Are girls smarter than boys?A reasoned perspective.
IS THE education system more suited to the learning style of girls? Is that why boys are lagging behind girls in public examinations?
"No," says Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Syed Ahmad Hussein. Syed Ahmad says it is not a gender-based problem but rather a sociological one.
"It is a recent phenomenon as it was not a problem 10 years ago. What it is, I'm not sure. It needs to be studied. Maybe Malaysian boys are spoilt and get away with many things, including not studying hard. It is possible that girls perform better in an exam-oriented system but that does not mean girls would not perform as well in an alternative system."
He says some people suggest that boys perform better in a hands-on learning environment rather than one which requires a lot of memorisation.That should only happen if boys outnumber girls in that top 10, then we have every right to be obsessed, right?
However, says Syed Ahmad: "The results might be the same if the system is changed. I still hold to the position that we should have an education system that prescribes lifelong learning. There should be enough channels for people to return to a formal education system whenever they want. We should not be obsessed with having an equal number of boys and girls in the top 10."
Assuming that such behaviors as "not looking at the instructions" are "biologically wired" is wrong, but saying that they are more "hands-on" is quite accurate. School ought to be more hands-on, because girls are just as adept with hands-on learning as boys are. But some people disagree:
Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Dr Parmjit Singh says while there was absolutely nothing wrong with girls doing better than boys, it was important to recognize why boys were not doing as well as the girls.
"It is common knowledge among parents of young children that the learning process that the boys are adapted to is quite different from that of girls."
He says if the disparity continued to persist, it would mean the nation would not get the best out of the boys. Parmjit says anyone taking a cursory look at any classroom today would see boys being restless and bored.
"It's the boys' behavioral patterns, biological make-up and learning patterns. For example, when you buy something new, a boy will not be patient enough to look at the instructions. He will fiddle around with it until he finds out how it works. They are more experimental and hands-on. Girls have a tendency to not experiment so much. They will look at the instruction booklet or ask their peers. These are just the ways people learn."
MQA deputy chief executive officer Prof Zita Mohd Fahmi feels there is nothing wrong with the education system.Obviously Malaysia is different than the United States, so for all I know this could be accurate. What is expected of and offered to boys and girls over there is probably different. Still, this opinion that we ought to allow boys to be disengaged with school just reeks of defeatism.
"I think girls are very hardworking. When I was worked as a teacher, the female students' scores at the point of entry were already better than the males. This is not an issue isolated to Malaysia. I don't think there is anything wrong with the education system. I think in the Asian context, parents are more lenient with boys. I have two sons and two daughters and I find the girls' approach to life is different."
Academician Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim agrees that the problem is not with the education system.That's an insult to the boys who aren't, of course. But who cares?
"If you look at the culture of the people, in particular Malays and Indians, Malay and Indian girls are not allowed that much freedom compared with Chinese girls. Due to that, the girls tend to give more attention to their studies while the boys are running wild."