Report of the weekend: why academic success does not correspond to professional success

A few years ago, while teaching in a secondary school, I greeted students who were presenting themselves for a crucial public examination. Enter a boy – let’s call him Anthony – a charming 16-year-old who had preferred to stay away from school most of the year and whose application to his studies had been less than serious.

‘Have you revised for this?’ I asked him anxiously.

“Oh no, miss. But it’s okay, I’m lucky,” he smiled as he strutted around the exam room. Of course, he failed the exam.

Believe it or not, this is a story that illustrates the importance of teaching children about the related topics of gender inequality and the value of female teachers in the world of global education.

Value of authentic knowledge

Anthony had, through no fault of his own, recognized luck and self-confidence as important characteristics of the world he lived in. But, at the same time, he had underestimated the value of genuine knowledge, diligence, and pride in a job well done.

Complicated things cannot be achieved by luck and bluster alone. Nor can they be relied upon to build the networks, friendships, teams, interests and understandings we need to thrive.

But if Anthony had underestimated the need for true knowledge, I had overestimated it. He understood that swagger and confidence were powerful, gendered tools of social acceptance, and that they signaled male power and success. He knew elite men ooze confidence and bluff like crazy. He had seen it in movies and in the antics of the music and sports stars he followed. He took it as a feature, not a bug.

It had to do with being a man and being superior. Of course, what he didn’t acknowledge was his heroes’ learned expertise – the fact that the best tend to work the hardest.

He didn’t acknowledge it, because people like to claim that it was innate genius rather than hard work that allowed them to achieve great things. Erroneously, Anthony believed that swagger, self-confidence and the ability to bluff were the cause of success.

A different equation

I’m not saying there aren’t women with swagger, self-confidence, and the ability to bluff, or that there aren’t men who are diligent, hardworking experts.

However, there is a general tendency in much of a modern boy’s upbringing that is to make the most of a little. Whereas girls, on the other hand, tend to have to work on a different equation and end up earning less with a lot.

If that seems unlikely, consider what educators have long known: in formal learning, women outperform men at all levels and in all age groups, from early years to GCSEs, IB, A -levels, university admissions and degree classifications.

Even in math. This happens in all developed countries, with a few exceptions. And yet, in the long run, boys do better in their careers than those same girls.

The very traits that diminish the boys’ ability to learn in school – an over-reliance on luck, charm and bluff – now allow them to stoop and dive upwards at the expense of their less confident daughter. she but more hardworking, assiduous and better qualified. counterparts.

Even in the world of education, where there are many more female teachers than males, the less qualified and less competent men are preferred to the highest positions. And in the rest of the world, traditional social norms tend to reinforce these same traits in men and suppress them in women. As a result, GDP is estimated to be depressed by 3.9% and infant mortality rates swell by 9.5%.

Identify challenges

This challenge, among others, is one of the reasons that attracted me to the International Baccalaureate program, which we teach.

Not only is the IB set up to identify challenges that reflect the real world, but it also actively seeks to tackle them head-on.

Across all sectors, including education, when leaders spend less time on the golf course and more time sweating it out on the frontlines, we can meet the challenges facing our world, we can drive positive change based on knowledge, self-confidence – and even a bit of charm too.

Dr. Saima Rana is the Director and CEO of GEMS World Academy – Dubai and Vice President – Education at GEMS Education

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