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For some time, there has been concern in Australia over gender patterns in educational performance.(EndNote 1) While many boys perform well at school, on average boys do not achieve as well as girls across a range of educational measures. This is a pattern which is reflected in almost all other OECD countries.(EndNote 2) In addition, boys are less likely than girls to complete high school (Year 12) education, and less likely to go on to university.(EndNote 3)
Over 2006 and 2007 the Australian Government's $19.4m initiative Success for Boys will provide funding to schools to help them improve boys' learning outcomes and engagement with school. The initiative focuses on three key intervention areas: positive male role models, literacy, and information and communication technology.(EndNote 6)
PROPORTION OF SCHOOL CHILDREN(A) ACHIEVING BENCHMARKS
Literacy skills include reading, writing and numeracy tasks, and it is important that students develop these skills from an early age. These skills are an important predictor of longer term educational outcomes and personal and economic wellbeing.(EndNote 2) While most students are successful in developing their literacy skills, research suggests that those who do not are at increased risk of leaving school early, and of poor educational, work and social outcomes.(EndNote 7)
…YEARS 3 AND 7
People develop literacy skills at different rates and Australian children's literacy skills are assessed regularly during their schooling. In 2004, most students in Year 7 were achieving benchmark levels in reading, writing and numeracy.
In 2004, fewer boys achieved benchmark levels in reading and writing tasks in both Years 3 and 7. For example, in reading 89% of boys and 93% of girls in Year 7 achieved benchmark levels, while for writing tasks, 91% of boys and 96% of girls in Year 7 achieved benchmarks.
The gaps between girls and boys performance in reading and writing tasks have remained similar to that in the preceding three years.
While girls generally outperform boys in reading and writing, there is very little or no difference in the proportions of boys and girls achieving numeracy benchmarks. In 2004, 82% of boys and girls in Year 7 reached numeracy benchmarks. The proportions of boys and girls achieving numeracy benchmarks in Year 7 have remained around the same since 2001 (82%).
In 2004, higher proportions of school students in Year 3 were achieving reading and numeracy benchmarks than in Year 7. For example, 92% of boys and 95% of girls in Year 3 achieved reading benchmarks compared with 89% of boys and 93% of girls in Year 7. Patterns of achievement for writing benchmarks were similar in Years 3 and 7.
PROPORTION OF SCHOOL CHILDREN(a) ACHIEVING NUMERACY BENCHMARKS
…15 YEAR OLD STUDENTS
In most Australian states and territories students complete their compulsory schooling at age 15, and at age 16 in some others. For most students this corresponds with Year 10. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of how well 15 year olds approaching the end of their compulsory schooling are prepared to meet the challenges they will face in their lives beyond school.(EndNote 5))
According to the latest PISA results, 12,600 15 year old Australian school students participated in the 2003 survey. Overall, Australian students performed well, with both male and female students scoring above their respective OECD averages in mathematical, scientific and reading literacy.
There was little or no difference in the mean scores attained by Australian male and female students for mathematical literacy (mean score 527 for males and 522 for females) and scientific literacy (525 for both males and females). For more information see Australian Social Trends 2005, School students' mathematical and scientific literacy, pp. 102–106.
While Australian female students outperformed male students in reading literacy (mean score 545 for females and 506 for males), male students still performed well when compared with OECD and other countries. For example, male students in only four countries had a higher mean score than Australian male students in reading literacy (Canada, Finland, Korea and Liechtenstein) while male students in New Zealand had similar results. Overall, Australian male students' mean scores in mathematical, scientific and reading literacy placed them in the top 25% of male students' mean scores in participating countries.
STUDENTS' (A) MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE AND READING MEAN SCORES ON PISA – 2003
An increasing proportion of students are continuing beyond compulsory schooling and completing Year 12, which in turn enhances their employment and earning opportunities in later life. According to the 2004 National Report on Schooling, 62% of male students and 73% of female students completed Year 12 in 2004. Completion rates for males have fluctuated between 60% and 64% in the 10 years to 2004. Similarly, completion rates for females have fluctuated between 71% and 75% over the same period.
Students, and in particular boys, living outside metropolitan areas are less likely to complete Year 12 than their urban counterparts. In 2004, the completion rates for male and female students in remote areas were 47% and 63% respectively. In comparison, the completion rates were considerably higher for male (65%) and female students (75%) living in metropolitan areas.
