20 June, 2024

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Crisis Of Boys’ Education: Part III – Crisis In The Contemporary Education System

By Rifaq Azhar

Rifaq Azhar

Generally, the growth of a country is intricately linked to the standard of education it provides to its citizens. Education indeed imparts knowledge, critical thinking, and moral values whereas it inculcates potential skills and aptitude empowering them to navigate challenging circumstances with confidence, resilience, and courage. Besides, it shapes a person’s attitude, perception, and behaviour which ensures the creation of a disciplined society equipped with commendable values, a broader idea of citizenship, patriotism, social cohesion, a pluralistic mind, social harmony, and a sense of social responsibility and accountability. It is no wonder that a well-educated and disciplined populace contributes to innovation, productivity, peace, stability, and overall societal progress. As such, proper education serves as a catalytic force driving the growth of a country and fostering human capital development. Therefore, education is a strategic necessity for the sustainable development of a country.  But, it is still obscure how far these objectives have been met through the present education system in our country. We are well aware that in the wake of Covid – 19 pandemic, the country gradually plunged into a severe economic crisis and struggled to survive. This crisis taught us to distinguish between needs and wants or what is essential and what is lavish.

Nowadays, experts and educationists demand comprehensive systemic reforms in education reviving our energies to march forward to sustainable growth. Here, I deem it appropriate to share the research findings of the Gurian Institute of USA in anticipation of adding weight to this demand. Of course, it is the third root cause related to the crisis in boys’ education following the crises in understanding the boys’ energy and then nurturing them in line with their natural tendencies. Those researches simply indicate that the contemporary system of education entirely favours girls and helps to bring out their potential alone by the time it fails to recognize boys’ energy and their wonderful world enabling them to be sparkling stars in schools and subsequently in their lives. In this system, many boys feel that they are isolated or they have been labeled as failures due to developmental delay, learning difficulties, many processing issues, low academic performance, disparities, and lack of motivation, etc.

Many statistics at the national level have witnessed the stipe decline in boys’ education by the time girls have outperformed in their exams. Most of the students, who are not succeeding in their exams, are boys.  Similarly, most students who require extra academic help are boys. Compared to girls, boys are more likely to go through disciplinary issues not only in the school but also in the society. It has been proven that due to mismatch, boys turn off their minds at school seeing nothing of interest in school. Of course, it causes developmental disadvantages in early schooling. In the end, they are labeled or diagnosed with learning disabilities or troublemakers. This perception compels them to drop their education or fall behind. We cannot blame any individual for this plight. It is because of the failure of the system which is completely peculiar to boys’ nature.  Therefore, the crisis will prevail unattended. The aim of this article is not to degrade the dignity of one gender and glorify another but to create awareness of the challenges boys encounter in their education and avoid blatant mismatches. Based on research, we can identify the major pitfalls of this system.

Complete negligence to the bio-anthropological system of education 

When it comes to the upbringing of a boy, the ancestral system of education, which was passed down through generations, is considered of paramount significance. As articulated, this bio-anthropological system was built up on family cohesion, bonding with authorities, and subsequent adaptation of male-friendly approaches in nurturing their boys. These authorities are none other than the boy’s grandparents, neighbours, tribes, and natural environment, and extended family members such as uncles, aunties, cousins.

This ancestral system was unlike regular practice in the modern system of education but it had a unique way of teaching and empowerment mechanism, which were completely different from that of modern industrialized and regimented systems. It is a drive beyond just teaching. It had never depended on a unilateral structure applicable for boys and girls evenly.  Instead, it was a heritage-guided way of upbringing that was meticulously crafted by our forefathers based on their respective environment, culture, nature, and child’s individual aptitude, skills, and natural tendencies. Moreover, it deeply cared about gender differences as well as individual disparities even among boys.

The core aspects of this system were primarily creating a bond between a child and his authorities or mentors paving the way for more attachment, intimacy, and perfect understanding of a particular child and his natural tendencies then paying individual attention to empower him in his desired field. As said, those lovable mentors had realized that creating a bond between a boy and his authorities was inevitable for nurturing their boys. Therefore, they harnessed all mechanisms and opportunities to sow the seeds of bond and attachment. As such, they would persistently observe the gradual development of a particular boy, his natural tendencies, and his temperament from his early childhood period, and then identify the exact methodology and ways, that would perfectly fit him. Hence, the skills and potentials of each son were identified by their respective authorities and nurtured carefully and systematically.

