Teaching boys

I’m often unsure whether Hugh Reilly is really making a serious point about educational practices or simply writing a comic account of his teaching experiences.

But his piece about boys’ experiences in education (Perspective, 8 January) is surely worth some serious comment.

First, there is research which seems to indicate that while 
girls are bunched in the middle of the standard curve of distribution in terms of grades, boys are not only over-represented at the bottom, but also at the top.

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So, by university final exam results, proportionately more boys will end up with firsts.

My own experience in higher education seemed to confirm this – girls would more often want to learn the approved ­answers, whereas boys were more original and challenging in their questions.

Second, surely the issue of boys’ educational achievement is not the boys’ problem, it’s the problem of the educators.

Years ago my son’s school 
sent a note home to parents
inviting them to a meeting to discuss “the problems of boys in education”.

Quite rightly in my opinion, many of the boys tore up the invitation and chucked it away – they were certainly intelligent enough to recognise whose “problem” it was.

If boys learn differently from girls – and the evidence suggests that they often do, preferring a more active and challenging ­approach – then educators need to take account of this and provide the right environment for learning.

This is not to downplay the problem of discipline in schools, and the problem teachers have in controlling unruly students, but there are longer-term solutions available, such as encouraging more male teachers at ­primary level to be role models for boys.

At my primary school in
the English Midlands a great many years ago, the scariest 
(and also most inspiring) teacher was a Scot – Mr Leishman – 
and no-one dared to mess with him.

We were told that was how it was in Scotland, where education was taken very seriously. Maybe it’s time to redevelop that attitude!

(Dr) Mary Brown

Dalvenie Road