University of São Paulo: Boys are more referred to school guidance than girls

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The high rate of boys referred to the School Complaint Guidance Service (OQE) of the Institute of Psychology (IP) at USP led researchers to look for the particularities of sexual roles in education. According to the service, between 2000 and 2016, boys accounted for about 70% of those referred for psychological care and evaluations due to problems at school.

Presenting information from research developed throughout her academic career, Marília Carvalho, professor at the Faculty of Education (FE) at USP, shows that gender issues, accentuated by income and ethnicity criteria, directly interfere in the schooling of children and young people. The teacher was invited by the OQE to discuss the underlying reasons that would explain this data and to qualify the numbers investigated by the group. The videos are available on the OQE website and also on the service’s YouTube channel .

“On the one hand, this depends a lot on how the school itself sees boys and girls. And we realize that what is expected of boys and girls is still very different”, says Marília, considered one of the greatest researchers in the area of ​​gender and education. In a series of videos produced by Portal OQE, the scientist discusses the differences in treatment and expectations that mark the school trajectory of girls and boys.

Starting from the characterization, Marília explains that advances in equal rights between men and women have not yet represented a paradigm shift for education. According to the researcher, the survey data reflect the inequality in the schooling of boys and girls. Examples of this are the higher dropout and repetition rates of students identified as male, especially among those who are black and from low-income families.

For teacher Marília Carvalho, the standard seen as adequate in the school environment can be directly associated with the way girls and boys present themselves and are seen by their teachers, transversalized by patriarchy. In the video, the educator highlights previous problems that were accentuated during the pandemic, and that are emerging in the return to face-to-face classes.

“The first thing we have to do is talk about it, because when we think that boys should be the main focus of action – black and poor boys, but boys in general – a discussion about masculinities is a discussion very rarely faced”, he says. Check it out in the video below:


Why 70%?
In 2018, the OQE launched a study that identified the characteristics of the demand for the school service for psychological care for school complaints, with the aim of contributing to academic research on this topic and improving its own database.

According to the survey, from 2000 to 2016, 1,105 people sought the School Complaint Guidance service (OQE), with 277 (25%) only filling out the registration form (ST – No Screening); 413 (37%) completed the form and participated in the screening (T), but did not remain in the service; and 415 (38%) participated in the entire service process, which includes filling in the form, screening orientation and service (TP). In all cases, services for boys exceed those for girls by up to 74%.

“This data is possibly a confirmation of gender stereotypes at school through the machismo bias, which permeates a differentiated being of boys and girls in schools. This happens because, many times, boys tend to be the protagonists of school failure, among other phenomena, with a significantly higher proportion of complaints of mess, aggression, disinterest and non-learning”, highlights the study.

But this phenomenon is not something new. Studies from the 1990s already indicated a higher proportion of males among students who experience difficulties at school.

“This study confirms the persistence of this phenomenon, despite feminist discussions and activism, which have been impacting other spheres of relationships between people of different sexes, such as the division of tasks in families”, they say. The group believes that longitudinal studies are needed to understand whether such disproportion, within the scope of school life, is also being impacted.

Another highlight of the study points out that the percentage of boys who stayed until the third and last stage of the service is also higher. “It seems to us that the girls’ demand is resolved in the triage, without the need for care.”

On the other hand, a report that has just been published by Unicef ​​revealed that the teaching of mathematics to girls is neglected, while boys are 1.3 times more likely to develop good math skills than girls. The survey analyzed data from more than 100 countries and found that issues of sexism and gender stereotypes also neglect girls’ potential in the classroom.

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The OQE service serves students from public and private schools. Most of the students attended in the 16 years analyzed by the research came from state public schools. Among these, the percentage of referred boys is even higher, reaching 75%. Regarding age, among all participants, most were 9 years old, which corresponds to the range between elementary school I and II.

Behavioral and pedagogical complaints are the most frequent. The data indicate that girls behave better, according to what the school considers appropriate behavior. For them, pedagogical complaints (80%) outweigh behavioral complaints (64%). With boys, the opposite occurs: they are considered to be more poorly behaved and complaints of this type surpass those related to learning (76% behavioral, against 69% pedagogical).

“It seems to be an expression of the persistence of the idea that school failure is the result of the students themselves, because these complaints refer to the behavior manifested in the school environment”, they believe. The group concludes that, through the complaints that reach the service, most schools have a domesticating character, “in which the discipline occupies a prominent place, with indications that it may be overcoming the pedagogical function of these institutions”.

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