A recently-released study has found that girls tend to receive higher grades in math, reading and science than boys do despite the world-wide belief that boys perform better in these subjects.
Researchers from the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation and Development looked at the scores of 1.5 million 15-year-old girls and boys in over 70 countries and regions across the world who took the Program for International Assessment between 2000 and 2009 for the study, which was recently published in the journal Intelligence.
The OECD administers the test every three years in order to measure competency of 15-year-olds in the subjects of math, reading and science. According to author David Geary, that is the age when many students around the world are completing their mandatory schooling.
“Even in countries where women’s liberties are severely restricted, we found that girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics and science literacy by age 15, regardless of political, economic, social or gender equality issues and policies found in those countries,” study author David Geary, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a university news release.
The study found that in 70% of the countries studied, girls outperformed boys in the areas of math, science and reading. These discoveries were found even in countries that place harsh social restrictions on its female citizens.
Only in Colombia, Costa Rica and the state of Himachal Pradesh in India did boys outperform girls according to the study. Girls were found to be about equal to boys in academic achievements in the United States and England, writes Robert Preidt for US News Health. Boys were found to be equal to girls only among the top 20% of students in wealthy and developed countries. Geary said the sample size was too small to discover why these boys were receiving A’s.
The study also discovered that girls far outperformed boys in academic achievement in countries that had low levels of gender equality and have a higher instance of discrimination against women politically, socially and economically, including Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Geary offers a number of reasons for why boys do not tend to perform at the same academic level as girls. He says the structure of the school day plays a big part because it is harder for boys to sit and pay attention for long periods of time. He suggests integrating recess or physical education into the school day to help boys pay attention during class, something many low-income countries do not do.
In addition, boys in many middle-income countries tend to drop out at an early age to find work. Researchers suggest hiring more men as teachers in primary schools so that boys can have a role model.
“The data will influence how policymakers think about the options available,” Geary said. “For example, to increase levels of equal opportunities in education. We believe that policymakers and educators should not expect that broad progress in social equality will necessarily result in educational equality. In fact, we found that with the exception of high achievers, boys have poorer educational outcomes than girls around the world, independent of social equality indicators,” he said.