Boys' Underperformance

The phenomenon of boys' underachievement in education — both in terms of participation and performance — has become an issue in a number of countries.

Boys’ academic underperformance, high dropout rates and low secondary to tertiary transition are a matter of great concern. COL’s Strategic Plan 2015–2021 places particular emphasis on addressing this gender issue.

In 2006, the Commonwealth of Learning and Commonwealth Secretariat co-published Boys' Underachievement in Education: An Exploration in Selected Commonwealth Countries. It found that boys’ underachievement, both in terms of participation and performance, was a result of a complex interplay of forces, with roots in general characteristics of society as well as education systems.

A follow up report completed in 2017 documented the major changes since 2006. The report found that boys’ underperformance tends to arise where there is gender parity in education. As countries move towards greater gender parity in school participation, boys’ underperformance is being noticed more and more, and tends to be concentrated in literacy.

The report includes a range of recommendations, which include:

  • Schools and teachers should adopt a pedagogical process that enables and accommodates a diversity of students (including diversity in race, culture, class, ethnicity or religion) as a whole;
  • Governments, especially departments of education, should focus on data collection, establishing disaggregated databases and developing specific methodologies by which these data are collected; and
  • The creation of safe spaces online for participation within the schooling system could help to identify the problems and issues that inhibit boys in schools.

The report can be found on COL’s Online Repository here.