I have commented before on the inequality of the achievements of men and women in our education system. The other day I came across the above data on the now defunct ‘Fat Knowledge‘ blog. It seemed impossible, so I followed links to the US data, and then I tracked down the equivalent UK data. The situation in the UK seems delayed as compared with the US, and the general UK participation rate is lower, but the story looks similar. The data appear to be bona fide and reflect a systematic decline in the fraction of men who attend higher education.If we accept this as a fact for a moment, let’s have a think about ‘Why?’ and ask whether we should try to do anything.
Well if the figures were reversed I have no doubt that women would cynically remark that it was just another manifestation of men’s institutionalised discrimination against women. So are men entitled to say the same about the situation now? Well I think there are many causes, but I think that men and women are different and that our educational system has indeed become biased in favour of what are typically female learning styles. Its my opinion, and I accept I could be wrong.
What to do?
Well if the figures were reversed I have no doubt that this would be portrayed as a scandal, and it would be asserted that action was urgently required. Well I think the current data are scandalous and I am amazed that every scheme I have come across is about encouraging MORE women to participate in higher education. [These schemes are generally focussed on science and engineering which are portrayed as being especially unwelcoming to women – something which I have to say is simply not true. They are often unwelcoming to EVERYONE – because they are just very difficult! But in general there is no systematic bias against women – quite the opposite]. However I think the problem is very deeply rooted in our educational system. And so I have no prescription for ‘immediate action’ because I just don’t have any faith in educational diktats which change every two or three years. But this is very worrying data, and we will reap the consequences of this in years to come if we allow the situation to persist.