HOW POWERFUL PEOPLE KEPT BOYS’ EDUCATION OFF THE AGENDA: A WARNING FOR PARENTS AND THE PUBLIC

INTRODUCTION

Boys underachieve at school. That statement is now so clearly understood that it is a cliché. Numerous studies have pointed out the underachievement of boys in schools relative to girls across the western world, especially in areas related to verbal fluency and literacy (see Rowe and Rowe, 1999, Rowe and Rowe, 2000; McGaw, 1996; West,1999). Further, Kraemer talks of a lack of emotional vocabulary in males, which he terms alexythymia (Kraemer 2000). This is a key weakness in schools, which continually want males to describe what they think and how they feel in English compositions. Even science has become increasingly verbal and prone to questions beginning “discuss” or “explain”. Problems of boys’ underachievement have by now been discussed in literature across the western world, and policies to redress that issue are now common.

This piece tries to explain how boys came to be on political agendas by setting out some key developments in girls and boys education in the last twelve years through a theoretical framework of educational politics and policymaking. It also asks why it took so long for boys’ education to break through from being perceived as an

educational issue to becoming educational policy. Some discussion is made on the ideology behind policies on to encourage girls and boys. The focus is on Australia, particularly New South Wales. The article ends by reflecting on some important issues remaining, and a comment on the roles of experts....

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