Sydney Morning Herald

Boy talk shifts to action to tackle imbalance


June 10 2002
Sydney Morning Herald

The signs over the past decade have been alarming: boys don't read as well and are far more likely to drop out of school, be expelled, get detention and get into fights. They don't do as well in the HSC and, in the bottom 10 per cent of HSC students, there are twice as many boys as there are girls.

The statistics for boys are "pretty awful", says Richard Fletcher, who runs the Men and Boys Project at Newcastle University's Family Action Centre, which has become a popular resource for schools devising programs to help their male students.

But at least all the discussion of late has led to some action. "Many schools are past the point of saying, `Is there a problem with boys?' and wondering about whether they should do something," he says.

Schools' initiatives include programs to boost boys' literacy levels. De La Salle College, Caringbah, has introduced literacy as a mandatory year 7 subject, weighted equally with maths, English and science. Other schools work on boosting self-esteem, or reducing bullying.

In contrast, Robert Randall, the NSW Department of Education's director, professional support and curriculum, is wary when people talk about boys having "a problem" because other factors, such as socio-economic status, seem to have more of an effect than gender on students' education outcomes. "It is not a dichotomy of boys versus girls," Mr Randall says.

Copyright © 2002. The Sydney Morning Herald