Here, what we can initially realize in this ancestral system is that their sons’ primary teachers hadn’t been unknown individuals standing in the classroom but always their most lovable mentors who truly and deeply loved their children. It is no wonder then that those mentors would discover the full potential of the particular boy; pay utmost attention to him; motivate him highly to trigger his good stress, and foster his hidden energy with meticulous care. Retrospectively, we can observe another significant fact that in this system, boys were never reluctant or scared to learn and as such never encountered confusion and demon of self-doubt or any form of bad stress, rather, they would feel secure and more comfortable with the way they had been taught. Through this system, boys learned what they needed to know for their lives. Those sons acquired not only knowledge but also learned discipline, traditions, and culture of their respective civilizations. They were never blindly instructed to adopt any strange tradition and peculiar culture or even ideologies unless it was beneficial to their core lives or modified according to their lifestyle. They learned everything for their lives through ‘doing’ not ‘memorizing’ given notes. Then, the boys enjoyed their respective mentorship since this bio-anthropological system had always been innovative and adventurous and fulfilled their learning aspirations in many ways.

Besides, they had indeed encountered boyish issues while raising their sons, however, they sorted out everything in an appropriate manner. Hence, there was neither educational rollercoaster ride of parenthood nor sedentary time. Back then, the learning place was unlike current crammed classrooms with unknown individuals but mostly open space or under the breeze with their lovable mentors. They were trained physically and empirically. So, the knowledge was imparted to their children using experiential learning, constant observation, reasoning, and stimulating their inquisitive minds rather than convoluted theories. History has witnessed remarkable successes of this system. For instance, the ancient Egyptians developed their knowledge of mathematics which enabled them to construct impressive pyramids. As such, Mayans were able to construct amazing stone buildings and pyramids and create sophisticated calendars and astronomical systems with accurate arithmetic and excelled in architecture, mathematics, astronomy, etc. using empirical knowledge but not structured classroom teachings with prescribed curriculum. Similarly, our forefathers built sophisticated irrigation systems before the advent of colonial powers. It positioned us as a pioneer in agriculture that ensured food security and self-sufficiency.

This bio-anthropological system never taught agriculture to their sons by dictating notes instead they were sent to paddy fields to learn about cultivation and they sensed varieties of crops by touching them. They learned zoology while hunting and engaging in animal husbandry and also learned oceanology while embarking on voyages. Similarly, knowledge of architecture and indigenous medicine, etc. was imparted through direct experience, experimentation, and legacy of inquisitive mind and also by fostering deeper understanding and retention of knowledge. This experiential learning approach instilled struggle, careful observation, problem-solving, outstanding aptitude, and perfect analysis skills in them. For the noble cause, they highly regarded the role of those authorities that had been carefully preserved for centuries. Unfortunately, we didn’t give prominence to this bio –bio-anthropological system and therefore failed to preserve its legacy which was then able to establish civilizations. Nowadays, kids are to live by the bell inside packed rooms and learn to follow instructions as in the factories. Boys are nowadays at risk of industrialized systems of education. In this greedy system, the role of those authorities particularly the role of grandparents, extended family members, tribal apprenticeship, and love of nature are obsolete.

Gender plasticity 

Another significant pitfall of the modern education system as delineated in research is gender plasticity. It means melting boys’ energy to fit them into a system that is inimical to their nature and aspirations from all aspects. Generally, any system of education should always care about the learning style of any brain and its potential energy and engage accordingly in enhancing its potential aptitude. But, unfortunately, these objectives are not met at all within the present system of education when it comes to boys’ education. Today, boys are educated and nurtured through an industrialized system, which undermines the male learning style and in turn creates potential mismatches and disparities. Certainly, this system doesn’t fit them anyway, because it does not care much about how boys naturally learn, what their inbuilt skills are, what their intuitions are, and what their learning aspirations are.

Generally, boys learn through their potential learning energies. As we discussed in the previous article, boys’ energy predominantly depends on more experiential, more spatial, and more physical activities than more verbal practices. To put it into perspective, male brains always prefer ‘fewer talks and more doings’ and anticipate learning to be adventurous, innovative, and dynamic. Therefore, they generally use their gross motor skills during their learning process.  Brain science reveals that the female brain shows greater involvement in the fine motor centre whereas the male brain emphasizes greater reliance on the gross motor centre such as running, jumping, swimming, climbing, kicking a ball, riding a tricycle, etc. Meantime, some boys can develop fine motor skills without much encouragement but most need extra help to develop their fine motor skills. The female brains tend to link with fine motor activities predominantly verbal activities better than the male brains do.

The contemporary system has a greater emphasis on verbal illustration or fine motor skills for imparting knowledge and skills instead of experimental and doable methods which stimulate gross motor skills. In this system, boys are compelled to memorize the textbooks within a limited time and are not allowed to think beyond the box. Above all, it promotes a ‘sit and learn’ culture instead of involving physical and experimental activities. Here, boys’ dynamism is perceived as a barrier or troublemaking that disturbs classroom teaching and therefore requires disciplinary actions.

