A new study on the gender gap in education has shown that in the United Kingdom, boys are almost twice as likely as girls to be falling behind in language skills by the time they start school.
Experts have warned that this widening gap in learning is putting boys’ chances of having a successful life at risk and good have very real negative implications for their later lives.
According to the study by Save the Children, throughout the last decade nearly a million boys were not achieving expected levels at the age of five. This meant that these boys often struggled to follow simple instructions or to construct a full spoken sentence.
The report also found that there is no area in England where boys, on average, are outperforming girls in early language skills.
The Mirror reports that the study has called for the government to implement an early years teacher in every nursery to develop a well-rounded and qualified workforce in the future.
The report states that:
“We cannot wait for disadvantaged children and boys to get to school before they receive the support they need … We must invest in the best early years provision, led by early years teachers and supported by skilled staff at all levels, particularly in the most deprived areas.”
The study has warned that unless action is taken to make sure that all young people have access to high-quality early education, then almost a million more young boys could suffer the same problems in the next decade.
Though the study makes sure to mention that the gender gap is not by any means a new phenomenon, it makes clear that the issue can have wide-ranging effects on boys who are left behind at an early age.
The study says that “the gender gap is well documented” and continues:
“It has hardly changed for five-year-olds over the past decade, despite a dramatic improvement in overall results. The difference in outcomes for boys and girls is having a devastating impact; nearly a million boys have fallen behind with their early language skills since 2006.”
As reported by The Telegraph, the study makes clear that falling behind in early life is often an indication that a youngster will continue to be behind later on. Lagging in language skills also hinders young children from being able to express themselves and interact with their surroundings and can have effects on a youngster’s earnings, literacy skills and mental health in the future.
Newsweek cites the report’s suggestion that girls tend have better learning related-skills in early life, such as persistence and organization, while parents and carers have a great effect on a child’s educational development.
Children from poorer backgrounds are more affected, with those qualifying for free school meals showing the greatest gender gap with 38% of boys not meeting the standard compared with 23% of girls. The BBC reports that the narrowest gap — 5% — was found in Richmond upon Thames, where 11% of boys were affected compared to 6% of girls.
However, the report said that there is no clear indication as to how external factors affect these young children, pointing out that the gender gap could be as a result of biological differences, rate of development or social processes.