
Posted by Skimmington