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Help our sons! We ought to teach boys differently

By Candace Francis

Boys and girls vary in several ways, two of which are their physiological and psychological structures. As a result, the behaviour and mannerisms of boys and girls would vary as well.

For instance, a girl’s response to the tone of a female teacher’s voice would be different from a boy’s; similarly, girls would respond differently to the voices of male teachers as would the boys. Since we cannot deny that differences between boys and girls do exist, then we can conclude that they learn differently, and therefore should be taught differently as well.

To optimise the outcomes of the teaching and learning process for both boys and girls, various teaching strategies are necessary. Consideration of the differences between boys and girls, in terms of how boys and girls are taught should be of paramount importance. The presentation of content should be done in novel ways as well as the environment must be more accommodating to the physiological and psychological needs of boys.

In addition to the presentation of content, we should also consider the type of content being presented to boys. Boys are more likely to be regarded as inattentive and easily distracted, compared to girls, and are likely to introduce an alternative to the general lesson being taught. Consideration must be given to the types of lessons being taught and in particular, the strategies and resources being used.

As a child, I remember being told to assist with household chores, while the boys were allowed to play outside. In those days, girls were usually found inside playing with dolls and tea sets. In the process, they were indirectly socialised towards taking care of the house and being seated for periods at a time. As a result, girls may have found it less of a challenge to acclimatise to the formal classroom setting. Since boys were encouraged ‘to play’ instead of staying indoors for long periods of time, they may have found it more challenging to acclimatise to the formal classroom setting. As time progressed, there is less of a distinction in this respect. Girls, now appear to be less likely to conform to the norms of the society of ‘long ago’, while boys seem to be stuck in that realm of being stereotyped in the specific roles of being ‘at play’.

There is also a popular belief—usually supported by scientific proof—that a girl’s brain develops (or ‘matures’) faster than a boy’s. Based on research, a simple explanation is that as girls mature, changes in the brain are occurring. Connections that were redundant are removed and more connections are made between the two hemispheres as compared to a boy’s brain. With girls, the flow of these connections is apparently more stable, allowing for their brains to be reorganised earlier than that of boys. It is believed, therefore, that this earlier reorganisation allows the brain to work more efficiently and reach a state of maturity earlier; hence girls mature faster than boys. The brains of girls can process the stimuli in the environment earlier as well.

Despite these marked differences between boys and girls and how they learn, the education system expects both boys and girls to begin their formal schooling at the same age. Both formative (weekly and monthly tests) and summative (Secondary Entrance Assessment – SEA) are required for both boys and girls, and the differences among the physiological and psychological structures of boys and girls being a possible explanation for the distinct difference in the results for both genders.

I have not discussed the effects of attending single-sex schools versus attending mixed schools on learning and teaching, but we must consider the impact of using the same curriculum and environment for the teaching and learning process for both genders at the same time. These factors need to be considered for the optimisation of teaching and learning.