What do boys need to succeed in school?

One thing is now certain, they did not need the "transversal skills" approach, "project-based learning" and other measures implemented in high school for almost 10 years as part of the educational reform. .

A team from the Faculty of Education at Laval University has just published a devastating report on the subject, under the direction of Professors Simon Larose and Stéphane Duchesne. The reform, they conclude, did not have the desired effect on those it claimed to help, that is, at-risk youth and boys. She even hurt them.

By comparing three cohorts of students from Secondary 5 - both having been exposed to the "education reform" and not having lived - the researchers found that boys of reform were less likely than their predecessors to succeed the ministerial writing test, and fewer to obtain their high school diploma (their graduation rate has dropped below 80%). The girls did not suffer: they continued to graduate in a proportion of 88%.

What can be done to allow guys to express their full potential in school, including reading and writing? This concern is not unique to Quebec: in the most recent PISA (pdf) test, an international competition run by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, boys scored lower in reading than girls in the almost all 65 participating countries. (Girls, on the other hand, were less successful in math than boys in 37 of the 65 countries surveyed.)

Researchers from around the world have been interested in this disturbing gap. Here are two possible solutions taken from their work.

Give them more male teachers …

Perhaps they need a positive model that shows them that being studious and enjoying reading is not just about girls. Or perhaps a teacher is more inclined than a teacher to understand them, to believe in them and to treat them with indulgence. In any case, this predicts a large study published in 2007 in the Journal of Human Resources by Thomas S. Dee, now a professor at Stanford University.

The researcher analyzed the results of English tests, science and history, which had been administered to approximately 21,000 students in Secondary 2, throughout the United States. As a result, both boys and girls were less successful in the subjects taught to them by a teacher of the opposite sex.

Thomas Dee calculates that the mere fact of replacing a female teacher with a man in an English class, for example, would reduce by one third the gender gap in this subject, by improving the performance of boys … and decreasing that of men. girls.

The specialist was also interested in the commitment of young people to their studies and the judgment that teachers have on their flock. Here again, he observes, the sex of the teacher is no stranger. When they have a man as a teacher, particularly in English and in history, guys are less likely to be considered disturbing students who neglect their homework; they are also looking forward to the next class.

Same thing for girls in science: they are less likely to be perceived as disturbing or inattentive when their teacher is of the same sex as they are; they are also more likely to say that they are looking forward to this course and finding this material useful for their future. In a traditionally male domain, a teacher of their sex inspires them, it seems, to dream bigger than stereotypes.

But do not separate them from girls!

Some commentators argue that the best way to get students to focus on their studies is to isolate them from girls, whose presence would be a source of distraction and their academic successes a cause of demoralization. Not crazy.

The problem is that this hypothesis is not supported by research. According to reports from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, young people attending a unisex school do not get better grades and do not more likely to get a university degree than those who have the opposite sex in class.

The proximity of girls, who are on average slightly earlier at the verbal level, would be rather beneficial for their comrades, at least for toddlers. Because they have contagious speech. The boys who grow up with a twin sister already speak better at the age of two than those who live with a twin brother (not identical): the presence at their side of a companion a little more verbomotive is enough to pull them to the top, according to this research conducted in London by a team that included Ginette Dionne, professor of psychology at Laval University.

Girls also benefit from these contacts: those who are raised with a big brother, for example, are much more interested in building games, trucks and sports - and are therefore better able to develop their athletic talents and their skills. technical skills - only those who are not so lucky.

The origin of gender disparities in schooling, the concern that this should or should not cause us, the means of remedying it, all that is debatable in the scientific community. One thing, however, is consensus: the most important factor in a student's academic success is not his sex, far from it. What matters more is what he does with his time, with whom he passes it, and in what context. To be born a girl or a boy does not seal destinies or newsletters.