Boys' Education: Good Practice in Secondary Schools (July 2008) 01/07/2008

Boys' achievement and participation

The central issue for boys' education, both in New Zealand, as well as many other developed countires, has been the achievement gap between boys and girls. At the end of 2007 the Ministry of Education produced a report, Boys' Achievement - A Synthesis of the Data, which states that there are some 'clear and consistent issues' related to the achievement of boys. Drawing on a wide range of educational achievement and participation data, this report found that boys are over-represented in:

  • early prolems in reading;
  • disengagement with school;
  • lower achievement in reading and writing; and
  • lower qualification attainment. 2

The Ministry's report also identified important differences in the achievement patterns of boys and girls. For example, it found that girls performed better than boys in all forms of literacy, although differences in reading tended to decrease during secondary schooling and differences in writing increase. No significant differences were found between boys and girls in mathematics and science achievement.

The report from the Ministry shows that, since the introduction of NCEA, there had been a consistent gap in the qualifications achieved by boysand girls. Approximately 10 percent more girls achieve Level 1 and Level 2 tha boys, with 13 percent more girls achieving Level 3.

From 1993 to 2006 the number of girls achieving University Entrance increased slightly over the number of boys. In 1993 27 percent of girls left school with University Entrance compared to 23 percent of boys. By 2006 41 percent of girls gained University Entrance compared to 31 percent of boys.

Despite the diffrences that exist between boys and girls at University Entrance and Levels 1, 2 and 3 of NCEA, boys are awarded a similar number of scholarship to girls. 3 For Example, in 2006 1502 males and 1426 females won scholarships. Fifty-eight percent of the scholarships awarded to male students were in mathematics and science, while female students were notably more successful in English and the Arts.

Ministry of Education data also show that ethnicity differences were more marked than gender differences. One way to represent this information is to identify how different age groups have performed in secondary school education. For example, of the students who failed to achieve a qualificationat school, Māori males formed the highest percentage, followed by Māori females, Pacific males, and then Pacific females through to Asian females who had the lowest percentage of non-qualification. (see graph below).

Graph 1: Percentage of school leavers with little or no formal attainment by gender and ethnic group, 2006


Ministry of Education. Boys' achievement - A synthesis of the data. Wellington: Ministry of Education, 2007.


Ministry of Education. Boy's achievement - A synthesis of the data. Wellington: Ministry of Education, 2007.

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