Girls lack confidence in their ability to solve science and mathematics problems, according to a new international study on gender equality in schools. However, overall girls outperform boys in schools worldwide and boys are more likely to say that school is a “waste of time”.
15-year-old boys are more likely than girls to be low achievers in school, a research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concludes. It looked at gender differences in student performance in 64 countries and economies, based on the results from 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. The comprehensive report shows that teenage girls often outperform boys – they go to school longer than boys and are significantly better in reading. Overall, boys are less attentive at school and more likely to have low scores in math, reading, and science, as well. Revealing an increasing gap between male and female academic achievement, the study points out boys also show up late to class and are less ambitious with their education and career.
The researchers also used additional surveys to find out what students do at school and in their free time. It turns out boys also spend less time doing homework and reading for pleasure, while they focus more on playing video games or engaging with technology. And while this is hardly surprising, researchers say they notice an alarming trend among 15-year-olds – they tend to enjoy less reading than before. However, girls lack confidence when it comes to math and science and in every country surveyed, boys outperform girls in mathematics. But girls’ problem with math continues throughout adulthood and their professional careers – less than 5% of girls said they were considering a career in computing or engineering.
According to the OECD study, over the past century, advanced economies have made significant progress in narrowing gender gaps. Among the worst performing students in the UK for instance, there is almost no gender gap between boys and girls. Finland, on the other hand, which is one of the best performing European countries in OECD tests, has more than twice as many boys as girls among the low achievers. Overall, researchers conclude that women are mostly employed in fields where they have fewer opportunities to express their potential and to develop and maintain their skills. And often, this leads to lower wages and slower career advancement for women.