By Dr. Gijsbert Stoet, Reader in Psychology, University of Glasgow
Together with Professor David Geary of the University of Missouri (USA), we published a paper in the journal Intelligence about gender gaps in education.
One of the interesting findings is that in the majority of countries participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment, girls perform better than boys in their combined school achievement (based on measures of Reading comprehension, Mathematics, and Science Literacy). Further, we found that the gender differences are not related to indicators of gender equality. In fact, girls do considerably better than boys in a number of some of the least gender equal countries.
These findings have various implications for policy makers. First of all, the issue of boys falling behind in education need more attention, similar to the attention given over decades to girls. Some researchers have argued that one of the reasons for boys falling so much behind is that educational researchers have seriously attended issues facing girls for the last 50 years or so, whereas boys have received far less special attention, if anything at all.
It is now time to start focusing on the problems facing boys. Second, gender gaps do not disappear just because societies have become more gender equal over time. People often think that gender gaps are a direct result of a lack of gender equality, but our study clearly shows that this is not the case, and this is further strongly supported by the finding that girls do considerably better than boys in some of the least gender equal countries.
Instead, the reality of gender gaps is far more complex, and it will take hard work and active pedagogical interventions to make a change. Now we only need to find out how!