e-Discussion – Changing patterns in boys’ education achievement

D7 photoThe challenges that many boys face in realising their educational potential is increasingly being recognised as a major gender issue, not only in the education sphere, but also to social and economic development, and for achievement of the SDGs. In particular, there is concern regarding dropout rates among boys and low level of educational achievement.

Topic Update

Policy Brief: Engaging Boys for Active Citizenship through Education

The issue of poor learning outcomes and high dropout rates at primary or postprimary levels, particularly among boys, has been a major challenge for Caribbean educators and policy-makers, as well as for other Commonwealth countries. The phenomenon of ‘boys’ underachievement’ in schools across the Caribbean region cannot be resolved by intervening in the education sector alone. A country’s policy framework must therefore take into account how different sectors contribute to strengthening learning systems (including formal and non-formal education) and ensure that each sector builds on and reinforces the efforts of other sectors.

Download the policy brief.


Jamaica Teaching Council logoThe Boy’s Education Strategy Document was developed by the Jamaica Teaching Council in 2015. The document was conceptualised by Dr. Winsome Gordon (contributor to the eDiscussion reported on this page) led a team of practising educators from select schools in urban and rural Jamaica in documenting some successful strategies that were garnered through the ‘Advancing the Education of Boys Programme’. The document is intended to serve as a guide to assists teachers to creatively modify their teaching and learning activities in order to translate the curriculum into meaningful and engaging concepts which can improve the educational outcomes of boys in the classroom thus, creating equity in the classroom. The document is ‘organic’, that is, it is updated as teachers develop new ideas and innovations in teaching.

A set of slides is also available for download.

eDiscussion through the Education Hub Community of PracticeUNGEI_0

Boys edu image

Click here to view the summary report

Hosted in partnership with United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), this e-discussion has brought together practitioners, academics and policymakers to debate how the education system can better address the interests of boys and male adolescents and allow them to reach their potential, as well as exercise their right to education.

Participants looked at related issues and risk factors, as well as strategies to address these (e.g. effective policies, programmes and projects), and ways of scaling-up and adapting existing and promising practices.


The discussion was broken into four themes:

  1. Early influences and later outcomes: addressing risk factors and vulnerabilities from a life course perspective;
  2. Gender stereotypes and gender socialisation and their impact on boys’ education;
  3. Fostering positive social growth and behaviour among boys; and,
  4. Multisectoral policies, actions and strategies for boys’ education.

Key conclusions and recommendations from the discussion included:

  • Contributing factors influencing boys’ education are variable (including socioeconomic factors, and gender stereotypes and norms), with complex dynamic interactions influencing changing patterns in dropout rates and achievement. Both the variable influences and dynamic interactions need to be recognised in addressing changing patterns in boys’ education;
  • Requires focus on gender equality for both boys and girls, analysing and addressing issues involved (including gender stereotypes, and disparities and inequalities stemming from social and economic influences) to tackle the issues faced by both males and females;
  • Approaches to addressing issues related to changing patterns in boys’ education are similarly applicable to improving girls’ education, demonstrating the need to overcome stereotyping and gender norms;
  • Strategies should seek to engage all stakeholders and are needed at different levels (i.e. individual, familial, community, school, policy);
  • No one-size-fits all solution exists, requiring policies and strategies which meet the needs and challenges within a given context; and,
  • Need for a multisectoral, integrated policy approach to improving boys’ education, as well as that of girls.

This discussion was moderated by Nora Fyles (UNGEI), Mark Figueroa (Jamaica), and Wilfred Adderley (The Bahamas).

Useful Material

UNGEI, 2006, Why are Boys Under-performing in Education?, UNGEI, http://www.ungei.org/index_3120.html

“This research finds that system–wide education structures such as the legislated years of compulsory education, whether education is provided for free and the process of academic streaming, can act as unintended push factors encouraging boys to leave school.”

Figueroa, Mark, 2007, Under-achieving Caribbean boys: marginalization or gender privileging, Commonwealth Education Partnerships 2007, http://www.cedol.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/23-25-2007.pdf

“In as far as boys are now underachieving relative to girls, we must ask what has changed relative to when boys were overachieving?”

Figueroa, Mark, 2010, Coming to terms with boys at risk in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, Commonwealth Education Partnerships 2010, http://www.cedol.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/66-69-2010.pdf

“In seeking immediate policy solutions, the underlying importance of gender construction is often overlooked, and issues relating to home and school are treated as if they operated outside the broader socio-economic and cultural framework.”

The World Bank, Boys at Risk: A Gender Issue in the Caribbean Requiring a Multi-Faceted and Cross-Sectoral Approach, https://www.openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/10181

“The core policies have an established track record in preventing disadvantaged children and young people from engaging in risky behavior. The best approaches focus on helping those affected by risky behavior to recover and return to a safe and productive path to adulthood. Although few of these interventions have been evaluated, there is sufficient evidence to make some recommendations. The general policies address critical risk factors at the community and macro levels, but have also been shown to be particularly effective at reducing risky behavior by young people.”

Barker, G., Verma, R., Crownover, J., Segundo, M., Fonseca, V., Contreras, J. M., Heilman, B., and Pawlak, P., 2012, ‘Boys and education in the Global South: Emerging vulnerabilities and new opportunities for promoting changes in gender norms’, Journal of Boyhood Studies, vol. 6, issue 1+2, http://promundoglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Boys-and-Education-in-the-Global-South.pdf

“Overall, as seen from the examples here, evidence is strong that the process of participatory group education and youth-led campaigns and activism works to change gender-related attitudes among boys and girls and that higher educational attainment for boys and girls is a contributor to various forms of gender equality.”

[draft] Policy Brief: Engaging boys for active citizenship: Addressing educational achievement for healthy lifestyles

boys achievement brief1

Click on the image to view the draft brief

This brief has been developed by the Commonwealth Health and Education Unit (HEU) to provide an overview of the challenges involved in, and potential paths to addressing boys’ educational achievement

This brief is now closed for public comment.

This policy brief is expected to be published in mid-2016.

Ongoing discussion

If you wish to contribute to the ongoing discussion on this topic, please comment below (this may require a specific registration on this website which is separate from the eDiscussions).

One Comment


Many boys are ‘falling through the cracks, being left behind or, are at risk of not completing formal education or training. These are boys that does not find the formal education system appealing. The traditional strategies appears to achieve the desired outcomes as many boys are not engaged in the classroom. The education practitioner must therefore reflect on his/ her practices and re-strategize to create a climate for inclusion and equity. If we ignore our boys who are not engaged in the classroom it could come back to haunt us later.

Some of these boys use their intellectual ability in a manner that is unacceptable by society. They find creative ways to gain an income, most times by illegal means.

Together we can make a difference in educating our boys so that society will become richer having harness their true potentials. There latent abilities must be ‘awaken’ now.

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