The other side of the gender gap in science careers: school failure in boys

A group of students leaving a school in Barcelona.

A group of students leaving a school in Barcelona.

The gender gap in technical and scientific careers - there is a lack of girls enrolled in these areas - has a lesser-known complementary face: the worrisome grade repetition and school failure rates among boys, much higher compared to those of their peers.

In Spain, 60% of those who repeated in the first stage of secondary education are boys, a percentage slightly lower than the average for the OECD of 61%, therefore it is not an "anomaly" of our country, affirms Lucas Gortazar, adviser of the World Bank and coordinator of education of the Center of Economic Policies of Esade, an independent think tank. Currently, Gortazar and his team are working on a research project on school failure among boys and how to reduce it, the results of which will be known at the end of the year.


"It is happening in many parts of the world that there are gender gaps in both directions and that they manifest themselves differently. It obeys structural factors, maturity and social norms, but in the case of Spain the question is particularly acute or striking ".

In this reality, explains Gortazar, advisor to the Government in the 2050 Plan, it agrees that in Spain "there is an educational culture based on very broad content and at the same time very superficial", where there is "a drop-out of the students who are more behind, than the system is expelling ".

From happiness to disaffection

Unlike in German-influenced countries, where pupils are directed at an early age to Vocational training, in Spain the French model has greater influence, where it is the system of repetition of the course prevails, especially in 1st and 2nd years of Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO).

Students arrive from Primary and face a completely new reality - the curriculum, teachers with different backgrounds ...-. There begins a "obstacle race, more academic, which generates disaffection towards school, more accentuated among boys.

When Gortazar's team wrote one of the chapters of the 2050 Report, one of the aspects that caught their attention is that a survey of the who It reflected that Spanish primary school children liked school a lot, but at 14 there was "a huge leap." Pass from being the tallest in the world to the shortest. The World Bank consultant explains that in all countries, adolescent males present a greater "anti-school" attitude, but the rejection is greater in Spain and Europe.

Low-skilled employment

Other factors that explain the greater number of male repeaters have to do with the social and economic behavioral factors of Spanish society: their economic structure and demand for job low-skilled For a "long time there has been a demand for labor that was not badly paid - the sector of the construction before the crisis of 2008-.

To this is added that in our country, for years, there has not been a sufficient supply of Vocational Training places, an education in which men show more interest. "If to all this you add the anomaly that In our country, if they don't give you the ESO degree, you stay out of the system, in the dead, and there is a strong discourse of 'how am I going to give a child a title that does not understand a text' ... when education is a constitutional right ", emphasizes Gortazar.

The problem with school failure - he adds - is that later it has consequences for life, generates inequalities, "you enter the labor market without an average training and you are chaining temporary contracts all your life". The solution lies in "moving from a selective culture, based on suspense and repetition that we apply indiscriminately to 12-year-olds, to a more inclusive culture and a more reasonable curriculum, and accompany it with more support for the laggards from an earlier age (unfolding, curricular adaptations or tutorials in small groups ...).

The World Bank adviser concludes that in Spain there is a lack of a "systematic policy for the laggards in the key primary ages, which is when you learn to read, to be in school, when you lay down all the bases that you will later deploy ".


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