By: María Alejandra Pulgar
The gap in educational achievements between male and female students has been slowly widening each year, and the pandemic impact on the retention of students only worsened that situation. It is a matter of national interest that requires attention from parents and all communities.
An article published early September about the issue on The Wall Street Journal cites data from the Census, the National Student Clearinghouse, the US Department of Education, and other organizations, all of them consistent on portraying that every year more females are applying to college than males, they enroll and graduate. It also happens at high school level, where the dropout rate in higher in males.
The reasons behind the situation include the need to step up to financially support their families, lack of attention to learning difficulties, mental health issues, cost of higher education institutions, interest on pursuing business ventures, and in many cases family and cultural paradigms.
Much has been said about empowering and protecting the right to education of women and girls worldwide, which is undoubtedly a global priority to ensure equal earnings, opportunities, and quality of life, and is still lightyears to be solved. However, it is important that in the process communities also tend to the issues male students face as well; it will allow all elements in society to obtain the tools they need to improve and thrive, which in turn will help communities grow.
The issue in numbers
According to the recent Census (2020), the national population between 18 and 25 years of age is almost evenly distributed (51% males, 49 females). Out of those 30.4 million Americans, 13.7% of males did not finish high school, vs. 10.4% of females. In the population older than 25 years of age (almost 225 million people) 20 % of males have not completed a college degree, and 12% have not finished high school; on this segment females have similar figures (20 % have not finished college and 10% high school). It is worth noting though that the projections of average salary are still almost $10,000 higher for males than females regardless of their educational level.
Locally, although there is no data available for the school year 2020-2021 (Pandemic Year), high school graduation rates for the school year 2019-2020 reflect the observation at the national level.
The graduation statistics for the high schools that serve the Doral area (Reagan/Doral Senior, Doral Academy, and School of Advanced Studies) are superior, 98.7% average, compared with 89.6% graduation rate of the whole Miami-Dade County. Nevertheless, still there was a 99% graduation rate among females and 98% males. In addition to those rates, there were also more female students in the top 5% of their class, in leadership roles such as honor societies and class representation, and also as Silver Knight Award nominees.
Keys for school readiness and retention
Studies in recent years from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association researched the developmental differences between genders, the importance of early childhood attention to learning difficulties for school readiness, and the educational methods and approaches to keep children engaged in school using all their talents to succeed.
Findings of those studies concluded that females show more “verbal fluency, perceptual speed, accuracy, and fine motor skills, while males outperform them in spatial, working memory and mathematical abilities”. Motivation is also an important factor “Male students tend to have a performance orientation, motivated by a desire to surpass their peers; while female students tend to be motivated more by a mastery orientation, wanting to increase their skill and competence and master new material.”
Addressing the learning style differences in the classroom is the key to keep all students engaged and committed towards achieving the ultimate goal of completing their education. The continued improvement on academic methods at all levels is crucial to reverse and close the educational gap between boys and girls.
Families influence academic achievement
“Historically, studies show that boys were more likely to hold positions of leadership within schools as well as graduate with higher rates. However, in the last few years, there has been such a push to have more girls take ownership of their educational future as well as understand the limitless potential they have in any future career, that they have most definitely be stepping up. The number of young women in leadership roles is quite visible and their graduation rates have definitely increased” commented Dr. Belinda Leon, College Advisor at Downtown Doral Charter Upper School.
“However, I have seen an equal number of both boys and girls that fall into these categories. Perhaps the difference is because we live in an “affluent” city? Perhaps it is because we have some of the highest levels of education among parents within Miami Dade County? The Hispanic background of most Doral residents may also be a factor” said Leon.
Involvement of parents and guardians especially in high school is vital to encourage students, regardless of their gender, to explore higher educational opportunities and to keep motivating them towards leadership, graduation, and the pursuit of degrees or certifications that can broaden their opportunities in the future.