« Ain’t That the Truth | Main | Worth Noting »

June 04, 2006

Will Hutton on Teenagers

Will Hutton discovers that male teenagers are a pain. We’ve known this since, oooh, Socrates perhaps?


Parents of boys are the most baffled. Girls have their particular problems - they suffer disproportionately from anorexia, self-harming and bulimia to mention just the most obvious - but the figures on examinations and university entrance tell a different story. This year, the proportion of girls achieving five A*- C GCSEs, including maths and English, is likely to be 10 points higher than boys (47 versus 37). At university level, 56 per cent of undergraduates are women, 44 per cent men, rapidly edging towards women graduates outnumbering men three to two.

Shocking, eh?

A couple of decades ago a deliberate, by design, attempt was made to move the educational system from a highly competetive exam based system to a more coursework orientated one. The portion of the final grade that was exam based fell, from 100% to the current what? 40%? 30%?

The reason given for this was that boys were unfairly advantaged by this competetive method, that girls were unfairly disadvantaged. The two sexes work in different ways (although over at another of my blogs I argue that it is in fact male type and female type brains, not specifically to do with XX or XY.)  and we deliberately moved the whole shebang from one which privileged one sex to one that privileged the other.

Maybe this is a good idea and maybe it’s not but to complain that boys are falling ever further behind when this was in fact the point of the exercise, well, it’s just a bit Hutton if you know what I mean.

June 4, 2006 in Academia | Permalink


AFAIK, the GCSE and A-level qualifications are still only 30% coursework at most, except in such subjects - ICT, art, photography - where it would be absurd not to allow coursework to predominate.

Posted by: John Angliss | Jun 4, 2006 11:44:00 AM


You may be right as regards the average, but from my own experience, I suspect that the variance is so great as to make this almost meaningless. As early as 1978/1980 the Associated Examining Board English Literature O Level was 40% course work.

Posted by: Alan Peakall | Jun 4, 2006 4:18:54 PM

Maybe teenage boys are too sensible to have much patience with what passes for education in our dumbed-down state education system.

Posted by: Pete | Jun 4, 2006 8:05:16 PM

I did AEB O Level English literature in 1981 and it was entirely exam based. Of course, there could have been more than one variety of such an O Level available from the AEB at that time.

Posted by: David B. Wildgoose | Jun 5, 2006 11:01:21 PM


Thanks for adding another data point. You are probably right; I should have shunned that sinister monopolist, the word "the". I also remember our history teacher candidly admitting that we were studying "British Social and Economic History 1760 - Present" because the previous cohort's results in "Word Political History 1815 - 1914" had been so dire. Shopping around for a syllabus seems to have been an established practice.

Posted by: Alan Peakall | Jun 6, 2006 12:37:43 PM

When I did GCSEs, in 1993, English Literature and English Language were both 100% coursework: no exam at all. I can't remember which board it was; possibly Oxford...?


Posted by: Devil's Kitchen | Jun 7, 2006 12:00:09 PM