A recent study from Université de Luxembourg in Switzerland reinforces the concern that boys are falling behind in school, but it also helps to explain some of the reasoning. For some time now, boys in the 13-15 year range have been outperformed by their female peers, at least some of them. By talking directly to the boys, and observing classrooms, instead of talking to parents and teachers, researchers have had some new insight into the problem.

Boys who do poorly report alienation from school, but not at a much higher level than girls. Interestingly enough, although both genders report traditional opinions about their own gender role, in this case that men should lead women, many of the boys who felt this way were also falling behind in school.

The difference, is that when boys with more traditional beliefs about gender roles fall behind girls, they continue to do so, which makes sense. As they feel that they should be outperforming girls, failing to do can lead to alienation from the very system within which they are failing.

The study suggests a response though. Boys who feel this way, and are failing, tend to respond better to a caring but controlling and structured teaching style. This is not to say that they respond well to authoritative teaching styles, but that giving them structure and holding them to it is the best key.

More research could certainly help us to better understand the problem, and give us a better idea of how to approach the problem. Teaching to the issue will likely help students improve, but it’s not going to prevent the problem in the first place. If it turns out that these traditional gender views are causing the problem in the first place, or even if they simply make it worse, dealing with that issue in the first place may be more useful. Finding a way to break children of “traditional” thinking in this manner could be the answer.