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Boys
Education and

Boys

Key message

Education is for everyone, including boys.


While there is rightfully a focus on girls’ education, boys – particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds – are often not encouraged to complete their education and can be vulnerable to child labour, violence, gangs or extremism. Investing in relevant and quality education for boys creates more equal and tolerant societies. Boys’ education also promotes gender equality and girls’ education.
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  • Educated men are more likely to have more egalitarian attitudes toward gender equality. Men with higher educational attainment have more gender-equitable attitudes, and less rigid views of masculinity.
    ICRW, 2011  Parker et al., 2017
  • Education creates more equitable and caring partners and fathers. Men who have completed at least some secondary education are more likely to take on a fair share of domestic work and childcare, and take paternity leave.
    (ICRW., 2011)
  • Boys’ education reduces gender-based violence. Better educated boys and young men are less likely to perpetrate physical violence against an intimate partner, and are more likely to report sexual harassment or violence.
    Fulu et al., 2013  El Feki et al., 2017
  • Boys’ education deters recruitment as a child soldier. More than 90% of boys in the Democratic Republic of Congo believed that being in school would make them less likely to be targeted by child soldier recruitment.
    (Save the Children, 2014)
  • Harmful social and gender norms can be shifted through school-based educational interventions for boys. Well-designed and delivered educational programmes can increase knowledge and awareness, helping to promote gender equality, and shift harmful social norms that are recognised as primary drivers of gender-based violence.
    Ellsberg et al., 2014  Fula et al., 2013
  • Educated men are more likely to be healthier. Young men who had participated in group educational activities were more likely to be tested for HIV, seek medical care, be vaccinated, avoid contracting an STI, and use condoms.
    ICRW, 2011  Barker et al., 2012  Rammohan et al., 2012
  • Quality education for boys creates more tolerant societies Boys and young men with higher levels of education tend to have less homophobic attitudes.
    (ICRW, 2011)
  • Quality education for boys creates more tolerant societies. Boys and young men with higher levels of education tend to have less homophobic attitudes.
    (ICRW, 2011)
  • Education deters boys from early entry to low-skilled work. Direct familial and societal pressure and a prevalence of low-skill job opportunities puts pressure on boys to join the labour force at an early age, leading to early withdrawal from school. Young men who have completed early secondary education reported greater job security and choice, earnings, happiness, and health in comparison to those who had left school earlier.
    Ahmed, 2011  Jha & Kelleher, 2006  International Labour Organization, 2006
  • Schools are effective platforms for delivering critical knowledge and awareness to prevent sexual violence. A systemic review of 65 interventions to reduce boys’ use of sexual violence found 90% of interventions were school based, with most changing attitudes effectively. Participating students committed significantly less sexual and physical dating violence and were less likely to endorse rape myths compared with control groups.
    Ricardo et al., 2011  Foshee et al., 2004  De La Rue et al., 2014
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Key Q&As
  • Why should we invest in boys’ education when girls are more marginalised?
  • Girls’ education is a major global priority and there are numerous benefits for girls, young women, their families and the economy. Investing in boys’ education is also part of the solution to gender equality. Higher levels of education for boys is associated with lower levels of violence and discrimination and more positive attitudes towards women.
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Key opinions
Guy Ryder
Guy Ryder
ILO Director General
Education and training are the keys to unlock opportunities for women and men to gain employment, launch businesses and create better lives for themselves and their families. As we work to build a better and more resilient future after the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure quality education systems that are accessible to all.
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Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad
UN Goodwill Ambassador and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Education is the key to addressing the root causes of sexual violence and to ending practices of toxic femininity and masculinity. If these issues are addressed from a young age, we will begin to see a world where women will occupy positions of power at the same rate as men and will know that they too belong in those spaces.
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Key talking points
  • While it is right to provide special emphasis and focus on girls’ education, it is important to remember boys, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Men with higher educational attainment have more gender-equitable attitudes, are better partners, and are less likely to engage in gender-based violence.
  • Harmful social and gender norms can be shifted through school-based educational interventions for boys.
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