Well known feminist Naomi Wolf once said at the annual Singapore Writers Festival held just last year that if women are so passive that they can allow men to take over the leadership of their organisation, then women should work on themselves and not just try to exclude men.
Former president of AWARE Dana Lam had this to say:
But this is an organisation set up by women to correct the imbalance that exists in society. So until that problem is resolved, I think it’s too early for us to think of us involving men.
Imbalance? According to the Ministry of Education’s statistics 2014, out of a total of 15,634 graduates in Singapore in the year 2013, 8,069 were females. 51.6% is considered a majority isn’t it? The folks at AWARE may be able to give us some examples of discrimination against women, but apparently, education is not one of them. In fact, recent data and research have shown that instead of being disadvantaged, the balance has already tipped in favour of girls. The most absurd thing is, nobody has even taken notice until recently.
In the early 1960s, boys were the clear majority in colleges and universities. With much conscious effort from governments worldwide, the gender gap in education has closed rapidly over the decades. Less perceptibly, however, another one has opened up. The girls are doing better and going further. The boys are being left behind! One of the first countries to recognise this problem is Sweden where a study has been commissioned to research into the country’s “boy crisis”.
In one OECD report spanning 64 countries, new analysis also reveals that boys are much more likely to underperform at school than girls, leading to disengagement and higher dropout rates. Six out of ten of low achievers in reading, maths and science in OECD PISA surveys are boys. The latter is 50% more likely to fail than their female counterparts. On the average, based on literacy, boys are actually one academic year behind the girls! The report can be found here.
Yes, girls beat boys in school. Is there an explanation for this? Well, we all know that boys are more playful than girls. In the past, these boys were protected in the competition for grades because girls’ parents didn’t have such high expectations. True enough, surveys reveal that girls spend an hour more than boys on homework every week. 75% of girls read for pleasure while less than 50% of boys do so. They would rather play video games and go fishing. With shorter attention spans, boys pay less attention in class and some even feel that it’s uncool to study or read. Their lack of discipline is also a major concern. With the benefit of hindsight, any keen observer should have predicted that the girls will eventually beat the boys in school and by a very significant margin too. Let’s face it. Girls are more book-smart and suited to the school system than we are. It’s just that for generations, the girls have not admitted it; let alone boasted about it.
In most sporting events, there are separate men’s and women’s events. In any doubles event, there must be an equal number of males and females on either side. It is accepted that if men and women were to compete against one another, one side (presumably the men) would have an unfair advantage. What about education? If it can be proven that boys are biologically at a disadvantage in their studies, would it be inconceivable for examination boards to somehow balance the equation or “even the score” for the weaker sex? That would be a perfect excuse and opportunity for people like me who don’t study much, but ultimately, as in sports, isn’t it only fair?
Of course, feminists like Dana Lam and her compatriots at AWARE are not very likely to accept the fact that boys learn differently. Girls are disadvantaged. Boys are just stupid and lazy. But Australia has already recognised this problem and taken steps to help their boys. They’ve come up with a programme called B4 (Boys, Blokes, Books and Bytes) to encourage reading among boys with the help of adult male role models. Recognising that boys are disadvantaged in the current school system, the programme adopts a style of learning that appeals to boys.
As women in advanced countries fight for equal rights, their university enrollment percentage has crept up to 56% compared to 46% in 1985. By 2025, female graduates may make up 58% of the cohort unless governments interfere and incur the wrath of organisations like AWARE. It’s going to be tough for women to find a partner if they still choose to marry above their social class. For governments, a growing underclass of poorly-educated, underachieving men will certainly give rise to various social issues.
Nevertheless, in the top echelons of almost every industry in any society, female representation remains low. While girls beat boys in school and continue to beat them early in their career, they somehow lose out midstream. The folks at AWARE may point to this as evidence of women being discriminated against (in spite of their intellectual superiority), but according to Elisabeth Kelan of Cranfield School of Management (UK), traditional patterns still assert themselves in miraculous ways. Perhaps not so miraculous after all. It could be explained that women are by nature less ambitious and 20 years into one’s career, the grades in school don’t count anymore. The “boys” eventually catch up and even overtake their female counterparts when they reach their 30s and 40s. I believe that these “miracles” should keep AWARE busy for years to come.
© Chan Joon Yee