On average, Year 12 male students achieve lower marks than female students, although male and female high achievers are performing about equally. For example, in the 2000 Queensland Overall Position university entrance scores, while boys comprised 41% of the top half of performers they represented just over half (51%) of the highest achievers.(EndNote 7) Similarly, aggregate results for all the subjects studied by more than 100 students for the 1999 NSW Higher School Certificate (Year 12) show that the average mark achieved by girls exceeded boys' average in 36 out of 40 subjects by up to 11%.(EndNote 8)
YEAR 12 COMPLETION RATES(a)
Source: Schools, Australia, 2005 (ABS cat.no. 4442.0).
PATTERNS OF SUBJECT CHOICE
Choices that are made in the subjects studied in senior secondary school influence access to higher education, vocational education and training, and to labour market outcomes. There are differences in subject enrolment patterns between male and female students in senior secondary school. For example, a smaller proportion of male students (93%) than female students (100%) enrolled in English(EndNote 1), but a slightly higher proportion of males enrolled in the area of mathematics, particularly at the higher level.(EndNote 9) Male students were more likely than female students to be enrolled in the areas of Physical Sciences, Technical Studies and Computer Studies, and Physical education. Female students were more likely than male students to be enrolled in Home Sciences, Humanities, Arts and Languages other than English.(EndNote 9)
There is some concern in parts of the community that male students' participation in a narrow and vocationally-oriented range of subjects may mean they miss out on opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills such as interpersonal and civic skills, and to foster their social and cultural capacities. However, it does not mean they are disadvantaged with regard to employment.(EndNote 1)
SCHOOL LEAVERS: ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION AND THE LABOUR FORCE — 2005
PATHWAYS AFTER SCHOOLING
Following compulsory secondary education, young people can choose from an increasing array of work, education and training pathways. Participation in formal training programs, higher education, or employment is important in order to avoid the risk of becoming long term unemployed, underemployed or marginally attached to the labour force.
Most young people aged 15–19 years were either in full-time education or were working full-time in 2005. While the proportion of females aged 15–19 years in full-time education (71%) was higher than for males aged 15-19 years (65%), there was a higher proportion of young males (23%) working full-time than young females (11%).
In 2005, 22% of young people aged 15–19 years were school leavers, that is, left school in the previous year. While most people aged 15–19 years were in full-time education or full-time work, most school leavers were no longer studying full-time, and a higher proportion were working full-time than for 15–19 year olds generally. Among male school leavers, there were similar proportions in full-time education and full-time work (both 35%). In contrast, among female school leavers there was a higher proportion in full-time education (43%) than full-time work (19%).
Young people may be at risk in the immediate transition from school to work if they are not in full-time education or in full-time work, or are not combining part-time education with part-time work. They may lack the skills to assist them over the long-term in the labour market. For more information see Australian Social Trends 2005, Young people at risk in the transition from education to work, pp. 93–98. In 2005, among school leavers, lower proportions of males (28%) than females (33%) were considered to be at risk in the immediate transition from education to work.(EndNote 10)
2. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training 2002, Boys: Getting it right – Report on the inquiry into the education of boys, viewed 21 April 2006, <http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/edt/eofb/report.htm>.
3. Department of Education Science and Training, Boys' education, viewed 21 April 2006, <http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/
4. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2005, National Report on Schooling in Australia 2004, Curriculum Corporation for MCEETYA, Melbourne.
5. Thomson, S, Cresswell, J and De Bortolli, L 2005, Facing the Future: A focus on mathematical literacy among Australian 15 year old Students in PISA 2003, ACER.
6. Success for Boys, viewed 11 April 2006, <http://www.successforboys.edu.au>.
7. Department of Education and the Arts, Boys gender and schooling, viewed 21 March 2006, <education.qld.gov.au/students/advocacy/
8. Department of Education, Science and Training, Educating Boys Issues and Information, viewed 21 April 2006, <http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/school_education/publications_resources/profiles/educating_boys.htm>.
9. Fullarton S and Ainley J 2000, Subject Choice by Students in Year 12 in Australian Secondary Schools, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.
10. Dusseldorp Skills Forum 2005, How young people are faring: Key indicators 2005, Monash University – ACER, Centre for the Economics of Education and Training.