If you want to be educated on this planet, it helps to be male. Globally, millions more boys than girls are in school. In sub-Saharan Africa, boys are far more likely than girls to attend primary and secondary school. And, though the gap is closing, boys generally score better in international assessments of science and math (GEM, 2015).
Not surprisingly, given these inequities, the global community has increasingly focused on educating girls—and girls have proven to be a most worthy investment. Educated females are healthier; have fewer children and higher income; take better care of themselves and their children; and make sure their children are educated. These benefits accrue from one generation to another, to the surrounding community, and to society as a whole.
Moreover, once in school, girls are more likely to reach the upper grades of primary school (Gambia, Malawi and Nepal are three examples). Where there are well-developed secondary systems --and girls are not pulled out to get married—girls are more likely than boys to finish secondary school (GEM, 2018). Indeed, in most of Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States, girls complete secondary school at higher rates than boys (GEM, 2018).
This is generally true, regardless of how rich or poor a country may be. In terms of tertiary education, across the globe--with exceptions like Turkey, Korea, Greece and Egypt--women enroll and complete university at increasingly higher rates than their male counterparts.
It's a man’s world…but what about in school?
The work is far from complete in terms of equitable access to education for girls, but it does appear that girls are generally trending upward educationally. However, the same cannot be said of boys.
Across the European Union, Australia, the Americas, and much of Asia, boys are more likely to drop out of school, repeat a grade, say they hate school, have discipline problems, and perform worse on assessments of reading ability (GEM, 2015 & 2018; OECD, 2015).
With the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, this is true almost everywhere. In most of Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and in the US, boys are much more likely to leave school than girls and more boys than girls are out of school.
The very worst performers in the PISA—those who do not reach proficiency in any subject—are overwhelmingly male (OECD, 2015). These problems do not affect wealthy boys, just poor ones—and almost everywhere (Kuper & Jacobs, 2019).
This widening gender gap may not elicit too much sympathy—after all education systems have historically favored educating boys at the expense of girls. Further, the education gap disappears once men hit the workforce, where almost everywhere, they earn more money and assume more powerful positions than women.
However, poor young men who leave school before the age of 16 are more likely to be unemployed and unemployable; poor; at higher risk for recruitment by gangs and extremist groups; incarcerated; engage in domestic violence (and violence in general); hold discriminatory, racist and sexist views; father children out of wedlock…The list of anti-social behaviors is depressingly long.