Divorce hurting boys' education; experts

The educational achievements of New Zealand boys may be falling victim to the soaring divorce rate, according to experts.

The connection has been made as a new report confirms that boys are lagging behind girls at secondary school, with the gap greater in New Zealand than any other developed country.

The findings come in a report by the 30-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which compared achievement by 15-year-old boys and girls in 40 countries.

"There are significant gender differences in educational outcomes, and these appear as students grow older," the report said.

Last year's National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results, released this month, showed girls outperforming boys by wider margins as pupils got older.

St Bede's College rector Justin Boyle pointed to boys' education suffering when parents divorced.

"Invariably, we find if mum and dad have split they (boys) have not had the male role model in their lives to encourage them in a holistic way about how they get educated."

Divorce statistics released this month showed about one-third of New Zealanders who married in 1983 had divorced before their 25th wedding anniversary.

Education consultant Joseph Driessen said children who came from broken homes were typically 25 per cent behind other children in achievement.

"Boys are affected by divorce very deeply because 85 per cent of custody goes to the mother and guys just disappear. That needs to change," he told The Press.

"We need to have a family split-up philosophy where we realise that sons need their fathers. All custody and access should be 50-50." Mr Boyle said boys' schools could help form well-rounded men. "We are in a good position in a boys' school to look at particularly boys' issues and address them head-on," he said.

The OECD report said single-sex schools in New Zealand were more effective for girls than for boys.

A Ministry of Education report released yesterday showed boys outnumbered girls by more than two to one in needing specialist literacy teacher help.