Why are boys failing school?

Can a boys’ camp experience help counterbalance this effect?

I was looking at back issues of Québec Science recently. In the November 2010 issue, I came across an article by Égide Royer, a psychologist and professor at Laval University, entitled “Des garçons sur le carreau”. P. 32-34

Égide Royer writes: « Plusieurs études rapportent en effet que les enseignants interagissent d’une manière différente avec leurs élèves selon le sexe de ceux-ci. Les garçons reçoivent plus de commentaires négatifs ou de désapprobation, font plus fréquemment l’objet de critiques et voient leurs idées rejetées plus souvent que les filles. Les enseignants utilisent un ton plus négatif pour formuler ces critiques. Par exemple, on observe que les enseignants de maternelle haussent le ton pour composer avec les comportements agressifs lorsqu’il s’agit d’un gars. »

Royer observes that teachers interact differently with students based on their sex – boys receive more negative feedback; boys are more frequently criticized; boys have their ideas rejected more frequently. As well, teachers use a more negative tone with boys when expressing their criticism. In response to aggressive behaviour, teachers raise their voice more when it is a boy who is exhibiting the behaviour.

He goes on to say that teachers perceive boys’ behaviour as more disruptive, oppositional and intimidating. Teachers will act to correct or end boys’ behaviour more frequently. The result is that for many boys, the school day is filled with negative reinforcement, criticism and punishment.

A boys’ summer camp like Nominingue fills an important niche for many boys. Campers spend the day out-of-doors and then sleep in a tent each evening. The program is active and offers many opportunities for challenge, as well many opportunities to achieve something positive each day. Campers are given daily opportunities to make choices about how they want to spend their time.

Morning instruction plays an important role in our program: boys choose one from a list of twenty skill-based activities such as climbing, woodworking, sailing, archery or mountain biking; they practise this skill for an hour per day for six days aiming to learn or improve their skills.

Travelling the Canadian wilderness in a canoe is another essential component of our program. There is a canoe trip available for every camper, with the duration and degree of difficulty established according to the camper’s age and experience. Most campers at Nominingue choose to go on a canoe trip and this experience often becomes central to the memories that they bring home at the conclusion of camp.

Our program ensures that campers at Nominingue spend a good part of the day in activities of their choosing. Happy campers are the result – campers are challenged at a level at which they can achieve. Unlike school, there is no frequent need to correct bad behaviour and when the staff raises its voice, it is usually in a cheer or a shout of encouragement!