Girls Get Higher Grades Than Boys In All Subjects

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Data from one million students in over 30 countries reveals whether or not there is a ‘boy-crisis’ in schools.

Girls get better grades in all subjects, including math and science, and have done for almost a century, according to research from 30 different countries, including the US.

Recent reports of a so-called ‘boy-crisis’ — reports that boy’s performance is dropping further behind girls — are not supported by the wide-ranging data.

There has been no change in the difference between girls and boys across all subjects: girls have always done better.

The findings come from a new analysis of data collected between 1914 and 2011 in over 30 countries around the world (Voyer & Voyer, 2014).

Rather than aptitude tests, the study’s results are based on school grades. The study’s lead author, Daniel Voyer, explained the reasoning:

“School marks reflect learning in the larger social context of the classroom and require effort and persistence over long periods of time, whereas standardized tests assess basic or specialized academic abilities and aptitudes at one point in time without social influences.”

Girls had better grades, on average, in all subjects, than boys, but the gap was largest in the languages and smallest in math and science.

The study’s co-author, Susan Voyer, said:

“The fact that females generally perform better than their male counterparts throughout what is essentially mandatory schooling in most countries seems to be a well-kept secret, considering how little attention it has received as a global phenomenon.”

The study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, gathered together data from 308 studies into children’s mandatory schooling.

The authors speculate on a few reasons for the gap between girls and boys:

  • Girls pushed harder in science: Since boys are assumed to do better at science and maths, girls may be pushed harder by their parents in these subjects.
  • Different learning styles: Boys tend to focus more on the grade they get and girls more on understanding the materials. Since mastering the subject-matter actually produces better marks, this may partly explain the difference.

Image credit: Bart

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 9 May 2014

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