Globe and Mail

Boys far outrank girls in behaviour, learning problems: Statscan

Education Reporter; Source: Statistics Canada
The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Boys account for almost two-thirds of elementary-school students receiving special education and are far more prone than girls to behavioural problems, Statistics Canada reported yesterday.

Provincial education ministers recently flagged the underperformance of boys as a problem in Canadian schools. This most recent study contributes more cause for concern.

"According to teachers, males accounted for 65 per cent of all children receiving special education because of a learning disability, 83 per cent of all children receiving special education for an emotional or behavioural problem and 76 per cent of all children receiving special education because of a problem at home," Statscan reports in its most recent Education Quarterly Review.

The survey confirmed previous findings that girls outperform boys in reading and writing in elementary school and reported that girls have better study habits.

Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be physically aggressive toward other children, but girls are nastier in terms of gossiping behind others' backs or shunning children they are angry with, reported Statscan, which regards both types of behaviour as aggressive.

One in 10 elementary-school students receive special education because of a problem that limits their ability to do school work. Just over half of these students get help for learning disabilities and 23 per cent receive special ed for behavioural or emotional difficulties.

The majority are taught in regular classrooms, but are withdrawn for additional help in separate special-education classes. Their academic performance generally lags that of other students, but they are not stigmatized by other children for being labelled as special-ed students.

"Are special-education students more socially isolated? According to parents, the answer is no."

And, despite their academic difficulties, most children who receive special education look forward to going to school: "An overwhelming percentage (81 per cent) of parents of children who received special education reported that their children often or almost always looked forward to going to school. These results are only moderately lower than those reported by parents whose children did not receive special education (88 per cent)."

Statscan found that children from single-parent homes are roughly twice as likely to receive special education as children from two-parent families, perhaps reflecting the greater financial and other stresses suffered by single-parent families.


Two-thirds of children receiving special education in elementary school are boys.

Learning disability                    51%

Emotional or behavioural problems      23%

Other problems                         22%

Home problems                          14%

Speech impairment                      12%

Intellectual or physical disability    11%

Problems with language at school        6%

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