The worst part of this system is that it tries to fix or convince the minds of boys and girls against their natural tendencies where boys, whose brains work one way, are told they are not okay whereas girls whose brains work another way are also sometimes told that they are not okay. It is all because of the absence of tailoring boys and girls by their nature. The brevity is that we neglected the biological factors of boys and above all we have been blindly engaging in gender plasticity which is completely a catastrophe. Of course, this system perfectly matches with the female brain since it has a larger inclination to fine motor skills. That’s why girls outperform better in their studies than boys since this system doesn’t foster boys’ potential learning skills rather it overlooks them and engages in melting their energies to fit into the predefined system which promotes more reading and writing in which girls are good. It is said that practical people look for practical ways to spin their webs or stretch their limbs and fly. There is no doubt that many of our sons can indeed learn in nearly any environment if their education is well cared for in the way it should be.

Conclusion 

We are at a crucial juncture when it comes to the economic recovery process. Nowadays, experts and educationists are seriously thinking of reforming the education system aiming to attain sustainable development. Experts suggest that reforming the education system is far more significant than economic and political reforms since education is the foundation for all. Experts suggest that the country is deliberately in need of a comprehensive educational philosophy matching both genders respectively as well as drastic change in the education system instead of shallow reforms addressing surface-level issues.

Initially, educational goals should be altered and designed much broader than just getting employment. We perceive education as a comprehensive process of nurturing, which goes beyond classroom teaching and training. Meantime, we believe that we cannot generalize a system of education to both genders as opposed to the universal truth that boys and girls are not equal biologically and therefore they learn differently. One system for two differently learning brains is unfair and unscientific too in the age of science and technology. Therefore, a unique system of education for boys to flourish their energy and potentialities should be designed while retaining the present system for girls since the contemporary system of education is largely favourable to girls.

Against this backdrop, two significant perspectives are considered when it comes to reforming the education system. One is a boyish system and the second is the way we are nurturing our boys. The system should be reformed in line with biological factors and gender differences amalgamating both skills namely gross motor skill and fine motor skills with due proportionate.  I would say, it is high time to return to a ‘moderated ancestral system of education without engaging in gender plasticity. Then, we should also think of mechanisms beyond institutional education for nurturing our boys. It is just like a process beginning at home and perhaps ending at universities so that we can protect our sons from falling behind in their lives.

Essentially, we must plan how we should alter our home, pre-schools, school, and classroom environments for those boys to create a comfortable, conducive, and boy-friendly atmosphere and fulfill their educational aspirations. By this time, we should be aware of the fact that boys aspire more emotionally connected way of teaching built upon family cohesion and family apprenticeship which cherish individual attention and creating a bond similar to that of bonds in the ancestral system. It is a bitter truth that current educational culture gets rid of individual bonds due to the industrialized way of education, demonic interest and existence of unscrupulous elements. Additionally, in the present context, the concepts of ‘finding a home in the school’ and ‘home-schooling’ would be ideal and should be developed in the view of scientific factors and viable practices to add weight to the education system.

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Latest comments

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    I haven’t studied this article as carefully as I want to. It looks quite good, and I’m sure it was very seriously written.
    .
    We just don’t seem to have time for talking about Boy’s Education.
    .
    I was educated in “boys only schools”. So was Rishi Sunak.
    .
    This hilarious 10 minute video, on a serious site, tells just how badly his campaign is going:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0UG33fno78
    .
    I have been a teacher “all my life” – well, that part of my 75 year-life after stopped being a student. most of that teaching was in co-ed schools.

    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of 51B, Golf Links Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

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      Some of my teaching was in the Sultanate of Oman. However, those schools were all remote – in the Rustaq Region. Therefore, they were all co-ed, the numbers being so small.
      .
      And, of course, the work I had to do was teaching English at a very elementary level. The boys and girls were on different sides of the class-room, just as they are in State Schools in Sri Lanka. And I think it was the same in the Maldives, where the English was much more advanced – in Male, the capital. I’m not obsessed with English, as contrasted with other languages; it’s just that I taught only that.
      .
      However, in “International Schools” in Sri Lanka, the English was much more advanced, but boys and girls sat next to each other – or so I remember it. One wasn’t too bothered by that consideration.
      .
      I get the feeling that my grand-daughters in an International School in Malaysia, (English very advanced), the boys and girls mix very freely.
      .
      These comments arise from my going back to the author’s first article. He’s had Oman connections according to the blurb. Is the author Sri Lankan or Omani? Qaboos was a wonderful ruler, but ….”
      .
      Panini

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        This seems like a cleverly disguised attempt to promote unequal educational opportunities for boys and girls. It seems the author recommends that boys should have the advantage.

