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'Gender gap' - Principal says education system isn't boy-friendly

Published: 7:35AM Sunday February 22, 2015 Source: Sunday

Primary school boys are struggling to keep up with the girls and we need to act, according to Belmont Primary School principal, Bruce Cunningham.

Last year, Mr Cunningham decided to start a boys-only class at his Auckland coeducational school.

"This is about boys being allowed to be boys," says Mr Cunningham.

He says there's a "gender gap", and that normal boys are failing in the education system at unprecedented levels because the education system isn't boy-friendly.

"Boys were passive learners. Girls were answering the questions and boys were probably thinking which tree will I climb.

"We've got some excellent teachers in New Zealand but a lot of the writing and reading programmes are designed around girls."

Mr Cunningham advocates class time where there's plenty of exercise, and doing schoolwork around themes that interest boys - like robots, war stories and sport.

Twenty families signed up for Belmont School's bold educational experiment, among them eight-year old Jack's parents, Charmayne and Craig Gerken.

"I had concerns, about his [Jack's] academic levels and how we could put this right, " Charmayne says.

She explains Jack is intelligent and able but was still lagging behind his sister at the same school.

"Jack was falling behind and we knew we needed to fix it and fix it quick," says Craig.

It's working so far. Charmayne says that a year on, Jack is now engaged at school and wants to learn. She says she's a convert to the idea that boys and girls need to be educated differently.

The Ministry of Education acknowledges there's a gender issue, but says not to expect boys-only classes to go nationwide anytime soon.

And Jack? Well he loves it. "It's so much nicer with no girls."

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