The Gender Divide: Performance Differences Between Boys & Girls at School

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Boys and girls have a growing gap in academic achievement.
Boys and girls have a growing gap in academic achievement.

Over time, girls have performed better than boys in school overall. Girls outperform boys in English, and while boys traditionally outperform girls in science and math, girls are closing the gap. Girls are also playing a larger role in university academics than boys. These differences are not particular to any country and instead apply across the board.

  1. Academic Subjects

    • Girls have superior performance in English, while boys perform well in math and science. Some researchers argue that girls will eventually perform better than boys in science and math as girls become more socialized toward excelling in these subjects. Other researchers think that boys and girls have different cognitive processes that make girls better at English and boys better at science and math.

    College Attendance

    • Girls outnumber boys in the colleges of most industrialized countries. Women are making up the majority in medical schools, business schools and law schools. Girls are applying more to postsecondary schools, and usually have better grades and more qualifications on their academic transcripts.

    Study Habits

    • Boys spend less time working on homework than girls. Boys also spend more time playing video games and watching television than girls do. Boys engage in more aggressive behavior. This behavior causes more boys to be excluded from school than girls. Boys excluded from school for behavioral problems have fewer opportunities to learn material. Girls plan and organize more effectively than boys. Girls are also more likely to bring the right materials to the classroom. Girls seek out help more often than boys when they are struggling. When teachers comment on a student work, girls are more likely to be receptive to the suggestions than boys.

    Self-Confidence

    • According to research published in the "Journal of Child Development," students who believe in their abilities are more likely to succeed in the classroom than students who don't. Both boys and girls have a greater ability to assess how well they'll do in school when they perform better in school than when they perform poorly. However, when girls perform better than boys in school, their self-assessments do not reveal that they believe that they are more talented than boys. Girls tend to downplay their success in school.

      As for parents' and teachers' perceptions of the performance of the two genders, parents and teachers are more likely to attribute girls' failures to a lack of ability. When boys fail, parents and teachers are more likely to ascribe the failure to a lack of effort.

    Teacher Gender

    • According to research conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Swedish Institute for Social Research, having a same-sex teacher in the natural sciences improved the chances that the student would do well in the natural sciences, with the effect slightly stronger for boys. However, having a same-sex teacher did not improve academic performance in any other subjects.

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