Boys’ Achievement: A Synthesis of the Data

Publication Details

The focus of this report is on boys’ participation, engagement and achievement at different levels of education.

Author(s): Learning Policy Frameworks, Ministry of Education

Date Published: December 2007

This chapter looks at the longer term outcomes of students after they leave school, both in tertiary education and the labour market.

Key Findings

  • Overall, males are less likely than females to participate and attain qualifications in tertiary study; however this does vary depending on the field of study.
  • In 2006, 20 percentage points more females than males participated in degree level (level 7) courses and 26 percentage points more females than males attained qualifications at degree level.
  • The participation of Māori and Pasifika males in tertiary education, especially at higher levels, is very low.
  • Males and females with tertiary qualifications, even sub-degree qualifications, have greater labour force participation and, on average, earn higher incomes.
  • New Zealand males with an upper secondary qualification are 43 % less likely to be unemployed than males without an upper secondary qualification.

8.1. Direct Transition to Tertiary Education

Although tertiary education delays the start of paid employment, it substantially increases lifetime earnings and is a good investment both for the individual and society.  Not all school leavers transition to tertiary education.  A number of students take a break between schooling and tertiary education and some join the labour force.  Of the 2005 school leavers 56 % transitioned direct to tertiary education.  Of those transitioning direct to tertiary education, 52 % were female and 48 % were male.  However, this gender difference varies by ethnic group.  The proportion of NZ European and Asian males and females transitioning direct to tertiary education is similar; however, Māori and Pasifika males are less likely than Māori and Pasifika females to transition direct to tertiary.  

Of the students transitioning directly to tertiary education, females are more likely than males to enrol in a degree level course.  Of the 2005 leavers transitioning directly to tertiary, 11 percentage points more females than males enrolled in degree level courses.  However, males were more likely than females to enrol in lower level certificate courses.  These differences arise as a result of the differences in qualifications with which students leave school.  Students with University Entrance or higher are most likely to proceed directly to tertiary education and to enrol in degree level courses.  As females are most likely to leave school with University Entrance (section 7.4) higher numbers of females are enrolled in degree level courses.  Whereas slightly more males than females leave school with little or no formal qualification, and more males are enrolled in lower level certificate courses than females.

8.2. Tertiary Participation and Qualification Attainment

Higher levels of education are associated with better health and lifestyles, and lower crime rates.  Individuals with tertiary qualifications, even sub-degree qualifications, have greater labour force participation and, on average, earn higher incomes.  Females are more likely than males to participate in tertiary study across all age groups except the under 18 group.  The majority of the under 18 age group are participating in level 1-3 certificate courses at tertiary.  Figure 31 shows the participation in tertiary education by level of study and gender in 2006.  Females are more likely to participate in tertiary study than males.  The gender differences are largest in level 5 to 9 tertiary courses.  At degree level (level 7) 20 percentage points more females than males participate.  In 2006, this equated to over 26,000 more females than males enrolled.

Figure 31.  Participation in tertiary education by level of study and gender in 2006

Image of Figure 31. Participation in tertiary education by level of study and gender in 2006.

Overall, females are more likely to participate in tertiary study than males but there are large gender differences within different fields of study at tertiary level.  Gender differences in tertiary subject choices are not limited to New Zealand and are observed internationally across OECD countries.  Figure 32 shows the New Zealand participation in tertiary study by field and gender in 2006.  Males are more likely to participate in Engineering, Architecture and Building, and Agriculture and Environmental courses, whereas females are more likely to participate in all other fields of study. 

Not all enrolments end as qualifications, but over the last decade there have been increases in the number of tertiary qualifications attained by males and females.  However, a gender split in the percentage of qualifications gained1 at each tertiary level exists.  This is shown in Figure 33 for 2006.  Females are more likely to attain tertiary education qualifications.  Across all levels females were 22 percentage points more likely to attain a qualification.  At degree level (level 7), there was a 26 percentage point gender difference in favour of females.  Female attainment rates are found to exceed those for males in just over half of the OECD countries, but New Zealand is one of only four countries where the gender difference in attainment rate is significantly higher.2 

Figure 32.  Participation in tertiary education by field of study and gender in 2006

Image of Figure 32. Participation in tertiary education by field of study and gender in 2006.

 

Figure 33.  Qualification attainment in tertiary education by level of study and gender in 2006

Image of Figure 33. Qualification attainment in tertiary education by level of study and gender in 2006.


Figure 34 shows the qualification attainment by field of study and gender in 2006.  Even if the gender differences in participation rates are taken into account, males are less likely than females to attain qualifications in all fields of study other than IT (where males are more likely to attain qualifications) and Society and Culture, and Creative Arts (where males and females are equally likely to attain qualifications). 

Across all OECD countries, health and welfare subjects are the most popular for females and subjects relating to engineering, manufacturing and construction are most popular for males.3  In New Zealand about 20 % of health and welfare graduates are males, which is lower than the OECD average of 29 %.  In engineering, manufacturing and construction subjects males make up about 70 % of graduates in New Zealand compared to the OECD average of 75 %.

Such differences in subjects studied at tertiary level both reflect and influence different career choices for males and females.  These differences will contribute to gender differences in the labour market.

Figure 34.  Qualification attainment in tertiary education by field of study and gender in 2006

Image of Figure 34. Qualification attainment in tertiary education by field of study and gender in 2006.

8.3. Participation in the Labour Market

Employment rates of females are below employment rates of males in all OECD countries but nearly everywhere the gap between male and female employment rates has been falling.4  The differences in employment rates tend to be affected by the more dominant role females usually play in child rearing compared to males. 

In New Zealand and across most OECD countries employment rates rise with educational attainment.  Individuals with tertiary qualifications, even sub-degree qualifications, have greater labour force participation and, on average, earn higher incomes.  Individuals with little or no formal educational attainment are both less likely to be labour force participants and more likely to be unemployed.  For example males with an upper secondary qualification are 16 % more likely to be employed and 43 % less likely to be unemployed than males with a qualification below upper secondary. 

Footnotes

  1. Read the Retention and Achievement Tertiary data (note that it relates to domestic students only)
  2. OECD Education database.
  3. OECD Education database.
  4. Education at a Glance. (2007). OECD Indicators.