The growing gulf between the number of women and men at
polytechnics and universities shows the secondary education
system is continuing to fail boys, University of Otago scholar
Emeritus Prof Jim Flynn says.
His comments come as statistics released by the Government
over the past few months show the proportion of men in
tertiary education continues to drop, with men making up
42.6% of domestic students at polytechnics, universities and
other providers in 2011, compared with 44% the year before.
The figures showed the number of New Zealand men enrolled in
tertiary education in 2011 stood at 163,366, down 19.65% from
a peak of 203,326 in 2006. In comparison, there were 220,103
women in tertiary education, down 13.07% from the record
253,202 in 2005.
The gap was also present at Dunedin institutions, with women
making up 61.52% of students at Otago Polytechnic and 56.53%
at Otago University.
Prof Flynn, who has researched IQ differences between men and
women, said the gap showed ''something is going wrong'' in
secondary education, with boys faring significantly worse at
high school than girls.
''That's why you find there are more women at university. A
guy with an IQ of 100 is likely to Bs and Cs, a girl with an
IQ of 100 is likely to get As and Bs and think of herself as
university material,'' he said.
As a consequence, New Zealand was ''wasting a lot of male
talent'' and something should be done about it, he said.
''I think any Government should be alarmed at the tremendous
gap in performance according to gender at secondary
schools,'' he said.
Prof Flynn said New Zealand was not alone when it came to
boys underperforming at secondary schools. The problem was
prevalent throughout the world.
However, he was sceptical about solutions proposed by some,
which included having more same-sex schools for boys and
having a less structured education system.
The Ministry of Education did not reply to questions on what
it was doing to address the performance of boys at secondary
school, instead pointing towards a 2008 Education Review
Office report on the issue.
In the report's introduction, the author states that:
''Educational research on boys has not provided definitive
advice to schools about how they can improve their teaching
practice to further support the achievement of boys''.
A spokesman for the ministry also pointed out statistics
which showed that in New Zealand in 2011 only 38.5% of male
secondary school pupils left with university entrance
standard, compared with 52.6% of females.
The difference was even greater in the Otago region, with
42.3% of males leaving school with university entrance,
compared with 62.7% of females.
Prof Flynn said women particularly outperformed men when it
came to reading and writing.
This meant women were beginning to outnumber men in
professions where literacy was important, such as journalism,
law, psychology and lower level management.
''Even medical school now has a female majority, I am told,''
When it came to why there were not more women chief
executives, Prof Flynn said: ''Well there, of course, other
things come in.''
''That is, many men are driven and they will work a 72-hour
week and ignore their family and friends to get to the top.
''Thanks to being a bit more sane and also the presumption
that they will be more involved with children, women, of
course, hit to some degree a glass ceiling,'' he said.
Dan Reddiex, the rector at King's High School, which last
year had the highest NCEA pass rates for state boys' schools
in the country, said there were a few key ways of getting
boys to perform.
They included creating ''a competitive environment that
encourages success'', setting high expectations to avoid the
''minimalist mentality that NCEA has the potential to breed''
and catering specifically for the preferred learning styles
and needs of boys.
When asked if the gap was considered a problem, Tertiary
Education Minister Steven Joyce replied by email, saying:
''The increasing number of female students in tertiary
education is part of a continuing trend internationally.''
''I would encourage any student, male or female, to make the
most of their opportunities for tertiary education.
''The career market worldwide is becoming more competitive
and those students with higher levels of skills and talents
are increasingly in demand,'' Mr Joyce said.