Research corner

3rd October 2014 at 01:00

`Boys' anti-school culture? Narratives and school practices' by Jonsson, R Anthropology and Education Quarterly 453: 276-92, September 2014 (Wiley)


It is a trope of education that boys underachieve academically when compared with girls. But is this because boys are intrinsically more "anti-school"? Dr Rickard Jonsson, a senior lecturer in child and youth studies at Stockholm University in Sweden, took an anthropological approach to answering this question. He used as his springboard a comment from the Swedish minister for education, who alleged that independent learning could be contributing to disaffection among male students.

Jonsson carried out ethnographic studies in two Swedish secondary schools, with subjects described as "underachieving students in underachieving schools". He followed the pupils in two projects - one that took place in the academic year 2003-04 and the other between September 2007 and February 2008.

The results were inconclusive. From those visits, Jonsson selected four case studies highlighting how boys' anti-school culture can become a narrative within a school, as well as the ways in which this narrative can be subverted or contradicted. The answer to his original question - whether there is more disaffection among male students - appears to be "maybe".

He reflects on the effect his observations may have had on students, writing: "Retrospectively, I sometimes felt that my presence served to accentuate an anti-school culture narrative, as if the boys had an idea of what kind of stories I was trying to collect in my role as `researcher'."

Although he shies away from evaluating boys as a homogeneous group, Jonsson does point out that there are certain "types" of boys who are at risk of failing academically, in particular those "categorised as working-class or ethnic `other' ".

He suggests further research should take place into the linguistic patterns that are used when talking to male students, as well as the language used by boys when opposing teachers' instructions or sanctions.

Sarah Cunnane

Share your views by tweeting @tes

Hot off the press

Freaked Out: the bewildered teacher's guide to digital learning by Simon Pridham (Crown House Publishing)

ISBN 9781781351055

This book provides a step-by-step guide for befuddled teachers who are keen to improve digital literacy in their school by introducing the latest technology, such as tablets and smartphones, into the classroom. Pridham aims to build readers' confidence so that they can become effective facilitators of digital learning.

The Triple Focus: a new approach to education by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge (More Than Sound)

ISBN 9781934441787

As the world becomes increasingly connected, complex and distracting, Goleman and Senge argue that three core skill sets should be a part of every child's learning: understanding self, other and the larger systems we operate within. The authors explore how these skills can lead to better academic performance.

Speech, Language and Communication Pocketbook by Victoria Mason and Emela Milne (Teachers' Pocketbooks)

ISBN 9781906610708

While most children instinctively develop communication skills, some don't. This book offers practical strategies for teachers and presents a whole-school approach to the issue.

For book queries, please email chloe.darracott-cankovic

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today