FLASH! the Girls Are Way Ahead of the Boys in Quebec Schools

Article excerpt

WHILE OUR ATTENTION IS FOCUSED ON THE GIRLS, ARE THE BOYS falling through the cracks of our educational system? Recent data strongly suggest this. Indeed, if boys did as well as girls in school, there would have been no need for the Quebec Ministry of Educations highly touted plan of action to deal with dropouts: "Succeeding in School"... Boys are dropping out before finishing high school in droves, and far more than the girls. The Ministry's figures reveal that of the potential graduating class of 1991-92, barely 60.6 per cent of boys obtained their high-school diploma, compared to 74.5 per cent of their female counterparts. Furthermore, the situation gets worse after that ... Of the total population of 19-yearolds in 1989-90, 83.5 per cent of the girls possessed a high-school diploma, compared to 65.8 per cent of boys ...

The higher proportion of girls does not end at high-school graduation. Female students outnumber their male counterparts in college (CEGEP) ... Well over half of 17-year-old girls (54.2 per cent) go on to college, compared to only 38.9 per cent of the boys. In sum, less than two thirds of the boys finish high school; less than 40 per cent go on to college ...

And the differences don't stop there. Girls' grades, on average, are better, than those of boys at the college level, and grades determine access to university programs. One indicator of the girls' success is their scores on the French proficiency test required for admission to French-language universities. Sixty-one per cent of girls pass the tests, compared to only 47 per cent of boys. According to Ronald Terril, coordinator of research at SRAM, the regional body that coordinates admissions to colleges, "Girls apply to college in higher numbers than boys, they are better prepared and they are more likely to be accepted. Once in college, they do better than their male counterparts and more of them obtain diplomas."

The university numbers bear this out. In 1960, only 20 per cent of Quebec university students were women. However, by 1992, women made up 57 per cent of the student population. Only at the doctoral level were men still in the majority ...

Is Quebec the exception? Not really. According to Statistics Canada, in 1992-93, 266,000 women attended university in Canada, compared to 231,000 men - the sixth year in a row that there were more women than men, with the gap widening each year. Women's gains in education is a phenomenon observed in all Western countries...

Toward an explanation

Denise Alarie, a high-school teacher in Boucherville, a suburb on Montreal's South Shore, says, "I've noticed that the vast majority of girls want to pursue their studies because their goal is to become, one day, financially independent. They don't want to be dependent on men, and they've understood that education is important if they hope to obtain a good job." Boys seem more interested in immediate rewards and less preoccupied with their future. This may explain why more boys than girls have parttime jobs. For Jean Larochelle, also a teacher in Boucherville, "Boys are still influenced by the myth of owning a car. A guy must have his second-hand car and some pocket money. Consequently, he's ready to work even if it puts his studies in jeopardy."

Many teachers agree with the fact that boys are still hung up on sexual stereotypes whereas girls are breaking them. Girls are succeeding in the educational system because they are capable of overcoming stereotypic attitudes, for example, reluctance to compete in traditionally male fields of activity or the belief that as women they, could only achieve proper status through the men in their lives. In the same way, these teachers say, if boys are to succeed in school, they will have to break their male sexual stereotypes. For many boys, going to class and getting good marks have become feminine values which they reject for fear of becoming effeminate. To be popular with their peers, boys are expected to confront their teachers, disobey the rules, get kicked out of class, skip classes . …