Boys skipping school

British study finds that male students do worse because they ditch class more often.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards
March 28, 2006 11:50PM (UTC)
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In Britain, at least, a calculated "war on boys" isn't to blame for the educational gender gap. (Salon recently examined how critics have attributed the higher percentage of women attending college to a lack of male role models and "feminized" educational activities, such as reading and sitting quietly, and called for preferential admissions policies.) Last week's Guardian explains why males are doing worse than females at British colleges: They skip class more.

Researchers at the University of Sussex tracked nearly 700 students and learned that males missed about one in six classes compared with females, who missed one in eight. And not surprisingly, they found that those who actually attended school more often had a better chance of earning a degree.


The top excuse for missing class was their social schedule. The men confessed: "I wanted to get an earlier ferry to have a longer weekend trip to France," or "I preferred to make a trip to Canterbury ... to see friends." (Is this the British equivalent of "Dude! We're going to Vegas!"?) Other culprits were illness, fatigue and personal reasons, which included "catching up on sleep," "seeing my parents" and "cleaning my flat," the paper says. Additionally, the study found that male classmates who were smartest tend to cut the most. (This reminds me of my own college days, whem I heard many of my classmates brag: "I got an A, and I didn't go to class all semester!"

According to the researchers, females earned higher scores for conscientiousness, which is a quality generally associated with going to class and working harder. "This fitted the familiar research portrait of the female student as more 'conformist' and that males, even those who are highly intelligent, as more easily distracted," writes the Guardian's Alexandra Smith.

So in Britain, guys make a lot of lame excuses to miss class. A lot do it in the U.S., too. What do we make of all this? The researchers suggest focusing on ways to improve attendance records of all students. I'm guessing this means Britons will see a lot of "class participation requirements" on the next term's syllabuses.

Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

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