Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Are boys more confident talkers? Is 'Kevin the teenage male' unfair?

The National Literacy Trust in conjuction with the Communication Trust have just published the results of an extensive survey which appears to contradict the stereo-typical male teenager. 'Kevin' was a Harry Enfield 1990s character who was pleasant and polite until he hit around 13 and then became moody, un-communicative, anti-parents, anti-school, anti-everything only talking by grunts or groans. Is this concept outdated and unfair now?  
The study looked at 6,865 young people between 8 and 16 found that boys are more confident communicators than girls, particularly when speaking in front  of their classmates and teachers.
69% of boys compared to 57% of girls said they were either ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ when speaking in front of classmates. The research found that more boys than girls value and realise the importance of communication skills, believing that if you speak well it makes you seem more intelligent and that people judge you on the words and phrases that you use. Boys were also more confident in talking with teachers(81% compared with 78%).
 The research also discovered that:
  • Boys are more likely than girls to strongly agree that communication skills are taken for granted (32% vs 23%).
  • Boys see a danger that they will not be taken seriously if they don’t express their views clearly (66% of boys think this compared with 58% of girls).
  • More boys are more likely to feel very confident explaining their point of view than girls (35% vs 29%).
  • 47% of boys strongly agree that good communication skills give them confidence in social situations compared to only 39% of girls.
  • Girls place less importance on being well-spoken - they are more likely than boys to disagree that those with ‘posh accents’ are better speakers (46% vs 39%).
  • When asked about factors affecting good communication, girls are more likely to think it is important to see the other person’s face (69% girls vs 64% boys) while boys are more likely to think it is important to hear other people’s voices (84% boys vs 79% girls)
  • Overall most young people believe the family play a crucial role in developing children’s communication skills. However, more boys than girls believe that children should just ‘pick up’ communication skills (19% vs 15%). 
Director of charity the National Literacy Trust, which works to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, Jonathan Douglas, says:
“In the national year of communication, it’s heartening to see a new ‘voice conscious’ generation of boys emerging. While many people believe teenage boys are not the most articulate members of society, like Harry Enfield’s ’Kevin the teenager’ character, our research shows this is an outdated view. The survey paints a completely different picture of young males as confident communicators who are incredibly aware of the important role communication skills play in a successful school, work and social life.
“Sadly, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to gain the communication skills they need for success. This is why we are taking business volunteers into schools to work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop the vital skills they need for working environments.”
Professional Director for The Communication Trust, Wendy Lee, says:
“Employers often bemoan the lack of young people’s communication skills. They want young people to enter the workplace with strong communication skills. This survey highlights how vital communication skills are to young people for success at school and work. It busts the myth that boys don’t value communication – they deserve more credit for being ‘communication conscious’.
“However, it is concerning that more boys than girls believe communication skills are something children should just be able to ‘pick up’. It is important to recognise that these skills do not develop by chance; adults play a fundamental role in supporting language and communication development. This ‘self taught’ attitude that boys have to communication is really important to highlight. Despite this survey finding boys in general are confident about communication, evidence shows that the proportion of boys to girls with speech, language and communication difficulties is around 4:1.
“These young people can become skilled at masking their difficulties to avoid being singled out or needing help. Struggling to communicate can be hugely frustrating and can lead to poor behaviour and low self confidence, again masking underlying difficulties. It is vital all young people, but particularly those vulnerable young people with communication difficulties, are supported to ensure they have the skills they need to do well in life.
The Hello campaign (the national year of communication) is run by The Communication Trust in partnership with Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion. Hello exists to make children and young people’s communication development a priority during 2011 and beyond.
The Communication Trust is made up of 40 leading voluntary organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication. Independent charity the National Literacy Trust is a member of The Communication Trust and is working closely withHello to ensure that every young person in the UK develops the speaking and literacy skills they need for a bright, happy and successful future.
The National Literacy Trust takes business volunteers into secondary schools where they help students develop communication skills for the workplace by taking part in a series of creative workshops. The approach is yielding impressive results with the young people taking part gaining both skills and confidence.
Milad, a pupil at Rosedale College in Hayes says: “I definitely think (the project) is a positive thing, it really helps you to gain confidence. I used to think communication was just something that happens – being taught it improves your confidence level as a person.  Going for a job interview now I would know how to talk. I’d be who I am but talk to some people differently.”
What do you think? Is this your experience? Are boys generally more confident than girls? Id welcome your comments and ideas please

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