Lost Boys

Recent articles have spoken about the increasing struggle faced by many young Australian men – the struggle with identity. It’s an issue that resonates throughout Australia, and has many manifestations from risky behaviours to tragic youth suicide.
In our schools there are boys who are lost. They show us the face of their struggle with disengagement, passive resistance and more destructive classroom behaviours. All of this can have a knock on effect in life after school for those young men not fortunate enough to find their niche, or those who continue to make poor life choices.
The national digital platform Year 13, recently conducted a survey of 1600 15-21 year olds. Some of the issues uncovered in this survey are well worth exploring, because they highlight the way we have inadvertently disadvantaged boys in the classroom. Yep. Somewhere along the line we’ve dropped the ball in the education of our boys.
Let’s take a look at some of the survey’s findings and how they play out in the classroom.


Girls perform better throughout high school than boys with girls 50% more likely to achieve ‘As’ in Year 12 than boys.

This is a problem for boys because a lower ATAR score limits their university options. There are many reasons for this. Girls mature faster and generally tend to study more productively. More seriously though, our curriculums and many of our teaching and assessment methods are skewed towards the strength of girls with more focus on larger assignments and language rich essays. Many of our classrooms focus less on allowing verbal explanations, hands-on activities and exams, which play into the strength of boys.

27% of the kids surveyed said that their parents had a negative view of VET, with 85% of boys and 74% of girls feeling pressured to go to university.

Education is the key to a brighter future, a broader way of thinking and a more intelligent and prosperous Australia; however university is not the be all and end all of education – it doesn’t suit everybody. The pressure on students to go this route has been to the detriment of those with little interest, or those whose talents and skills are better served elsewhere. In short, this focus has seen many young Australians wasting time on degrees that they are were never going to finish, and wasting future earnings on HECS debts.

Only 19% of kids surveyed thought they had a good understanding of VET, 16% of apprenticeships and 14% of traineeships

We are letting students down by not giving them clear information on the exciting diversity of vocational pathways that are available (and let’s face it, vocational education plays into the strength of many a lost boy). OK. We can’t blame this all on our secondary schools. Vocational education has been largely vulnerable to the vagaries of public policy makers at state and government levels. Over the last 30 years they have introduced policies to review, rip up, dismantle or tinker at the edges to create the confusion we have today. No wonder we’re confused, and no wonder so many boys have been left behind.

Meanwhile there’s a national skills shortage in trade roles with industry looking towards employing young, skilled workers!

45% of boys are unsure of which industry they aspire to, compared to 9% of girls

In the careers classroom we have the opportunity to combat this uncertainty, and give those lost boys some direction. A clear understanding of the vocational pathways that are available is the answer to eliminating self-doubt and helping at least some of them to make positive career choices – career choices that could help put an end to Australia’s skills shortage.

No matter the industry our students will navigate; they need to have their interest aroused.

They need to have knowledge of the skills required, the educational pathways and the opportunities available for work experience and apprenticeships so that they can strive for their future. As educators, we must make ourselves aware of the options available for our students by connecting with industry. That’s not always easy, but worth it when we see a student enthused by the possibilities of their future.

The Work-Ready program aims to make your job in the classroom a little easier with the information, resources and links to industry that could give your ‘lost boys’ some direction.

Encourage your students to explore the information and the many links in the Work-Ready modules. UNDERSTANDING WORK, (‘Pathway Options’), as well as the DEFENCE INDUSTRY module are a good place to start. If you find that some in your classroom are a little entrepreneurial – get them to take a look at the ENTREPRENEURSHIP module.

And you can find out more about Year 13’s survey on this website.