Teachers can 'minimise' gender divide

Sarah Cassidy

Teachers' attitudes have a significant effect on boys' achievement, according to a new report. Yet too many strategies based on untested assumptions are put in place with little regard for what boys really think, do and feel, says the National Foundation for Educational Research.

No firm evidence exists that the gap between boys' and girls' English performance reflects a difference in innate linguistic ability, it says.

Teachers have the power to contradict or reinforce negative stereotyping that can label some pupils, particularly boys, as low achievers from an early age, concluded the report, Boys' Achievement, Progress, Motivation and Participation. Staff should have high expectations of all pupils, and stereotypes must be challenged, said researchers. "Gender differences in performance are not a biological given. They can be minimised andor compensated for.

"It is hard to quantify the role played by genetic and social factors as distinct from educational factors, but most commentators agree that schools can either inhibit or reinforce some of the social factors which are associated with boys' underachievement. "The role of the teacher is particularly highlighted in influencing boys' propensity to read as well as their choice of reading."

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Sarah Cassidy

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