Who runs the world? Girls — especially when they are taught by fellow females, according to a study conducted at Texas A&M University.
Previous research has shown that females tend to perform better in the classroom than males. They rank higher across the board; from college graduation rates to test scores, they surpass their male counterparts in nearly every academic facet of education, writes Gabriel Fisher for Quartz.
Most recently, researchers Jonathan Meer and Jaegeum Lim found that there was a significant improvement in girls’ math test scores when a woman teaches the subject — an interesting finding, particularly since math is thought of as a male-dominated field.
Meer and Lim analyzed 14,000 test scores from middle school students in South Korea. They found that when a woman taught students math, girls’ scores were nearly 10% of a standard deviation higher than boys. They also found that when girls switched from a male teacher to a female teacher, their math scores went up by 8.5% of a standard deviation compared to boys’ scores.
“Female students outperform male students by roughly a third of a school year more when taught by female teachers than when taught by male teachers,” Meer explained.
He feels that the increased performance is due to girls feeling more comfortable in class when taught by a female teacher:
“Female students report feeling that their female teachers are more likely to give students an equal chance to participate,” he writes, adding that “their female teachers are more likely to encourage creative expression.”
The researchers chose to conduct a study in South Korea because students are randomly assigned teachers in the country. In the United States, female math teacher have been known to be assigned weaker students, writes Julie Zeilinger for Mic.
This information may be good news for female students who have been shown to hold themselves back in STEM subjects. For example, female students generally underestimate their abilities and predict they will perform worse on tests, while boys overestimate their performance.
However, boys are being left behind academically, and Meer is, “personally deeply worried about male performance in schools.”
Researchers are divided on the specific reasons why male students are less engaged than female students, which makes it hard to diagnose the issue on a large scale. This is why it is important for parents to understand why their boy isn’t engaged and then to work with teachers to solve the problem, reports Shelby Slade for Deseret News.
“We must work equally hard to encourage boys to consider literature, journalism and communications. Boys are often pushed toward math and science, and receive inadequate social support. We need to recognize boys’ differences, and their social and developmental needs,” says educator Sean Kullman.