    • 2
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      Hello Sinhala Man,
      I am sure that the Article was seriously written, but you have to consider what is his Agenda? He doesn’t provide any Academic evidence anywhere in the Article. Here is his Agenda – https://gurianfoundation.org/the-gurian-institute/
      This is another Education Cult based on falsified “Neurosexism” that meets his anti-feminist agenda. They are trying to convince parents that Education has been taken over by feminists and that the current methodologies don’t suit Boys.
      They also cite neurological differences in the Brains of Men and Women, however “many of the neuroscientific studies reported by these texts as ‘truths’ are little more than sexism wrapped up in weakly evidenced studies” http://www.australianreview.net/digest/2012/11/burns.html
      Education should always be equitable as regards the sex of pupils/students. Do not let these so-called educationalists send us back to the Middle Ages or further. For more studies critical of these views read Cara Okopny e.g.https://www.academia.edu/15149485/Why_Jimmy_Isnt_Failing_The_Myth_of_the_Boy_Crisis
      Best regards

  • 1
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    Hello Rifaq Azhar,
    “One system for two differently learning brains is unfair and unscientific too in the age of science and technology”
    So how would you teach Chemistry differently to Girls and Boys?
    Until the mid-20th Century in the UK and most West European Countries there was a discrimination against the Education of Girls especially in Technical and Scientific Subjects.
    Since the introduction of widespread co-education most if not all of these countries have seen significant achievements by Girls. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/aug/15/female-students-outnumber-males-in-a-level-science-entries
    In contrast have a look at the worst Countries educating Girls https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/oct/11/revealed-the-10-worst-countries-for-girls-to-get-an-education-international-day-girl
    Apart from the fact that most are in Africa, the other common feature is that they are nearly all Muslim Majority Countries. I worked in Qatar, based for a couple of years at QSTP (Qatar Science and Technology Park) and my wife worked at Qatar University for some time. The Qataris had excellent facilities and access to Higher Education for Young Women and Men, so it is possible in an Islamic Country to provide Girls/Women with a good education
    There is still an imbalance in Subject Preference in the Sciences and Technology, but it is vastly improved.
    And now you want to reverse these gains?
    Best regards

  • 1
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    “Experts suggest that the country is deliberately in need of a comprehensive educational philosophy matching both genders respectively as well as drastic change in the education system instead of shallow reforms addressing surface-level issues.”

    Pretty much the entire world is in need of a new educational system, not necessarily to promote gender equality, but to match the pace of advances in technology. Corporations have already embraced remote working, online meetings, and a leaner workforce. Schools ought to do the same. Less teachers, fewer days, and better use of technology to improve learning outcomes. In the case of Sri Lanka, we are well past the days of access to English education and gender segregated schools. The Internet by itself levels the playing field.

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      Hello Lester,
      You said “Corporations have already embraced remote working, online meetings, and a leaner workforce. Schools ought to do the same”
      As I said before this was part of what I said in my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) Dissertation back in the mid 90s (not the 1890s, honest). As part of my Course I was teaching Evening Classes (and ECDL in College) to Adults from 18 to 80. The 18 year olds were the ones who had missed out on IT at School and the bulk of the rest were mothers (mostly) and fathers that wanted to understand and contribute to their children’s IT Education. The older ones just wanted to keep up with Modern Technology, As I explained back then – the vast majority of Governments and Businesses (as well as Educational Establishments) would be using the Internet (WWW) or its equivalent to provide Services and Communications.
      30 years later and Sri Lanka is still trying to catch up.
      How can this be accomplished?
      Best regards

      • 0
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        Hello LankaScot,

        To re-frame your question, you are asking how the pace of learning can be increased in Sri Lanka. Here are some of my suggestions.

        1.) Improve economic conditions. Better nutrition and higher incomes correlate to improved learning outcomes

        2.) Widespread Internet access and access to PC’s/labtops/smartphones. This also depends on improving existing infrastructure such as the power grid.

        3.) Create industries that generate value. For example, the medical sector in S. Lanka offers a poor or (at best) nominal return to the end-user. Medical practitioners (other than those in private practice) are also grossly under-compensated

        4.) Encourage birth control. Overpopulation leads to problems of its own.

        • 0
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          *undercompensated

  • 1
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    Dear LankaScot & Lester,
    .
    I’m glad
    that you’ve been able to seriously discuss this subject.
    .
    As for me, I’m finding it difficult to address this sort of issue whilst we are all concerned about first getting ourselves a properly elected government.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of 51B, Golf Links Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

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      Hello SM,
      You may be worried about “first getting ourselves a properly elected government”, but you have to ask yourself how it can be accomplished and what you can do to make sure it happens democratically. I look forward to your advice.

      Best regards somewhere Up Country Sri Lanka😉

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