We must raise boys’ attainment – but not at the expense of girls | Letters
I agree with Gaby Hinsliff that boys failing to engage with further education is something that needs to be explored urgently (If I mention the ‘modern male struggle’, do you roll your eyes? It’s time to stop looking away, 20 September). If the possible solutions all come from the traditionalists of the right, then we have only ourselves to blame if they consist of increased obstacles for girls rather than greater support for boys.
There is an argument for insisting on at least one year between school and college. This could allow the development of some life skills before students are turned out as supposedly fully formed paediatricians, teachers, lawyers etc, and could also give boys another year to catch up emotionally with girls.
Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland
Gaby Hinsliff refers to the idea of “encouraging boys to consider traditionally female (and relatively automation-proof) careers in health and education, just as girls have been steered towards science or engineering”, to address the troubles facing young men.
However, these are not identical or comparable. Getting girls into Stem subjects fits into a feminist narrative of breaking glass ceilings and challenging gender stereotypes; boys taking up nursing or early years education has no equivalent subtext. Politicians, policymakers and the media do not see the gender imbalance as an issue. It would take a lot more than “encouragement” to get boys into those professions, such as addressing the deeper structural and systemic roots as to why and how the ways boys are raised and socialised lead them away from such career paths in the first place.
Gaby Hinsliff’s article was excellent. I believe it is now a good time to return to a form of national service for young men and women. We can’t rely on industry to train and educate adolescents any longer. It doesn’t have the motivation, money or vision.
Why not give big incentives to the armed forces to take on this task, and offer big incentives to young people in the form of regular pay and training in a useful trade? But don’t make it compulsory; make it an easier alternative to post-16 and further/higher education. Make the completion of, say, a three to five-year stint a ticket to opening civilian employers’ doors, among other benefits. With incentives for both the forces and young entrants alike, it could work very well for everyone.
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