Over this past weekend the Toronto Star ran an article entitled "Male students getting rare as hen's teeth at Ontario Veterinary College" which traces the declining enrollment of males at the University of Guelph and the wider trend in the post-secondary education sector. The article highlights the growing divide between males and females in spheres of education, workplaces, and in professions such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers. This issue is increasingly in the public eye as publications like the Globe and Mail and other media outlets cover the extent of the problem, see here for previous coverage on this issue. Below I've engage in a cursory discussion about what I feel are some of the trends behind the current state of males within Canada's education system.
What's behind this trend?
Tracing the cultural, social, and political foundations of this phenomenon is difficult given the myriad of issues involved. The trend can be attributed in part to the changes seen in society from the impact of the progression of globalization and rise of emerging technologies. The educational achievement gap that exists in Canada has all the makings of a perfect storm for a economic, social, and public policy nightmare. As a society we simply cannot allow for half the population to be unable to contribute to their full potential, the costs of this problem will continue to be staggeringly high unless the problem is fully addressed.
What are some of the specific factors?
Within the sphere of education there is an intense debate underway about best practices related to educating young men - whether it be: the lack of male role models, gendered differences in learning styles, modeling career aspirations in the classroom. With the drop out rate taking a distinctly male problem in provinces like Quebec, the severity of the problem is now getting attention from business, academic, and political leaders. Educators are taking the problem seriously, albeit the response has been slow, initiatives like boys only classrooms and getting more male teachers into the education system are being implemented across the country
Literacy, oral expression, and writing skills are severely lacking in young men. Universities in Ontario are literally graduating male students who can barely piece together an essay, don't possess proper research skills, and haven't developed the ability to conduct oral presentations. All of these are skills that are critical for success in professional live, it's a real question about whether these young men will succeed in their careers when they haven't developed the requisite skills after four years of university education.
The roll of technology plays a large part in the achievement gap as technology often has a dark side. Young men have become obsessed with video games, internet porn, and online diversions like Youtube. We're raising a generation of boys who are perpetually 'engaged' by the overload of information and electronic distractions - it's hard to flourish academically when the only things on your mind are nudie pictures and finishing the next level in the latest first person shooter.
Where do we go from here?
There simply needs to be a much higher level of attention focused on what the needs of boys and young men with regards to education, training, and career preparation. Leadership to address this issue needs to come from the business, political, and academic realms. Tough questions need to be asked and holistic solutions developed to address the growing achievement gap, to do anything less would be a disservice to our sons, brothers, nephews, and grandsons. If anyone reading this has ideas that they want to share with me, please send me an email.