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Topic: Women outnumber men in universities - Canada
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Women outnumber men in universities - Canada
Posted: Jan 1, 1999 5:15 PM
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The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, Monday, December 28, 1998


Where have all the smart men gone?

To university -- where they are now greatly outnumbered by women

Something dramatic is happening in Canadian higher education. Women are
taking over, and the extent and speed of the change is remarkable. In 1971,
39 per cent of postsecondary students in Canada were women. In 1997-98,
nearly 55 per cent of full-time university students were women. And there
has been a similar shift among part-time university and college students.

The change reflects both the numbers of women in university abruptly
shooting up and the number of men gradually cascading down. Between 1993-94
and 1997-98, the number of full-time female students increased to 312,663
from 301,670. At the same time the number of male students diminished from
272,644 to 260,436.

Let's make clear what is not happening. The number of women in the general
population who are of university age is not abruptly increasing while the
number of similary aged men drops. In 1971 there were 1,743,000 men between
the ages of 20 and 29, and 1,731,000 women. In 1996 the figures were
1,944,860 men and 1,970,845 women. The total population of that age group,
in other words, has been pretty much 50-50 by gender.

So here is what is happening: more girls are staying in and graduating
from high school. In 1981, 30.6 per cent of boys and 28.3 per cent of girls
had dropped out of high school. In 1996 those numbers were 20.7 and 15.7
respectively. In an age when returns to education are increasing, men are
now far more likely than women to never finish high school and never go to

All of which is, among other things, a great irony. The female inequities
of 30 years have blinded us to the male inequities of today. There is still
far more worry about the underrepresentation of women in a few remaining
fields such as engineering and the hard sciences than widespread notice of
female-dominant numbers virtually everywhere else. There is more concern
about a glass ceiling in a woman's workplace than the unseen concrete
ceiling that undereducated men are constructing for themselves.

A second thing to observe is that this is not a strictly Canadian
phenomenon. Australia's numbers are similar. A comparable gender disparity
has been observed in the United States and now approaches 60-40 at some
private colleges. Some schools are starting special drives to recruit male

The suggestions of what may be causing the educational disequilibrium are
largely anecdotal. Maybe being a good student is as much about good habits
as intelligence, and maybe girls have more of those better behavioural
habits. Maybe boys have more learning problems. Or maybe, when given an
equal opportunity, girls -- on average, and in many areas -- are just
smarter than boys.

But the truth of the matter is that we don't know. What we do know is that,
just as we once couldn't allow higher education to be prejudiced against
women, we now can't afford to shrug at what is happening to men.

If the federal government is looking for something of national educational
significance to put its budgetary surplus into, we can think of nothing
better than a Canada-wide study to unravel the "missing-college-man"


The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, Wednesday, December 30, 1998

The education of boys and men

By John Bachmann [President, Organization for Quality Education]

Brampton, Ont. -- Re Where Have All The Smart Men Gone? (editorial -- Dec. 28):

A good place to start the Canada-wide study that your editorial suggests be
conducted "to unravel the 'missing-college-man' conundrum" would be our
elementary schools.

Education reformers have long asserted that the "child-centred" philosophy
that has shaped the methodologies in those schools for the past two decades
puts male students at a distinct
disadvantage. As any parent with children of both sexes can tell you, in
general boys are not as interested in school at the elementary level as
their female classmates. They need clearly defined expectations and
structure if they are to overcome this lack of interest in the early grades.

We suggest that the Canada-wide study begin by investigating the reading,
writing and mathematics grade levels of students in Grade 9 who have just
finished running the "child-centred" gauntlet. We suspect this will show
significantly lower skill levels for boys than for girls. This, in turn, is
important because numerous studies have shown that early mastery of
communication and mathematics skills is the prime determinant of future
academic ambitions and success.


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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