“Everyone should find something they love doing. Then work isn’t work. It’s a part of themselves. Of who they are. ” – Paul McAuley, The Quiet War.
As I established in a previous blog post, The Gender Gap in Education, girls are now outperforming boys in almost every subject from elementary school to postgraduate level and they significantly outnumber boys in university enrolment in most western countries. Many people have been alarmed by these facts and have concluded that boys are in crisis. Much has been written about this supposed boys’ crisis. Some say it exists and others deny its existence. Those who reject its existence often cite socio-economic factors and varying beliefs related to gender stereotypes and ideology as the real reasons for the decline in boys’ performance. Middle-class and upper-class boys are still doing relatively well. Some educational researchers argue that there are more differences in educational attainment levels among boys themselves, than there are among boys taken as a group, and girls taken as an opposing group.
The mere recognition that girls get superior grades at school and now outnumber boys at university level, does not give us sufficient reason to conclude that most boys are in crisis. While we want to see a greater proportion of boys opt for 3 or 4 year university degrees, the reality is that more and more boys who are eligible for admission into universities, are opting to avoid university and pursue 2 year associate degrees at community colleges, or short technical and vocational competence-based certificate or diploma courses at polytechnics instead. There is no crisis for these boys.
These boys have chosen to master various areas of technical and vocational education and training ( TVET ). They realize that they can earn more money and have greater job security than many of their friends who choose to pursue academic degrees at university. These technically oriented boys offer services such as photography, culinary arts, plumbing, electrical installation, automobile repairs, air-conditioning and refrigeration, carpentry, masonry, tiling, reselling, freighting, landscaping, farming, graphic design, I.T. services, website design, and jewellery-making, just to name a few. These skills are directly work-related and are eagerly sought by many established companies.
Many of these boys or young men choose to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. They employ other young people and boost the national economy. Self-employment is their goal. This is in stark contrast to students graduating from traditional universities, who generally become job seekers within contracting and ailing national economies. The technical and vocational services mentioned above depend on individual knowledge and skills and often use online marketing and advertising to reach their clients.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence shows that more and more boys are opting for technical and vocational education and training (TVET ) rather than academic education. Ideally, there can be a happy combination of the two approaches because they can complement each other. In North America and Europe there are many School-to-Work programmes and in the Anglophone Caribbean we have our NVQs ( National Vocational Qualifications ) and CVQs (Caribbean Vocational Qualifications ) which are compliant with industrial standards. It would be instructive to quantify statistically the proportion of boys who now prefer to go the TVET and work route rather than enter academic universities. However, there is no crisis for these boys. More and more boys are also choosing to work in non-traditional areas such as professional sports and various sections of the music industry.