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Boys achievement investigation underway

Boys achievement investigation underway

Hon Trevor Mallard: Speech to the NZ Principals and Leadership Centre Conference on Boys' Education, Massey University, Albany, Auckland

Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to join you here today.

I'd like to thank the New Zealand Principal and Leadership Centre for inviting me to speak at this conference.

This government is committed to ensuring that all our children achieve to their full potential in education. The major Ministry of Education review of research on gender differences in compulsory education published in 2001 highlighted many issues that we face today in the area of boys' educational achievement.

It told us that in some curriculum areas and levels of schooling, boys were performing more poorly on average than girls. Two particular areas of weakness identified for boys were reading literacy at primary level and internally assessed areas at secondary level.

We also learned that boys have performed better than girls in other areas, like science and mathematics at the senior level and social studies at primary level.

Importantly, differences in achievement by gender tended to be smaller than differences in achievement by ethnicity or social class.

The first results from NCEA have continued many of these trends.

The same patterns applied to both internally and externally assessed standards, dispelling a common expectation that boys would perform better than girls in exams.

In 2002, the most significant gender gap in achievement for Level 1 NCEA was in English standards.

Boys were much less likely to gain English standards than girls, and the proportion of girls receiving excellence grades was twice that of boys. But a gender gap did not exist when the standards assessed students' ability to read and understand unfamiliar texts, or read for practical purposes.

While these trends in boys' achievement at school are international, they are wider than expected in New Zealand schools and particularly for Mâori and Pasifika boys.

We clearly need to do more to address this issue. That is why, earlier this year, I put in place a programme to identify solutions for lifting boys' achievement at school.

Ministry of Education staff have been meeting with co-educational and boys' school principals to discuss boys' achievement and identify programmes that are making a difference for them.

I know that many principals are already analysing data on this subject - all part of a concerted effort to improve educational outcomes for underachieving students through quality teaching.

The work programme will complement the Ministry's Best Evidence Synthesis research, which draws together the available evidence about what works to improve education outcomes, and what can make a bigger difference for the education of all our children and young people.

What teachers know and do is one of the most important influences on what students learn.

Quality teaching that results in high quality outcomes for diverse students requires expertise in integrating curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.

The focus is strongly shifting from outside the classroom to what happens inside the classroom.

The Secondary Schools Futures Project and the development of a Schooling Sector Strategy provide crucial opportunities to support this shift.

These two initiatives provide a platform for focused and future orientated discussion within the profession on the best ways to raise the achievement of all students, particularly those who are currently not achieving to their potential, a group that contains a disproportionate number of boys.

Another forum for this type of discussion, and a key aspect of the work programme to enhance the achievement of boys, is the establishment of an external reference group to advise the Ministry of Education on boys' education. I am pleased to announce the membership of this group today. The members are:Mike Leach, Principal of Tangaroa CollegePaul Baker, Principal of Waitaki Boys' High and Chairperson of the Association of Boys' Schools NZChris Saunders, Principal of Onehunga High SchoolIan Baldwin, Principal of Southland Boys' HighBill Hagan, a senior lecturer at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

One of the roles of the group will be to invite submissions from individuals or groups with an interest in this area, to ensure that a wide range of views is taken into account.

I am looking forward to the contribution this group will make to the development of policy to improve outcomes for boys in New Zealand.

The work I have commissioned will improve our knowledge base and help us clarify what needs to be done to improve boys' performance. I anticipate that we will have some clearer evidence as to what is working in terms of boys' achievement in schools towards the end of the year.

Thank you all for your commitment to raising the achievement of your students. I wish you well for your conference - I hope that it is an enjoyable and rewarding experience for you all.


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