'Girls outperform boys at school' despite inequality

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Image source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
Girls outperform boys at every level of education in England

Girls do better than boys at school, even in countries where women lack equality with men, a study suggests.

Psychologists at Glasgow and Missouri universities compared the achievement in international tests of 1.5 million 15-year-olds from 74 world regions.

In 70% of these regions, the girls beat boys in in maths, reading, science and literary subjects.

And this was the case in states such as Qatar and Jordan, where there is "relatively low" gender equality.

Researchers compared the results of international Pisa tests between 2000 and 2010 with UN gender equality data from the same countries and regions.

The findings, which are published in the journal Intelligence, indicated that there were only three regions where boys outperformed girls:

  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • the Indian state Himachal Pradesh

Girls outperformed boys, on average, in all the other regions, irrespective of high or low levels of social, political and economic equality.

But the pattern was different at the highest achievement levels - with top performing boys doing better than top performing girls.

Dr Gijsbert Stoet, of the University of Glasgow, who led the study, said: "At the moment we see that, with the exception of high-achievers, boys have poorer educational outcomes than girls around the world, independent of social equality indicators.

"What's more is that this gap in not reducing.

"If policy makers are seriously concerned about gender equality in education, this ought to be their top priority.

"That it is not, is probably fuelled by a lack of public understanding of the distribution of skills, which we have highlighted in this and previous studies.

"For example, listening to many news stories in the media, one can easily get the idea that girls around the world are falling behind boys, in particular in countries with known gender inequality.

"The reality is quite different in the many countries participating in Pisa, which many may find surprising."

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