The ‘Gender Gap’ in Education and Why a Private Boys School Might Be a Solution

If you’re the parent of a boy and you have given his educational path some thought, you’ve likely encountered the narrative that boys are falling behind girls in school. Headlines, books, and research can leave you feeling uneasy about your child’s future and wondering if you’re doing the right things to set him up for success.

The so-called “gender gap” isn’t unique to the United States. Countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and France have also reported a decline in boys’ test scores and matriculation to colleges and universities. While global data indicates that boys’ verbal assessments trail behind girls’ verbal test scores, some research suggests that it could be less about the differences in male and female brains and more about the way educators approach students—in other words, the way teachers and families approach boys and girls could contribute to different learning outcomes.

Education Gender Gap Private SchoolWith this in mind, one question that parents of young boys can ask themselves is, “would an all-boys school enable my child to avoid the educational pitfalls that seem to be present around the world?” The answer to this question can’t be read in a blog post, an article, or a book. But you could start by talking to other parents with firsthand experience sending their children to all-boys schools. You will, of course, want to conduct your own research to find the best fit for your child and your family. Be sure to ask trusted sources about the benefits of enrolling your child in a single-sex environment.

Here are a few things The Fessenden School prioritizes in order to help boys set out on a positive academic path with confidence.

A Sense of Comfort and Confidence

Many parents tell us that one of the benefits of sending their child to an all-boys school is that everything is a “boy thing.” Students tend to have an easier time being themselves in this type of environment. Fessenden’s Director of Admissions and Enrollment Manager Caleb Thomson ’79 notes, “I love that the boy on my varsity soccer team is also a lead in the play. Children are not categorized as ‘an athlete’ or ‘an artist.’ And, we’ve found that boys are often more comfortable trying new things in the absence of girls.”

A Schedule With Breathing Room

An important aspect of private, all-boys schools is the strategically designed schedule and focus on the development of positive study skills and habits. Private all-boys schools help prepare children for secondary schools and their academic journeys. This is achieved by daily emphasis on the balance of academics, athletics, study halls, and fun extracurricular activities. According to Director of Secondary School Counseling Tim Murphy, students at Fessenden respond to an environment that is “structured but in no way stifling of their creativity, their energy, or their enthusiasm.” He describes the community as well-organized without restraining the natural exuberance that students have at this age.

A Flexible Academic Setting That Embraces Movement

We know that boys often learn best when they’re allowed to move and touch things. Of a video taken in Fessenden’s Ciongoli Center for Innovation, Dr. Anthony Rao said, “Check out the eye contact, the engagement, the intensity. What’s happening in the brain when we move? Studies show that when kids get some movement, their brains light up and get more active. This leads to better performance. When you look into a classroom and students are sedentary, their brains are draining.” Dr. Rao often shares that when boys get to move, they become more creative and their learning outcomes are actually more positive than when they’re stuck behind desks.

You tell us.

What is your response to reports and studies about the “gender educational achievement gap” and what are you doing to ensure your son thrives in elementary and middle school?

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