New gender gaps in education

Nieuws | de redactie
5 maart 2015 | Gender equality might be achieved as girls are now more likely to earn a university-level degree than boys, but there are still signs of gender inequality left while a new gap is lurking. Why do girls still shy away from maths for example? A new analysis of PISA data sheds light on new questions.

In the report ‘The ABC of Gender Equality in Education’ the OECD finds that while girls have managed to bridge the gap in their school achievements, there are still notable differences. “In higher education and beyond, young women are under-represented in the fields of mathematics, physical science and computing. In 2012, only 14% of young women who entered university for the first time chose science-related fields of study, including engineering, manufacturing and construction.”

Why are girls still under-represented? According to the report “In general, girls have less self-confidence than boys in their ability to solve mathematics or science problems. Girls – even high-achieving girls – are also more likely to express strong feelings of anxiety towards mathematics.”

Freedom to fail

This gender difference might be explained by the self-confidence of students. “This gender difference in the ability to think like a scientist may be related to students’ self-confidence. When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in the trial-and-error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science.”

Another problem the PISA report sees, is that while girls have managed to bridge the gap, the underachievement of boys is a thing to worry about.  “New gender gaps in education are opening. Young men are significantly more likely than young women to be less engaged with school and have low skills and poor academic achievement. They are also more likely to leave school early, often with no qualifications.”

Aware of gender biases

The figures show that “15-year-old boys are more likely than girls of the same age to be low achievers. In 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects measured in PISA – reading, mathematics and science.” Less effort in homework, focus on videogames can bes een as some of the reasons explaining boys falling behind girls.

But how to overcome these gaps? The PISA report writes parents as wel as teachers should play a vital role here. “Parents can give their sons and daughters equal support and encouragement for all of their school work and aspirations for their future”, while “teachers can help by becoming more aware of their own gender biases that may affect how they award marks to students. They could also receive additional training in how to provide extra support to socio-economically disadvantaged students, since PISA finds that boys are more likely to underachieve when they attend schools with a large proportion of disadvantaged students.”

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